I SUSPECT that virtually all rational human beings would agree with Norman McNab (Letters, October 7) that "wild places are a priceless asset", in normal climatic circumstances.

However such circumstances no longer prevail. Given that an incomparable and seemingly permanent (until recently) wild place is rapidly being lost due to climate change, it seems very clear that drastic measures are required to arrest this trend.

It is surely quite ingenuous, on a planet supporting seven billion humans, rapidly growing towards 11 billion by the century's end, to contend that efficiency drives by the industrial economies of the world will solve the problem on their own. In any case, energy use is not the cause of the dilemma we face as Mr McNab believes. It is where we source this energy, namely from fossil fuels, that is the culprit. The latest science tells us that most of the fossil fuels which are in the ground must be left there if we are to avoid runaway global warming.

There is only one way we can encourage human societies to voluntarily move away from fossil fuels, and that is to provide them with a copious alternative, namely from the plentiful renewable energy flux from the sun which constantly illuminates the planet. In engineering terms the task is eminently realisable. Renewable energy delivery systems if interconnected, co-ordinated and managed at the continental level can provide a reliable new source of electrical power. For example, in Europe a viable high-voltage direct current (HVDC) super-grid, mooted in several recent reports, would connect geothermal power stations in central Europe, solar power stations in southern Europe, wind farms in western Europe, wave/tidal systems off Scotland, Norway and Portugal and hydro-electric stations in Northern Europe. This system would be backed up by massive storage facilities based on compressed gas and hot water thermal storage using cathedral-sized underground caverns, on massive battery farms, and on pumped storage employing artificial lagoons constructed in shallow sheltered bays, as planned for the coastal waters off Denmark. The super-grid has to be geographically extensive to ensure continuity of supply from diverse intermittent sources. The wind farms of Scotland will not be "useless", but will contribute to this super-grid.

Developments along these lines probably cannot be achieved through the private sector and the market mechanism. It will require European nations co-operating, directing and implementing infrastructure projects through their public sectors employing generous budgets, which have in the past been regularly directed toward useless foreign wars.

Of course, if humans could determinedly find a way to reverse the population explosion, almost every difficulty which is under­mining the sustainability of the biosphere would melt away wondrously.

Alan J Sangster,

37 Craigmount Terrace, Edinburgh.

THE steps taken by Glasgow University to move its endowment funds from fossil fuel industry ("University to end investment oil", The Herald, October 9), coupled with its recent development of a cost-effective method of converting electrical energy into hydrogen ("New technique fuels hopes for cleaner energy", the Herald, September 12) constitutes a major step in accelerating the promotion of renewable entry provision.

By making the breakthrough in efficient means of hydrogen production, with its capacity to be used for energy storage, and in reallocating endowment funds the university has proved that it is an establishment that, as Friends of the Earth Scotland states, "acts on its green values rather than paying lip service to them".

If, as a result of the university's double first in initiative and innovation, funding can be reallocated from fossil fuel into developing, on an industrial scale, its pioneering work on a potential cost-effective method for storage of energy capable of being derived from renewables, Scotland could indeed become a nation powered by 100 per cent by renewable energy .

John M Doig,

25 Roman Road, Ayr.