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Independence from gas and oil imports

by Michael Smith

As we have spoken about in the article as to Russia and its gas the western developed nations – the UK, the EU, etc., must become – largely – independent from foreign gas and oil to safeguard our countries' infrastructure.

This can, I think, be done but it will require a new way of thinking and especially the political will to do so. For starters we must get away from gas for heating and cooking and electricity generation, at least too a large extent.

The biggest problem is the political will. The latter always seems to be missing, it seem, for it is the large petrochemical companies that seem to hold sway somewhere and somehow in all the developed nations and it is very much also that governments are worried about the revenue they lose from the taxes on the oil and gas if a switch would be made.

In Britain, and other countries, it would appear that the people themselves are beginning to vote with their feet ;as far as heating is concerned for sure.

Presently those that can, it would appear, in the British Isles are rediscovering the wood-burning stove, at least for heating. The cook stoves that can use wood, nowadays, are mostly of the expensive AGA and Rayburn – now one and the same company anyway – which are well out of the financial reach of most ordinary people, and are also far too heavy for the floors of many homes.

The demand for wood for burning in stoves and fireplaces in Britain int his current financial, economic crisis and that of gas supply from the Russian Federation, way outstrips supplies and, as we have learned, wood sellers go to great length, even to the countries of Eastern Europe, in order to bring in wood. This also now pushed the price of firewood up a tremendous level.

Other means of independence from oil and natural gas and petroleum-based gas are available and also possible, but again as far as the nations are concerned at a government level, local and central, the political will is missing again.

There is, aside from the use of wood for heating homes, also the possibility to use timber, and here especially the waste lumber from the building industry to run power stations and combined heat & power plants (CHPs).

Then there is the possibility to use waste incineration as a source for to run CHP facilities though I am well aware of the fact how often that idea runs foul of the NIMBYs and also – strangely enough – the likes of Friends of the Earth, who will come out ranting and waving arms that we must recycle all rubbish and not burn it. Shame that they have not understood that there will always be some rubbish left over that cannot be recycled and it would be, in my opinion, much better to burn that and use it to power the nation rather than to tip it into holes in the ground, the latter of which we are running out of rapidly anyway.

Gas from waste is another way and means and then there is the humble methane gas that is released from landfills and from sewerage works. That too could be used for heating and cooking but, ideally, for the running of electricity generating plants.

I say the latter simply because methane gas happens to be a bit on the explosive side and even though it is used in many countries on farms and homesteads for heating and cooking it might not be the best idea to pipe it through towns and cities and have it used by people who might just be a little careless.

We must not forget that the first electricity power stations were not run on oil of the petroleum kind but on methane gas in fact. Mind you, the same is true for the first motorcars of the Ford “Tin Lizzy” variety. It was not until gasoline became cheaply available that the car was changed.

But back to the subject in hand, namely that of national independence from imported oil and gas.

We can no longer afford the luxury of oil and gas being brought in from far away, especially not from areas over which politics we have no control, whether this be the Russian Federation or the Ukraine or the seaways from the Persian Gulf to the West.

Our countries must look at ways to become if not self-sufficient than some way self-reliant as regards to oil and gas imports.

While I can suggest that we must do this I, as an ordinary writer, cannot, obviously, come up with all the possible suggestions as to how this may be done, but doing it we must.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

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