Viewpoints on Energy and the Environment

1. Fracking and renewable energy:

Question: I am concerned that we’re not expanding renewable technology fast enough, by blocking onshore wind turbines and focusing on fracking instead. Would you support fracking in Chelsea and Fulham?

Answer (Simon Bailey): Your concern that the UK (and other countries) are simply not transitioning fast enough to a more sustainable future is a valid one. I share this concern.

On the matter of energy, the key question in my mind is: Does the world need interim supplies of non-renewable/low carbon energy to bridge the gap whilst fully renewable forms of energy come on stream (wind, wave, solar, fusion etc)?

Ultimately, our goal must be to reduce the CO2 emitted by our country (and others around the world) as quickly as possible by as much as possible.

I believe this requires sustained government investment in renewable energy (on and offshore) and in our energy infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to encourage our old polluting energy generation to be replaced with local, home grown renewable energy as fast as possible. It will also require a sustained commitment to membership and reform of international institutions such as the EU where the UK can exert influence on other countries.

To achieve our goal I also think nuclear power needs to be part of our immediate energy mix. The majority of renewable technologies generate fluctuating outputs, and nuclear power can provide a base load of energy needed when renewables are snoozing. The nuclear technology of today is also significantly safer and more efficient than the technology back in the 60s and 70s. Thanks to my party's efforts in government, under Ed Davey's leadership, we are now moving in the right direction.

The only circumstances I could envisage supporting fracking is as an emergency energy source to cover outages in gas supply (e.g. political instability in Russia), or to enable coal plants to be decommissioned ahead of new nuclear and renewable capacity coming on stream. I oppose fracking unequivocally in urban and sub-urban communities such as Chelsea and Fulham.

2. Transition to a low-carbon future:

Question: The UK has legally bound itself to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.  What you think the UK needs to do to achieve this target?

Answer (Simon Bailey): Four things:

1) Improve energy efficiency of existing homes and electrical devices (mandate new homes are built to include solar on south facing roofing).  We've already delivered - http://www.libdems.org.uk/energy_efficiency_measures_top_1_million and committed to delivering more - http://www.libdems.org.uk/insulating-10m-homes-by-2025

2) Invest in high speed rail that connects Scotland and all major UK conurbations to mainline Europe's high speed network and increase air fuel duty to discourage short haul flights.

3) Invest in our hydrogen economy - as an island nation - we have plenty of wind and water to use to hydrolysise hydrogen to power cars and remote communities.

4) Ensure climate science and resource economics is taught as part of the national curriculum. Living within our means as a planet is a much a culture shift amongst the public as it is changes to our energy mix and infrastructure.

3. Improving the local environment:

Question: I work in Chelsea and Fulham and want to cycle more, but the King’s Road is terrible at rush hour for cyclists, as there are too many cars and the air is filthy. What would you suggest to improve this?

Answer (Simon Bailey): Three things:

1) Greater investment in infrastructure that prioritises people over cars - Crossrail 2, Hammersmith Fly-under, West London cycle superhighways.

2) Slower speed limits for cars (20mph) has been part of my local parties' campaigning for several years now. This will help improve cyclist safety.

3) Getting buses and taxi's off diesel and onto hybrid technology.

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