Setting the record straight on group

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I would like to set the record straight for Joanne Bell who appears to be labouring under some misconceptions about the Atlantic Array Supporters Group (“A Green grouping”, Opinion, March 13).

I can confirm that it is not a political organisation, nor indeed is it a Green Party initiative. The fact that there were two stories on the same page does not imply some secret conspiracy that links them together.

There are, no doubt, some Green Party members involved with the group, like there are members from many organisations concerned about the environment and social justice.

For myself, as a Co-op Party and Labour Party member, I feel that people don’t have to join the Greens to understand what is important about energy policy.

While pensioners Joanne and Jim Bell cannot afford their gas bill (page 3, March 13), and most now struggle to afford to fill their cars, we must be glad that electricity prices have not risen as far and as fast as oil and gas.

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According to DECC [Department of Energy & Climate Change] figures, the last 20 years have seen the price of gas rise to two and a half times its real cost in 1990.

In 1990 the oil price was around $18 a barrel. Today, as I write this, Brent crude is trading at the $109 mark, six times more expensive.

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No one can blame that on environmental taxes either because that’s before the oil has been processed to provide fuel at the pumps.

In comparison, the cost of electricity has doubled, which is certainly a very steep rise. But if we were to rely only on fossil fuels to produce energy it would have risen even further.

How can businesses in North Devon prosper as the cost of energy rises ever higher? What sudden source of oil and gas are we expecting to find in our area?

Or are we to be permanently in debt to the Saudis selling our children’s future for another pleasant drive to the beach? Can we trust Putin not to cut off our gas as the pound continues to lose all its value under the present government’s economic mismanagement?

If, 20 years from now, the price of oil is over $600 and gas twice the price of today, will there be more than a handful of people able to drive and heat their homes in our area?

Fuel poverty is not all about the cost of energy, but I believe that we should, as far as possible, insure ourselves against steep rises in oil and gas prices by having a secure supply of energy just off our coast.

I believe we best secure the economy of our area by making sure that there is energy for businesses to run on. I believe that we are better off when we are not beholden to other countries to keep the lights on and our homes warm.

As a joint secretary of the Atlantic Array Supporters Group and a founding member of the group, I can confirm that the timing of the formation of the group was entirely due to the highly interesting talk on the economic impacts of the RWE-npower proposals, hosted by North Devon Transition Forum, held on the 10th of January this year.

The conspiracy that Joanne Bell sees does not have any foundation in reality. While I have not taken a poll of members’ political views, I suspect that there are supporters from all of the five largest political parties in our area amongst the membership of the group.

James Craigie

Joint Secretary

Atlantic Array Supporters Group

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