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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Tony Blair: right again

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Monday, 20 July 2009 at 01:19 pm
The Sunday Times two weeks ago carried a sneering interview with Tony Blair by Jonathan Leake, its science and environment editor, who plainly thought the former prime minister's claim that "the answer to climate change is the development of science and technology" was beneath his superior station.

It produced a classic Look At Me moment when Leake asked Blair what he had done to make his own life more sustainable. Leake interpreted the long pause, during which Blair was obviously thinking, "Has this duh-brain been listening to a word I've been saying?", as a sign of acute embarrassment at the ungreenness of Blair's jetsetting, multi-propertied lifestyle. In fact, the point Blair was trying to make was that it almost doesn't matter what we do in this country if we cannot provide the technologies by which developing countries might enjoy something approaching our lifestyle at a fraction of the carbon cost.

Anyway, an article in The Times last Friday by Dieter Helm, the foremost academic on energy policy, offers a vindication of Blair's approach. It makes the point that, "at a global level, the future of the climate depends heavily on coal".


The question that should have been at the heart of the White Paper is this: given our (limited) resources, where can Britain add the maximum benefits to this global problem? Where can it make a difference?

The answer is largely in technology: we have some of the best scientists, very good engineers and best universities in the world. Where we can really help is by investing in developing carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear energy and new technologies for networks, batteries and the electrification of transport. The Government deserves credit for beginning to develop some of these.

He is sceptical about wind power, as Blair was (presumably) sceptical about the implication that he should have a windmill on the roof of all his houses. It is fantastically expensive, and

even if all the wind turbines the Government (and the Opposition) wants are built, they will make not even a tiny dent in the carbon concentration in the atmosphere. In a few weeks, China’s coal investments would swamp the savings.

I commend Professor Helm's article to you all, and especially to Jonathan Leake.


Blair Propaganda
j_w_f wrote:
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 10:15 am (UTC)
How much is Blair paying you to keep up this constant tirade of pro-Blair mush? The public know he is arrogant and self-centered, they know he lied about Iraq, and they don't like him. Your attempts to portray him in a good light on every possible occasion can only be interpreted as a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Re: Blair Propaganda
j_rentoul wrote:
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 10:26 am (UTC)
Yes, that is a point by point rebuttal of the argument. I will now give up.

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