Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fending Off The Bear

We've just watched a TV doc with ex-spychief Stella Rimington reviewing Britain's changing attitude to Russia over the last century. Very interesting, especially since she finished it before the invasion of Georgia.

She ended by asking whether we will ever feel able to trust the Russians? I must say I know very little about Russia other than what I've seen in the news over the years, plus those James Bond instructional vids. But I sure don't trust them. And post-Georgia, I'm guessing fewer of us do than at any time since the Cold War.

Especially since in some ways, we are in worse shape now than we were back then. Sure, in theory, back then they could incinerate us whenever the mood took them. Yet post-Cuba, most of us could see that in practice, MAD did work. And we weren't dependent on them for anything, other than plots for John Le Carre spy novels.

Today, not only can they still incinerate us, we also face that scary energy dependence, with gas imports set to soar as North Sea production falls away.

I've been trying find a simple summary of how this dependence looks, and what the options are. The best I've come up with is this presentation by Jonathan Stern of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. It's an interesting and easy read, with a bunch of nice charts, including this worrisome projection of declining European gas production (billion cubic metres, excluding Russia):

There are obviously no easy answers. But I'd sleep a whole lot easier if we ignored the hippies and the BBC and just cracked on with those new coal-fired power stations and nukes. Being dependent on the bear doesn't appeal somehow.

PS Have you caught any of the BBC's marathon radio season 1968 - Myth or Reality? The BBC reckons 1968 was a seminal year. But hang on, I thought, I was alive in 1968, and I don't recall it being especially seminal. Well, no more seminal than Summer of Love/Six Day War 1967, say. Or Kennedy shot/Beatlemania 1963 (which IIRC was reckoned to be the seminal year of the sixties in a BBC TV doc made sometime in the early 70s). Yes, 1968 did feature the brutal Russian suppression of the Prague Spring and various other stuff. But there are many years with world shaking events. Will this latest Russian brutality mean that in 40 years time, the BBC will be doing 2008 - Myth or Reality? I hope not - it should have been privatised long since.

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