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Fossil fuel nearing empty
As a business operator, you will be well versed with the nuances of your expenditure, and its effect on your bottom line. Equally you will, no doubt, be just as aware that one of the key, major expenses - after wages and premises - is your business energy bill.
For the benefit, then, of the health of both your own profits, and also the future health of the planet, business operators need to do whatever they can to start using less energy... and that’s everyone from the local publican to larger corporate concerns. We can no longer convince ourselves that this is someone else’s problem. The reality of climate change is now widely accepted - as real as the price rises themselves - and its affects are many and varied. So we all need to do whatever we can, in terms of energy efficiency measures, to bring down our usage, with energy bills now presenting a very real challenge to the competitiveness of UK companies.
There is much that can be done of the consumption side, and we have reported on such ideas elsewhere on this site. Meanwhile, on the supply side the story is equally as foreboding, and rather precarious, providing further impetus for the need to make these changes.
Put simply, there is only a finite amount of coal under the ground... and we have now had a good few hundred years of digging it out. We need, for instance, 62 million tonnes of coal to keep the power station running in this country. In 2012 we dug out 17, a record low, especially when you consider coal still amounts for a third of electricity generation in the UK. It’s crunch time, with some estimates suggesting we could run out completely by 2018.
As for oil, some reports suggest that could also be gone the year after. The industry itself counters that, arguing that, although we’ve had a good go at our natural reserves, there may still be up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas left beneath the North Sea, enough for many years to come.
Whichever reports nails the truth of the matter, we don’t need Einstein to tell us that the more we take out, the less we have left. And this shortage may mean further dependence on imports from countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia. The recent political situation in the Ukraine demonstrates how risky a strategy that might prove to be.
An alternative strategy, however, might be just that... alternative energy sources. The UK government seems to be warming to fracking and the resulting shale gas, which has apparently yielded tremendous results in the States. That would put the government on a collision course with Greenpeace, who would advocate investment into renewables. Business, of course, remains dependent on a secure supply of energy, but Greenpeace would argue that security might be derived from geothermal, on and offshore wind farms, solar and hydro sources.
Whatever decision is made, there is increasingly an urgent need to balance the debate between the varying pressures of pollution, climate change, depleted fossil fuel sources... and energy security. It is a balance that we, at Utility Helpline will continue to monitor carefully.