A couple of years back when he was Energy Minister we unkindly called Malcolm Wicks a clown. He’s a nice enough chap and, no longer wanted in government, he’s been made Brown’s special energy envoy or somesuch. (That’s Brown who went to the Middle East last year to ask them to reduce oil prices, and who presumably credits himself with the fall from $ 147.) And now Wicks has written up his thoughts on security of energy supply.
It deserves better than his essay, which would get only mediocre marks as a first-year undergraduate project. Wicks was always known to Civil Servants as – how shall we put this – not one for detail, so it's unlikely he wrote much more of this than the personal travelogue anecdotes of what he was told on his visits around the world. Whoever did write it has been sloppy in the extreme: witness this sub-Rumsfeldian tripe:
"2.2 The future is uncertain. Global events, some unforeseeable and others on the horizon, but whose implications and development are still unknown, will profoundly influence how the world changes … the long-term is more uncertain"
I will spare you the full catalogue of howlers and omissions: genius like this makes it hard to take the rest as seriously as the topic deserves. To be fair there is a plus-side: he’s realistically sceptical (though very diplomatic) about the potential contribution of renewables. Most of his conclusions are anodyne, save for a couple of headline-grabbers: he wonders aloud about hiving off some UK gas storage and long-term gas contracts for ‘strategic’ purposes, and then this blinder –
“An aspiration that nuclear should provide some 35-40 per cent of our electricity beyond 2030 should be considered by Government”
Considering an aspiration, eh ? Bold stuff. The real meat is in this one, though:
“If the Third [EC] Energy Package does not bring about liberalised markets across the Union, we will need to think clearly about how we should mitigate this risk”
That’s the one, Malco m'boy. Even the dour German Monopolkommission is exercised on that score. Any chance Gordo might make this a priority in his final few months ?