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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July 2005, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
West: Power posers
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
Politics Show West

Smoke stack (BBC)

We cannot go on as we are at the moment. Everyone from scientists to politicians agrees that a crisis is looming over our energy sources.

Yet because there are no easy answers, and little political advantage to be gained, it barely featured in the election.

It is accepted that coal and oil power stations are problematic. Supplies will not go on for ever, and they cause much global warming.

Gas has not lived up to the hopes of a few years ago - so attention is now focused on two very different options: renewable and nuclear energy.

The government has ordered various energy reviews, but not everyone is waiting.

John Pontin
John Pontin - New Age for renewables

New age man

John Pontin is a Bristol businessman who is so concerned about climate change that he has radically changed the way he lives.

In the future, he believes, we will all have to be green.

"I want to be a 2050 man as soon as possible," he says. "I started here in the home by making all the changes, taking out the old gas boilers and so forth.

"I cannot think of another thing I can do to make a difference."

On his roof are photo-voltaic tiles, which generate electricity. Nearby are solar tubes which heat up his water.

And in a corner of his garage is a boiler which burns wood pellets. Even the car parked nearby is eco-friendly: it runs on chip-fat oil.

He wants to encourage wider change too, so has invested money in wind power.

Renewables the future?

The West only has one turbine so far, at Nympsfield in the Cotswolds.

It faced fierce local opposition, as have plans for a wind farm close to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station in Somerset.

But John Pontin is in no doubt: "With Hinkley the waste streams alone are going to be around for thousands of years.

"With renewables after 20 or 30 years, with other technologies coming in, the sites can be dismantled, moved on, cleared up and we will not know they have been there."

Malcolm Grimston
Only one wind turbine site in West region

Experts disagree

However there are experts who disagree. Malcolm Grimston is an energy scientist; he is positive about wind power - but adamant it is not the answer.

The amount of energy the world needs is forecast to double in the next few decades - and he believes only nuclear can meet that demand without disastrous global warming.

He accepts radioactive waste needs careful storage, but insists major accidents are in fact rare.

Is Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station the future?

"They have actually been extraordinarily safe; there was the single incident at Chernobyl in 1986 that hurt people who were off site at the time," he says.

"The new generation of stations which are now being designed should take safety one stage further."

But there is one thing they both agree on. The politicians must act now - both to cut the greenhouse gases caused by oil and coal, and to decide what will replace them.

Politics Show

Politics Show West wants to hear from you.

Watch the programme, and let us know what you think. That is the Politics Show, Sunday 18 September 2005 at 12.00pm.

Join David Garmston on Politics Show West on BBC One at Noon.

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