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Scottish Policy Group: Response to Foresight Consultative Document "Fuelling the Future."

The Scottish Branch Policy response to foresight's previous consultative document titled "Making Sustainability Count", was passed to Institute HQ on 21 September 2000. On looking at this latest document "Fuelling the Future", our view is that it is written and presented in a more manageable and practical format than its predecessor.

2. Aims and Objectives
2.1 The 40 years timespan is both ambitious but realistic, given the statement that it approximately matches the period over which the "majority of the current energy-related infrastructure will have reached the end of its life". This is a key issue in the development of public awareness of the need for change.

2.2 In response to Question 1 relating to "social issues", the evidence for an unambiguous response on the global warming debate, is again essential to winning the support of both countries and populations, to support change. In this context, a sceptical public, typically takes the view that if the USA, some European countries and most developing countries are not making a contribution, then the effects of the UK's efforts will make no difference. Social awareness on health problems related to use of fossil fuels, needs to be raised but this will only be effective if the public at large can make the connection to their own lives. Interestingly, to support improvements in production of energy, it may be necessary for the public to accept a greater dependence on nuclear generation, consistent with a full and open debate on the risks, as well as improved disposal methods of the by-products.

3. Environmental Future Scenarios
It is appreciated that none of the four stated scenarios is in fact likely to happen but each is useful in setting out the many diverse issues. We have only attempted to address the issues relating to our own speciality.

3.1 Arising R & D Themes
In our previous response, we referred to the pressing need for developing environmentally acceptable vehicle fuels. We see this as requiring a major thrust, particularly in the replacement of conventional power units in rail, air and road vehicle technologies. Liquid hydrogen could well be a front runner here. Serious research into solar powered vehicles and wave generation are also required. Governments and manufacturers, need to work together, since governments have tax income concerns and manufacturers will not embark on high cost innovative alternatives without assurances of support. Incidentally, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) was not mentioned but perhaps greater research into minimising its disadvantages, having an awareness of its benefits, should be undertaken, from the viewpoint of its use over the window of availablity - probably c30 years. Consideration should also be given to serious development of other forms of transport demanding a lesser energy input eg monorail and similar vehicles, powered by say, magnetic levitation (maglev.)

3.2 UK Contribution
The UK already makes a major contribution in many transport related studies, particularly in the areas of traffic growth, traffic management and user surveys and could doubtlessly develop this further towards determining public opinion and how to shape it with regard to best environmental practice. (There are many examples of potentially unacceptable policies being "imposed" on the public, which have subsequently proved workable eg the Clean Air Act and the Wearing of Seat Belt Regulations both requiring individual responses). Lessons learned from these could help in developing desirable responses to accepting appropriate changes in lifestyle for environmental gain.

4. The Context of Sustainable Development and Education and Training
4.1 The stated "overall aims of energy policy" can but be broadly accepted but as recent events have demonstrated, fundamental change in a democracy, needs public support. The education of young children from early school age right through to university level, must include strong messages on the environment, to develop their interest in it and in best practice. The "real world" options need to be spelt out, supported by irrefutable argument. Industry should be encouraged to be involved in the education debate and use their marketing resources to promote new environmentally friendly developments, to gain the support of future generations.

4.2 Environmentally preferred travel options should also be given a prominent place in education and should address the present social class stigma associated with bus travel. The possibility of a government supported shift in opinion away from most travel by air for journeys of 400 - 500 miles (and less) to using trains should be considered. Such successes would only be achievable if the much debated and obvious required improvements in public transport occurred, making it an attractive alternative. The public also need to see bus and rail as REAL alternatives to the private car, entirely based on what they can offer. A simple analysis by public transport operators of the benefits to individuals of using the car for different lengths of journey should be done and then a costing of the public transport improvements which would aspire to meeting some or most of them. Government might then determine the extent to which they are prepared to underpin these changes, where it would be commercially unacceptable for operators to meet the cost. This in itself would be a test of the resolve of government to address environmental and congestion problems.

4.3 The democratic implications of major change and making this acceptable to the public, have already been discussed. Four groups have a fundamental part to play in contributing to the required change:

Governments - eg in the UK should have major public service information campaigns across the media, conveying factual messages on environmental issues.

Vehicle manufacturers - all modes - should offer best environmental options and move away from products which don't support this. The public should be made aware of and be encouraged to use e.g. the environmentally acceptable bus rather than a polluting alternative, purchase the low emissions car option etc. R & D programmes should be a part of marketing, explaining their objectives and successes in a way the public can readily understand. Towards energy conservation, governments and vehicle manufacturers need to consider whether to continue to manufacture very large and expensive cars, with fuel guzzling engines, often designed to produce performances far beyond legal limitations.

Transport providers - should publicise their products and the benefits of mass movement, particularly explaining the advantages (including environmental) over alternatives, where these can be clearly substantiated. Similarly the cost of mass travel should be at prices affordable by the market and capacity constraints removed.

Individuals - perhaps serious and fundamental questions about travel need to be addressed, given that travel is often derived from other activities but in some cases - as for leisure - can be an end in itself. This raises many questions about lifestyle in developed society. Indeed, should travel always be demand led and should there be a stimulus to reduce that demand? In a society where lifestyle improvements are expected to advance and continue to advance, should there be incentives and fiscal measures to encourage people to minimise consumption of energy by less travel?


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