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HUMANITIES SCIENCE POLITICS

Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598X

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15 | ENERGY SPECIAL | 16

FROM THE CHEDDAR GORGE TO ROCKETS & RURAL INDIA

The Central Electricity Generating Board still existed when I started covering energy as a
journalist and editor in the 1980s. For the first 10 years of my career energy was one of the
main topics I covered. My one and only effort in those 10 years on staffs to sell a freelance
story was to the Financial Times, to David Fishlock, the then energy editor.

Early in my journalistic career I interviewed Professor Ian Fells about magneto-hydrodynamics.
Professor Fells is a stalwart of the BBC Today programme, and from the University of
Newcastle. When the Piper Alpha disaster happened when I was Technology News Editor at
New Scientist Professor Fells was a great source about North Sea oil pipelines and their
vulnerabilities, as well as an excellent contact on nuclear issues.

From London to the House and Senate Congressional Committee rooms of Washington DC
was but a short step for me. There I witnessed elected representatives grill (as they continue to
grill) public officials and private industry about energy policy, expenditure and plans. They take
energy infrastructure seriously in Washington DC.

In England I watched a train crashed deliberately in the Cheddar Gorge to test the robustness
of transporting nuclear waste. In Washington DC activists worried about nuclear-powered
spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere, and the geological stability of nuclear waste disposal
sites. One of the novels I have plotted, but not written, is a mystery about buried nuclear waste
discovered in a distant future.

At the time the Anthropocene debate was unheard of.

In Israel I visited scientists working on the energy conversion efficiency of solar cells. In north-
ern Vietnam, when I was there, Electricity was still far from widely available, though I and others
were given a pass to leave Hanoi and visit a dam for hydro electricity. Bomb craters still pockmarked
the Countryside.

And it is nearly 30 years since I was in Bangalore in India for the International Astronautical
Federation meeting. The hotel I stayed in was designed to attract business people. I saw little of
the country's energy infrastructure. I did see beggars in the street and a Statue of Queen
Victoria. The argument about space being a waste of money was repeated frequently. I noted,
of course, the discrepancy in southern India in the late 1980s between facilities during my visit
to interview the director-general of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the pre-
industrial transport I encountered on leaving Bangalore at the end of the conference to visit
Mysore. There I mingled with crowds celebrating one of the great Hindhu festivals. En route
the taxi had competed for road space with slender Oxen, pulling what looked like rickety carts.

Though now I have a Smart Phone, and then had only uncertain telephone lines over which to
file copy with the news desk in London, I am not convinced the world has, in the intervening 30
plus years, grasped the central position of energy for equitable life and development. Without
meeting the energy goals I do not see how any of the United Nation's seventeen 2030
sustainable development goals are to be met. HG

16

With feedback from Deputy editor, Martin Redfern

Issue 1 (Jan-Mar), 2017............................................Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598X print and online


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Published Friday 24th February, 2017,
nominally.
Completed 9th April, 2017.

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