Where is our clean energy future?

Last week it was announced that Tory led government are reducing onshore wind farm subsidies by 10%. Ed Davey the Energy Secretary reportedly lobbied hard to against the treasury who were pressing for a 25% reduction in subsidies. In the Guardian it was reported that if Mitt Romney is elected to the White House he will completely scrap all subsidies for the wind industry.

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All of this hostility against renewable energy is plainly bizarre and highlights the cosy relationship between the fossil fuel industry and leading politicians.

The real question has to be; what is driving this hostility towards renewable energy sources. In the UK it wasn’t so long ago that the Conservative party were changing their logo to a tree and telling voters; “vote blue, go green”. The Treasury continues to talk of up the green economy but actions like cutting wind subsidies contradict this rhetoric. The FT reported that George Osborne in a letter to Ed Davey revealed that the government would use “renewables trading” to hit its 2020 target for carbon emissions cuts rather than generating all the green power domestically.

It was recently revealed that Osborne’s father in law ‘Lord Howell’ a former Energy Secretary under Thatcher is the president of the British Institute of Energy Economics (BIEE), which is sponsored by Shell and BP. In an article by the Independent it was also revealed that Osborne hasn’t met with a single representative from the renewable energy industry, whilst he has found time to meet with 8 representatives from the oil and gas industry. Behind Osborne’s clear scorn for environmental concerns is the Tory obsession with the un-conventential gas extraction of Shale Gas better known as ‘fracking’.

Fracking has been widely explored in parts of America leading to wide spread environmental damage and latterly partly due to Josh Fox’s film Gasland wide spread protest. Fracking has been proven to contaminate rivers and drinking water so that people can set tap water on fire. It has also been found to  cause earthquakes and will scupper any attempts to meet our carbon emission reduction targets. And the extraction of shale gas is only the start of this dangerous dash for gas, almost more worrying is the plans to burn coal bed methane.

As a member of the Green Party, I’m proud we are opposed to fracking. Back in April Caroline Lucas perfectly summed up the danger posed by fracking. Caroline said; “If carbon capture and storage technology is not in place, burning just 20% of the gas which Cuadrilla claims to have found in its licence area in Lancashire would generate 15% of UK’s total CO2 budget to 2050”.

In the summer issue of the New Statesman, Michael Brooks has written an article called: We need to talk about fracking. One of the points he makes he raises is; Do we want to be part of a generation that doesn’t even bother trying to meet carbon reduction targets? Cuadrilla the main company carrying out fracking are expecting government permission to start extraction any day now.

Personally I’m scared by the short sighted approach to our energy future the government are adopting and fracking is a dangerous carbon intensive form of energy production. So what can you do to stop fracking happening in an area near you?

I recommend getting in touch with activist group Frack Off who have been organising opposition to fracking in communities across the UK and have a comprehensive website full of facts about fracking and plans for extraction. They are really great group of people and happy to come and speak to local groups about the dangers of extreme energy extraction.

With Osborne and the government firmly in bed with the oil and gas industry; we are going to have to unite in communities across the country to oppose fossil fuel energy extraction. Creating the low carbon future we desire will be difficult and will require, local campaigns, direct action and brave politicians prepared to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Because one thing is for sure currently this government isn’t showing any signs of doing that.

Notes:

1) Watch a free online version of Gasland

2) Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono protest song ‘Don’t Frack my Mother’

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Shocking Blue Doctrine

Recently I have been reading Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine and the more I read the clearer it becomes to me that we are experiencing a period of shock therapy with Cameron and Osborne administering the treatment.  The Shock doctrine we are being exposed to was developed by Milton Friedman a radical Chicago school economist responsible for devising a fundamentalist version of capitalism reliant on shocks, whether natural disasters, acts of terrorism or financial collapses in order to implement radical economic policy. Friedman’s teaching advocated pushing through radical reforms whilst the population is in a state of shock and unable protest.

Sadly Friedman has accumulated a batch of disciples since the late 70’s including Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan and George W Bush and as son’s of Thatcher it would appear the Cameroon’s.

According to Klein, Friedmanite’s stockpile free-market ideas and once a crisis strikes look to implement irreversible change on a crisis-racked society. Friedman estimated that a  “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.” Unfortunately these radical shocks are intended to transfer assets and wealth from the state into the hands of private organisations and individuals. Disciples of Friedman believe that business should be free to do as it wants and taxation should be low; and social state spending stopped. They passionately believe that free markets produce a perfect economy and perfect relationships.

Reflecting back on the first year of the Tory led coalition government it is clear we are currently in the process of being shocked as the government look to roll back the state and implement radical free market policies.

Writing in October George Monbiot warned us how ‘disaster capitalism’ is being used to reshape the British economy in the interest of businesses whilst trashing the public sector. Six months down the line and the government are furiously trying to shrink the state transfer wealth from the state to businesses.

Shock Therapy

I have plucked a couple of the recent coalition policies that have the fingerprints of Friedman all over them.

1)     Forests – The proposed forest sale was intended transfer the ownership of the forests from the public into the hands of private business. This would have led to more Centre Park style organisations putting the potential of profit ahead of the interests of those who enjoy free open spaces. Luckily due to some fine campaigning by organisations such as 38 degrees and Climate Rush this disaster was avoided.

2)     Expansion of academies programme– As a product of one of the 17 pilot academies rolled out under the Blair government In the 90’s, I know of both the benefits and negative sides of an “academy” education. But one thing they definitely do is shape young people for a career in business. Creativity and non conformity were not actively encouraged, obedience, conformity and success were the mantra of the school and the free market with little regulation was clearly expressed as a great thing to young students.

3)     Student fees– It is startlingly clear as more and more universities reveal they plan to charge the full tuition fee that is isn’t a policy which will benefit the majority of the country. This is a clear shock policy pushed through in the wake of the financial crisis aimed benefiting the richest in society and standing firmly against social mobility.

4)     Review of employment legislation–  George Osborne is aiming to carry out a wholesale review of employment legislation. In typical Friedman style this review benefits business owners and not the rights of employees.  Key points of the review include cutting redundancy notice period from 90 days to 30 days and tackle TUPE regulations, which safeguard employees’ pay and conditions.

5)     NHS reform – “Sticking with the status quo and hoping we can get by with a bit more money is simply not an option”. Excerpt from David Cameron’s speech on the NHS on 16th May. Friedmanite’s push through radical reforms to avoid the status quo. In this case the “status quo” is our national health service which has put the needs of the patients first since it was founded in 1945. What Cameron and Lansley’s proposals advocate is open competition between private sector companies and charities and social enterprise to deliver services currently delivered by the NHS. By outsourcing routine treatments to third party organisations we will see large private sector contractors like Serco delivering treatments like hip replacements. Their main concerns will be on price, turnaround and efficiency instead of patient wellbeing and quality of service.

On the left we need to work together to put forward strong arguments against these radical policies which are serving the interests of private business and wealthy individuals.  The biggest challenge we face is combating the elements of the media which support “disaster capitalism”. This is why it is important we blog, speak, tweet, march and confront these policies head on. If we fail to do in the coming months and years I predict we will continue to witness a dramatic shift in assets from the state into the hands of private business.

In Klein’s book she quotes a great extract from George Orwell’s classic 1984 “We shall squeeze you empty, then we shall fill you with ourselves”. Currently we are being shocked by the government into accepting their market obsessed ideologies, we must resist this shock treatment.

All aboard the double dipper

“I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: This government is going to be unlike any other. This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again”.

Taken from Nick Clegg’s speech on the 19th of May where he set out the Government’s plans for political reform.

Well Nick you were certainly right about one thing this government is unlike any other. Eight months in to this coalition and the “transparent” politics we were promised seems like a sick joke part of an elaborate game devised by the government to see how much the public can take before we crack.

My vivid imagination can visualise odds being offered up in the cabinet meeting and an ensuing scuffle by cabinet ministers to place their bets. In my vision Dave’s Head Boy Gideon Osborne fights his way to the front and enthusiastically places the first bet; “I will take 2/1 on May, double dip time, double dip time” Turning to Dave “I am so excited can we tell them please can we”. To which Cameron responds “No don’t be silly my old friend, I know it is exciting but promised to tell the public the opposite of what we are doing and we must stick to our guns, It is in the national interest”.

Let’s look at some of the facts.

The Pledge

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”. Nick Clegg signing his now infamous NUS tuition fees pledge.

I don’t really need to go over this one in detail, short and simple a betrayal. A whole generation of young people will be priced out of education. Quickly to tackle the old argument I hear from ministers of “If you graduate earning £21000 you will pay back the loan at a slower rate”. Yeah true you will but you still will get charged interest, So you will pay roughly £50 to the Student Loans Company and roughly get charged £30 in interest. So appropriately £20 per month x 12 that adds up to £240 a year paid off, So making massive inroads to that £28000 student debt.

I just happened to be in the area

Helen Lewis- Hasteley wrote a great article in this week’s New Statesman titled Read all about them? Fat Chance. The article includes a great true story about how David Cameron just happened to be in his constituency and popped into a dinner hosted by News International Chief Rebekah Brooks, oh and James Murdoch just happened to be sharing a table with Dave. Well so much for not the government not being cosy with News Corp.

Can we forget about that 6 billion bill please Mr Osborne

Last year the government let Vodafone off of tax bill of 6 billion, So much for building a fairer society with a estimated 7 billion pounds worth of cuts lined up for Civil Society in April. Sadly Vodafone isn’t where it ends. Government advisor and Acadia group owner Sir Phillip Green dodged £1.2 billion in tax my transferring majority share holding to his wife who lives in Tina who resides in Monaco.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii4Pq4Fsixw

Memories start here

When the conservative government rebranded their logo in 2006 to include a picture of a tree it was a glimpse into the future whereby they would steal trees across the UK.  Caroline Spellman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently been plotting to sell off our forests. Belatedly a public consultation has been hastily announced. So if you enjoy free access to forests in the UK write to Caroline Spellman and tell her we don’t want our forests to become Center Parcs
http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/01/27/englands-forests/

Emmm we forgot to add that bit

David Cameron has announced his plans to restructure the NHS, Silly Dave he must have forgotten to put a big thing like that in his manifesto or was it a small paragraph on page 46. Well so much for ring-fencing the NHS, this idea to give 80 billion budget to GP’s scares me they should be focusing on treating patients.

So when Cleggy promised change he was certainly right. We have moved seamlessly back into the 1980’s with a series of radical changes that are threatening the very fabric of our society. The student protest movement and groups such as UK Uncut and Climate Rush are showing the government that if they are incapable of transparency they will let the public know what is really happening and long may it continue. People are angry and there is going to be nowhere for this government to hide.