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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Shell Pull Out of Renewables Project

Friday, May 02, 2008

By any standard, Shell's recent decision to sell their 33% stake in the London Array offshore windfarm is a disastrous turn of policy, which has rightly been lambasted. Shell this week announced profits of £4 billion, and it is hard to see how they can justify withdrawing their investment of £0.6 billion from the £2 billion renewables project, in which they were the major partner along with Eon. Their press release explained that their decision was taken on the basis that "We constantly review our projects and investment choices in all of our businesses, focusing on capital discipline and efficiency." So not much need to read between the lines there: with oil currently running at $120 a barrel, there is more money to be made elsewhere, possibly lurking beneath melting icecaps.

But whilst Shell's retreat exposes their much-trumpeted environmental policies as a superficial marketing gimmick hiding a hard core of greed, it also indicates something inherently flawed in the government's environmental claims. At a time of credit crunch and inflationary belt-tightening, the government justifies maintaining fuel taxes at their present level on the assumption that lowering them would have a detrimental effect on the environment. In reality, the only groups that win from high fuel prices are the major companies, whose ability to affect the environment for good or ill far outweighs that of the individual consumer, who needs to get to work and the out-of-town supermarket and will almost certainly do so by car, at any cost.

Rather than falsely sustaining the high price of oil, the route to encourage individuals to choose environmentally friendly transportation methods, and to reduce the effect independent oil companies have to undermine any national commitment to renewables, is through radical change in infrastructure at the national level. Increase subsidies for public transport, provide incentives and tax breaks for people to throw out their oil burners in favour of sustainable heating, and suddenly Shell might realise that there is more to be made in serving renewables, than digging for the black gold.

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Posted by Alistair at 11:17 am

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