SO a speech by Tony Blair has finally mentioned the environment, a mere 18 months after his election as Labour leader.

By contrast, it is difficult to find any major speech by Paddy Ashdown which has not mentioned the environment.

The Government aims to meet emission targets with petrol tax hikes and nuclear energy.

Blair's 'Tory' government-in-waiting sets more ambitious - and laudable - targets, but opposes petrol tax increases. In fact it claims to oppose any tax increases.

On nuclear power, thanks to Jack 'Glow-in-the Dark' Cunningham, they um, er, ah - they'll get back to us.

As for investing in energy efficiency, Blair's prediction that utilities will volunteer to cut their income by providing the funding is risible, even by Labour standards of costings.

Liberal Democrats are committed to shifting taxes off employer contributions and on to energy use, rather than just wishing problems away.

Liberal Democrats would end investment in nuclear energy, but put cash into alternative energy and energy efficiency.

Liberal Democrats don't just hope people will switch to public transport, but would introduce urban road pricing to discourage car use and pay for buses and trains - not to mention re-nationalising Railtrack, the very thought of which terrifies Labour into silence.

COUN JOHN McGOWAN (Liberal Democrat), Whitehall Drive, Clitheroe.

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