This month, in the second of our Future for Wales sessions, we turn to the second of our ‘keywords’ – energy. Last month we examined the ethical and political issues that surround the idea of sustainability. Whether we believe that weak sustainability is a valid idea, or, on the contrary, that strong sustainability should be our guide, the production of energy will continue to be the foundation of the complex societies we inhabit – if they are to survive. But how will this energy be produced, what consequences might our choices have, and what principles should guide us?

English: Wylfa Nuclear Power Station, Anglesey...
English: Wylfa Nuclear Power Station, Anglesey. Wylfa power station viewed from the Cerrig Brith rocks, north-east across the bay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The theory of ‘peak oil’ suggests that we are close to the point when ‘easy to get’ oil has all been discovered, that the rate of new finds is declining, yet at the same time demand is rising. As the price of oil rises, more difficult to extract oil becomes economically viable – hence the exploitation of tar sands in Canada and elsewhere. Yet to exploit these sources of oil creates more pollution and CO2 emissions, contributing more to climate change. Faced with these problems, the need to move away from fossil fuels is pressing.

In the UK, the government has affirmed that it expects another fossil fuel, gas, to act as a bridge towards a future where more emphasis is placed on renewable sources of energy. It also expects private investors to fund a new generation of nuclear power stations. In Wales, the Assembly Government has sought to build onshore and offshore wind, yet has also supported the building of new gas supply infrastructure and power stations, and the renewal of Anglesey’s Wylfa nuclear plant. It has stated [PDF] that Wales should ‘by 2050, at the latest, be in a position where almost all of our local energy needs,
whether for heat, electrical power or vehicle transport, can be met by low carbon electricity
production’ (A Low Carbon Revolution, p. 6).

Are the right choices being made in the UK and in Wales? If not, what assumptions do we need to confront in order to make them, and what key ideas can help us? As an opportunity to discuss these issues, you are invited to Cardiff Philosophy Cafe’s showing of ‘A Million Years of Sunshine’ a light-hearted half-hour comedy about the end of civilisation, featuring hope, strife and unfeasibly wide flares.

The film will be followed by a talk from the film’s author Professor Calvin Jones (Cardiff Business School). Entitled Energy and Society: The End of Complexity?, this examines the issues raised by the film, and in particular the economic, ethical and political consequences for the UK and Wales of our patterns of energy use.

This Cafe takes place on Tuesday 19 February, at 8.00 pm in the Cafe Bar at the Gate. If you want to tweet about it, use the hashtag #cpcenergy.

What do you think of WAG’s 2050 target? Take the poll below, and, if you want to add reasons for your response, add a comment at the bottom of this post.

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