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Blair Ignores Protesters, Launches U.K. Energy Review

The debate on new nuclear build in the U.K. began in earnest earlier today, as Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech on future energy policy before the Confederation of British Industry was disrupted by a pair of Greenpeace protesters.

Vowing, "I'm going to give this speech if it's the last thing I do," Blair marched to a smaller auditorium inside London's Business and Design Centre and delivered his speech in full:
Mr Blair said nuclear power was a difficult issue but should be settled by open debate, not protests to stop free speech.

The energy review would be headed by the Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks and report by the middle of next year, he announced.

It would measure the UK's progress against a review carried out two years ago.

And it would "include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations", he said.

Mr Blair said energy policy was "back on the agenda with a vengeance".

"Round the world you can hear the heavy sound of feverish rethinking," he said.

"Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency."
Following the speech, CBI Director General Digby Jones issued the following statement:
"The CBI conference is the place for free and open debate but Greenpeace has no interest in real debate. Its aim was the opposite - to abuse the hospitality we had extended and to stifle and stop debate. It failed completely.

"The Prime Minister was determined to deliver his speech to the gathered business leaders and Greenpeace was offered the chance to put its views to him -- but instead threatened further disruption.

"The CBI will not be held to ransom or bow to ultimatums. The democratically-elected leader of this nation has every right to speak, and I applaud him, and our delegates, for the determined response which ensured the speech was delivered."
Concern in the U.K. has also been driven by the realization that deposits of oil and natural gas in the North Sea are becoming depleted, and that the nation will probably be forced to import significant quantities of gas from Russia in order to keep pace with demand. The impending retirement of a significant portion of the U.K.'s baseload electrical generating capacity is also driving the review. For more from the BBC, click here.

UPDATE: More coverage from the Scotsman and the Independent. And Blair's speech is the "Topic of the Day," over at Politics.co.uk. And for other reaction from blogs around the world, click here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Blair's speech is getting great reviews, while Greenpeace is only getting noticed because their protest backfired. Here's the view from Pragmatism Refreshed:
The speech would have been rather a bore had Greenpeace not disrupted it. Protestors in the rafters of the hall in whicht he speech was to be held threw confetti, apparently in order to convey the impression of fall-out. Or something.

(snip)

Blair gave his speech 45 minutes late. But he gave it to what the morning papers are describing as rapturous applause. Greenpeace gave Briton's business lobby and Labour Party a chance to feel good about each other in common defiance of the blokes in the rafters. Not a great way to get your point across, I'm afraid.
The transcript of the speech is available here.

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Comments

Matthew66 said…
A "pair of protestors". If two protestors is all that Greenpeace can muster, that is very sad for them. But victorious for science and rational thinking. Here's hoping that, at long last, scientifically informed debate is taking precedence over ideologically driven diatribe and invective. I have long lamented the policies of Greenpeace. Their anti-nuclear prejudice has inflicted global warming on us, while their anti-fur activism has ensured that my Australian homeland is awash with foxes busily consuming all the native species in their path, and that New Zealand is plagued by possums eating all the native flora, thereby endangering native species of flora eaters. The "Via Media" is a moral and ethical imperative. There can be no place for extremism in rational thought. At each stage of human history we need to balance the pros and cons of any given option and choose the optimal (which will change as more information is uncovered).
Rod Adams said…
I wonder how much Greenpeace paid those two protesters to show up?

Here is an interesting account from one Greenpeace professional - pay attention to the following line "I have never failed to open my mouth when it's necessary," she said, laughing. "It's nice to be getting paid for it instead of getting penalized for it."

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