Category Archives: Energy

Labour lays down the green energy gauntlet with interest-free loan plan for electric cars

While the Tories – and other right-wingers around the globe – are still messing up the planet with fossil fuels, Labour has announced a game-changing plan to democratise ownership of electric cars.

A Labour government will offer loans of up to £33,000 to low- and middle-income households, people in rural areas, independent contractors and small-to-medium-sized businesses, to buy electric cars.

The intention is to provide clean transport for everyone, with 2.5 million interest-free loans; the government would cover the cost of interest.

And the scheme would boost the national grid, as everyone receiving a loan would be required to participate in a mass trial of “Vehicle-2-Grid” technology.

Electric cars will store energy when demand is low – during the night when the wind is blowing but people are asleep, for example – and discharge into the grid when energy use peaks -in the evening as people arrive home from work. This smooths out demand and reduces reliance on gas-driven power stations.

The plan was explained by shadow chancellor John McDonnell:

“This will stimulate the automotive industry. It will sustain jobs in the conversion from fossil fuels to electric but actually it will create new jobs as well.

“So this is beneficial in terms of the climate, [and] it is beneficial for those people who want to convert their carbon-fuel powered car into an electric vehicle that is sustainable.

“At the same time, it will help support the automotive industry and create jobs. Those jobs are in areas where we have had real issues, particularly with Brexit.”

The plan has been announced to contrast with the Conservative government, which has been slammed repeatedly, including by the Society of Motor Manufacturers, for scrapping support for electric cars.

Labour’s plan seems much better all round, it seems.

Source: John McDonnell announces interest free loans for electric cars  – The Labour Party

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Teen climate activist shames the world – but the Tories are trying to expand fracking across the UK

Frack site: The well in Lancashire contributes to global warming and climate change.

Climate change “negotiators” got a hard lesson in their own shortcomings – from a minor.

Greta Thunberg is only 15, but she packed more maturity into her three-minute speech than we’ve seen in decades of mealy-mouthed “negotiations” between representatives of national and international economic interests.

The Swedish activist shamed her elders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP24, where representatives eventually managed to reach a weak agreement over how to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But everybody there knew they weren’t doing nearly enough to achieve that goal, which is why Ms Thunberg’s words had such bite.

Here’s her speech:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,” she told an audience entirely composed of her elders (but clearly not her betters). “Even that burden you leave to us children.

“Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.

“It is the sufferings of the many that pay for the luxuries of the few… We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.”

She also said: “You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.”

Now consider the current court case in the UK over plans by our Conservative government to expand fracking.

If ever there was an example of the many suffering to support the luxuries of the few – the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money – it is the fracking industry in the United Kingdom.

The current case highlights new planning guidance by the government which makes it easier to establish fracking sites. The document orders local authorities to facilitate the establishment of such sites, and proposes the removal of the need for new wells to get planning permission.

The government did not carry out any assessment of the impact its plans would have on the environment, and the guidance was imposed on the country without any public consultation.

It seems clear that James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, qualifies as one of the people Ms Thunberg describes as “not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

So do former prime minister David Cameron and his successor Theresa May. At a time when sustainable energy has never been cheaper or easier to supply, one is led to ask why they continue to kowtow to fossil fuel corporates like Cuadrilla bosses Roy Franklin and Francis Egan.

Fracking at Cuadrilla’s only UK site, in Lancashire, was halted again on December 11 after yet another earth tremor was caused by the process. This one measured 1.5 on the Richter scale, causing a woman who lives 1.6 miles from the site to say she heard a loud “bang” and her house shook. A Cuadrilla spokesperson said the effect would have been “like dropping a melon”.

We may conclude from this that the spokesperson is “not mature enough to tell it like it is” either.

But what is to be done in the face of such monumental selfishness, such wilful ignorance, such naked greed?

I’d like to think change is coming, whether the government figures and corporates named above like it or not – but I don’t think it will, unless somebody does something shocking.

I think someone would have to grab Messrs Cameron, Brokenshire, Egan and Franklin, along with Mrs May, drag them to the fracking well in Lancashire, and throw them down it – and then fill it in on top of them.

That’s what it would take to get these people to look up from counting their money and pay attention – the threat of extreme sanction.

But I can’t advocate such extreme measures – and the system is skewed in favour of the privileged. So what’s to be done?

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Excess winter deaths hit highest level since 1976 last year; will the Tories make it even worse?

Claire Perry: Her thumb’s up in this image but it seems she has been “crossing [her] fingers and hoping things will improve”.

The Tory cull of the weak and the old continues unabated with the annual increase in excess winter deaths.

Like the increase in child homelessness, this is a story I have to write every year – because every year, under a Conservative government, the numbers increase.

In 2013, Age UK predicted that 24,000 older people would not survive the winter – 200 deaths per day. By the winter of 2017-18, according to the Office for National Statistics, that figure had leapt to 417 per day.

That’s 17 deaths every hour.

The total number of excess (that’s avoidable) winter deaths was said to be 50,100 – the highest since the winter of 1975-76.

Excess winter deaths in England and Wales. See story HEALTH Deaths. Infographic from PA Graphics

More than a third of the deaths were caused by respiratory diseases, and deaths were higher among females and people aged over 85.

The government – and particularly Energy minister Claire Perry – has been blamed for the increase, which charities say can be attributed to a “laissez-faire” policy that amounted to “crossing [her] fingers and hoping things will improve”.

It certainly seems that Ms Perry thinks she has better things to do than her job. Recent television appearances have shown remarkable displays of misandry (hatred towards men because they are men) and an instance in which she libelled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC’s Question Time.

But she won’t lose her job. If pensioners die, the Conservative government record this as a “positive benefit outcome”.

To add perspective to the facts, in 2014-15 the number of excess deaths had increased from 24,000 to 44,000.

The ONS tried to suggest fears over the effectiveness of that year’s influenza vaccine caused the spike in deaths – but it seems the vaccine in fact proved extremely effective and people who died had been put off having it by government publicity.

Source: Charities demand action after excess winter deaths hit highest level in 40 years | South Wales Argus

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Legal challenge to stop nuclear waste dumping near Cardiff

Don’t drink the tap water if you live anywhere near Somerset, Bath, Bristol or southern Wales – especially Newport and Cardiff.

That was the advice of net-based activist Tracy Kelly, in response to the announcement that 300,000 tonnes of nuclear waste is to be dredged from the seabed near Hinkley Point and dumped a mile off the Cardiff shoreline.

But a legal battle has been launched to stop this environmental disaster from being inflicted on the people of south Wales and the West Country.

Here’s the situation, courtesy of Ms Kelly: “Millions of cubic metres of radioactive sludge is being dumped in the Bristol Channel, contaminating inland waters, fisheries, oysters, seals, and will stay radioactive for the next – wait for it – 12,000 years!

“The sludge will create a whole new toxic sandbank which will be so big it’ll be picked-up on marine Radar and will be viewable by space satellites… George Osborne, the former chancellor who couldn’t answer a kid what six times seven was, made the cheap decision to just dump the toxic mud one mile offshore from Cardiff.

“The toxic sludge comes from the Hinkley A nuclear reactor. This is one of several dangerous old reactors in the west of England and western Scotland which have created no less than 19 million tonnes of toxic waste.

“About four million tonnes of that waste is dumped into the Irish Sea from outflow pipes near Windscale where there are high numbers of children with blood diseases and cancer.

“The French company building Hinkley C in North Somerset are the same people building a mega-reactor in Normandy which had to be stopped because the concrete dome cracked.

“Theresa May gave the French EDF company a ‘marine licence’ to dump radioactive waste in Cardiff Bay. Nice. Protestors in their thousands have written letters, staged demonstrations and also submitted petitions – however, BBC current affairs has refused to broadcast a single second of a single protestor’s views on national prime-time news – even though there have been concerned resident meetings happening since the year 2000.”

A barge made its first trip to dump radioactive mud off the coast near Cardiff yesterday evening (September 10).

That is the situation.

Here‘s what’s being done about it:

Opponents to a controversial scheme to dump mud from a nuclear plant off the coast of Cardiff have launched a last-minute legal challenge.

The Campaign Against Hinkley Mud Dumping submitted an application to the High Court in Cardiff on Monday seeking an interim injunction.

Campaigners have argued Natural Resources Wales (NRW) failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and said core samples were insufficient under international rules and did not cover all significant radioactive substances from the Hinkley plant.

Here‘s some evidence in support of that statement:

Independent Assembly Member Neil McEvoy said… only 5 samples of mud had been taken from a level lower than 5 centimeters for analysis. The Welsh Assembly petitions committee had asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to require the French energy company  EDF (who are building the new nuclear power station) to carry out additional analysis, but this had been refused.

I imagine the petitions committee had made its request after receiving the petition publicised by This Site, here.

The Labour-run Welsh Government said NRW made its decision based on “expert advice”. It also concluded the material was within “safe limits” and posed no “radiological risk” to human health or the environment.

But it seems the tests on which this “expert advice” was given did not assess whether uranium, plutonium and other alpha-emitting elements were present in minute “particulate” form. As such, they can be more easily inhaled into the deep lung and the lymphatic system, and will emit more radiation.

The injunction is an interim measure – if the mud dump is to be stopped for good, protestors will have to fund a costly judicial review.

If you care about your environment, your health and that of your children enough to do something about it, you can add to the crowdfunding scheme that is financing the legal battle.

Please visit the website here to make your contribution.

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Welsh petitioners lead the way with plan for a low-pollution, NON-NUCLEAR energy policy

Artist’s impression of a six-mile sea-wall with turbines to generate low-carbon electricity at Swansea Bay, south Wales. The Conservative Government wants to ring Wales with nuclear waste instead. [Image: Tidal Lagoon Power].

Why does a certain kind of politician have to try to destroy our natural resources? What is this fascination they have with trashing our homes? And what can we do about it?

While the first two of those questions remain subjects for debate, an organisation in Wales may have the answer to the third.

Much of Wales remains startlingly unspoiled after nearly three centuries of industrialisation across the United Kingdom, but current plans by the Conservative Government would ring that country of the UK with the worst kind of polluters.

The Tories are keen to flood the UK with the nuclear waste generated by no less than 13 nuclear power plant rebuilds, including eight which will impact on the western coast of Britain: two at Hinkley in Somerset, two at Oldbury in the Severn estuary, two on Anglesey, three planned at Moorside, Cumbria, plus a recently-announced plan to build a Small Medium Reactor inland at Trawsfynydd.

There is also the issue of radioactive mud from the Hinkley A and B reactors being dumped in the sea just off Cardiff, and the rejection by Westminster of the Swansea Tidal lagoon – a renewable energy scheme that could have powered the equivalent of 155,000 Welsh homes.

And let’s not forget the attempt to bribe communities anywhere in Wales to host radioactive waste burial sites – literally sitting on some of the most toxic substances known to humanity.

The plan, it seems, is to cut back on renewable energy and increase nuclear pollution – at huge expense to the taxpayer.

So not only do they want to poison us – they want to make us pay for them to do it. Charming!

The Westminster government’s policy conflicts (deliberately?) with that of the Labour-run Welsh Government, which has three objectives:

  • Reduce the amount of energy used in Wales.
  • Reduce Welsh reliance on energy generated from fossil fuels.
  • Actively manage the transition to a low-carbon economy.

This plan means nuclear energy should be cut as it is neither low-carbon nor renewable. Considerable amounts of carbon are released in the mining, milling and separation of the Uranium which powers nuclear plants from the ore in which it is found – and then it has to be transported. So in the case of Hinkley C, for example, 50g of carbon dioxide are likely to be released for every unit of electricity generated – breaching the Climate Change Committee’s recommended limit for new sources of power generation beyond 2030.

And, of course, supplies of Uranium are limited. This means poorer ores would be processed as supplies run out, increasing the amount of CO2 generated by the process and, once the supply is depleted, we will have prevented future generations from using it in new – and maybe less harmful – ways in the future.

So the Welsh Government should be utterly opposed to the Westminster government’s plan – right?

Of course it isn’t as easy as that. Energy is not a devolved issue, meaning Westminster still has full control over the policy – across the UK.

But the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance has devised a way of getting around that problem:

The organisation has launched a petition, on the National Assembly for Wales website. It does not call for opposition to the Westminster government’s policy because this would be pointless.

It calls for the Welsh Government to take action that will make nuclear power proliferation unnecessary.

The petition asks the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to invest in green renewable energy sources, thus reducing the need for fossil fuels and nuclear energy in Wales. Specifically, this means:

• Supporting emerging low carbon technologies that could put Wales at the forefront of renewable energies and help to slow climate change; and
• Investing in energy sources that do not leave a legacy of radioactive waste, spoil heaps and damage to health and the environment.

If the Welsh Government was able to show Westminster that it was actively engaging in such activity, it may be possible to persuade the political polluters to put away their plans. Remember, these are long-term schemes and it is possible to demonstrate that one course of action may make another unnecessary.

Here’s what you can do:

Sign the petition.

You don’t have to live in Wales; anyone can sign and the numbers will count towards those needed for a debate in the Welsh Assembly.

Get in touch with your friends and relatives, and get them to sign the petition.

And share the petition – or at least share this article – and urge anybody who may read it to sign.

This is a major opportunity – not just to oppose a hugely dangerous plan to pollute one of the UK’s great natural landscapes but also to become a world-leader in the development and exercise of non-polluting, renewable energy supplies.

Let’s take it.


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Another Theresa May manifesto promise evaporates in a puff of hot air

It’s all about gas. While Theresa May is full of it, she has failed to fulfil a promise to cap energy prices – and now an energy company is hiking its bills.

According to The Independent: “British Gas will hike its prices by an average of 5.5 per cent next month, taking the price of its standard tariff to £1,161 for a typical dual fuel customer.

“The energy firm said the increase was due to rising wholesale and policy costs, and blamed government policy for putting more pressure on customers’ bills.”

The minister for energy and clean growth, Claire Perry, was quoted as saying: “We are disappointed by British Gas’s announcement of an unjustified price rise in its default tariff when customers are already paying more than they need to.

“This is why government is introducing a new price cap by this winter to guarantee that consumers are protected from poor value tariffs and further bring down the £1.4bn a year consumers have been overpaying the Big Six.”

Too little, too late!

If Mrs May had been serious about this, she would have imposed the cap immediately – before energy companies had a chance to give themselves pay rises which even the Tory government has said are “unjustified”.

Therefore, she isn’t.

And we all know it:

We all know what to do about it, too:

Right?


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Your at-a-glance guide to John McDonnell’s barnstorming conference speech

John McDonnell, delivering his speech to the Labour conference.

The least that can be said about it is that it will give the Tories plenty to deride at their own conference.

The reason the above is the least that can be said is, Tories ALWAYS try to ridicule Labour policies. Then they proudly announce a load of nonsense rubbish, get their friends in the right-wing media to push it as the only realistic option, dupe enough of the nation into supporting them at a general election and we end up – well, we end up in the mess we’re in today.

As a result of this Tory stupidity, the UK is not so much a proud island nation voyaging to new horizons as a leaky, sinking boat, weighed down by fatted passengers, who expect a malnourished crew to bail them out – using punctured buckets.

Those Tory speeches haven’t happened yet, so let’s enjoy Mr McDonnell’s words while we can. He was certainly correct that it has been Labour’s historic role to lead the UK into each new era, and if he gets the chance to execute the plan he has outlined, Labour will fulfil that duty again.

In This Writer’s opinion, he identified all the right issues. Whether he came up with the right answers is up for debate, but his choices certainly seemed popular with the party rank-and-file.

If you didn’t catch the speech and want to know what his proposals were, here they are:

  • Creation of a Strategic Investment Board, to put money into key research projects, employment and wages, with fair distribution of investment across the UK.
  • Supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses, the genuinely self-employed and massively expanding worker control and the co-operative sector.
  • Re-nationalising rail, water, energy, and the Royal Mail.
  • Crossrail to be built in the north; HS2 extended into Scotland. Midlands Connect to overhaul transport there. Electrified railway lines from Cornwall to London.
  • Investment in the zero-carbon economy, for example the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.
  • Full protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in other EU countries, and a promise to give Tories “the political battle of their lives” if they try to water down or undermine protections on employment, consumer or environmental rights.
  • Close the tax loopholes and avoidance scams used by the mega-rich, making sure the rich and the giant corporations pay their way, to pay for public services.
  • Scrap the public sector pay cap; introduce the real Living Wage at £10 per hour; introduce pay ratios at the top; and address the gender pay gap.
  • Restore basic employment rights, repeal the Tories Trade Union Act, set up a new Ministry of Labour and restore collective bargaining.
  • Cap credit card debt.
  • Scrap tuition fees.
  • End Private Finance Initiative deals and bring those that currently exist “back in-house”.

He wrapped up by saying, “The Tories have tried to change people’s view of what is normal and acceptable in our society. They want us to accept that in the fifth richest country in the world it’s normal and acceptable for people to be saddled with debt; for people to have to work long, often insecure, hours, stressed out, struggling to find time with their family; for people not to have a pay rise for years no matter how dedicated you are or how hard you work; for young people to have no prospect of owning their own home; for disabled people to be pushed to the edge by the benefits system; or for carers to be struggling without support or recognition.

“Let’s make it clear – we will never accept that this is normal or acceptable.”

So which do you prefer? The Tory version of “normal or acceptable”? Or the Labour alternative?

I know which I’d rather have – but is it really possible?


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Latest privatisation success – Australia, Qatar and China to profit from billing UK energy customers

An engineer walks along stretch of National Grid gas pipeline near Skipton in North Yorkshire [Image: Nigel Roddis/Reuters].

An engineer walks along stretch of National Grid gas pipeline near Skipton in North Yorkshire [Image: Nigel Roddis/Reuters].

Perhaps when Nigel Farage appears on the BBC’s Question Time this evening, someone will have the intelligence to ask him how he feels about rich foreigners buying British assets and taking the profits abroad.

Undoubtedly, shareholders in the UK’s National Grid will be delighted to pocket the £4 billion they are making from the sale of the gas pipe network to Australia, Qatar and China.

How happy will their customers feel?

The sale means that what was once a public asset is now in the hands of two foreign states and one foreign multinational investment bank.

They won’t be interested in investing in the network.

They won’t want to cut bills.

They’ll want to maximise profits.

This is further proof that Conservative privatisation policies are impoverishing the UK by selling off everything we own to foreigners.

It seems strange that being ripped off by rich foreigners is seen as entirely acceptable, while the possibility of poor foreigners coming here to look for work has been painted as an insult to our national pride.

What will Mr Farage, who has been known to advocate NHS privatisation, have to say about it?

National Grid has agreed to sell a majority stake in its gas pipe network to a team of investors in a deal valuing the division at about £13.8bn.

The UK’s power network operator said it would sell a 61% shareholding in the gas pipe arm to a consortium led by Australian investment bank Macquarie, including backing from Qatari and Chinese state investors.

National Grid will return £4bn to shareholders after the deal, and it will make a voluntary payment of £150m to the benefit of British energy consumers.

The auction for the gas network has been running for at least a year, and the Macquarie consortium fought off a raft of competitors including a team led by Chinese investors.

Source: National Grid sells majority stake in gas division in £13.8bn deal | Business | The Guardian

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Fracking blamed for record-breaking Oklahoma earthquake – and it’s coming to the UK

The effects of fracking make themselves visible in Oklahoma [Image: Lenzy Krehiel-Burton/Reuters].

The effects of fracking make themselves visible in Oklahoma [Image: Lenzy Krehiel-Burton/Reuters].

Here in the UK, we can look forward to all of this.

Fracking is on its way, with the first contracts already signed – thanks to the Conservative Government’s short-sighted, backward-facing environmental and energy policies.

We don’t need to tie ourselves down to fossil fuels in order to power our world any more.

We already have electric cars, and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

For power generation, we can have micro power generation. Small wind turbines, solar power and gas capture, run by ordinary people rather than huge corporations – and benefiting us immediately as well.

It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It’s here.

But it won’t make money for Tories so they would rather ruin our environment instead.

Residents of the small Oklahoma town of Pawnee have filed a class-action lawsuit demanding 27 fracking companies pay for the effects of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake. They claim the companies exercised “reckless disregard for public or private safety.”

Property damage, reduced property values and emotional distress resulting from a record-breaking September earthquake are all claimed in the lawsuit, which does not specify any sum total that the 27 fracking companies would pay if found liable, according to the Associated Press.

The class-action suit filed Thursday in district court points to the natural gas extraction method of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which consists of injecting wastewater into the earth, as the cause for not only the major quake, but also 52 subsequent tremblors.

Source: Dozens of fracking companies sued over record-breaking Oklahoma earthquake — RT America

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Tory energy policy: Funds for polluting fossil fuels; cuts to cash for clean solutions

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Our two-faced Tory ministers are revealed as the polluting exploiters we always knew them to be, within days of signing the Paris agreement on climate change.

Subsidies for solar installations are to be cut by nearly two-thirds. Will this money flow towards handouts for the frackers, one wonders?

If so, it seems likely the Tories will have their snouts well into the kickback trough. In future, we should check for donations to the Conservative Party and individual MPs from fracking firms.

Subsidies for small scale solar electricity panels on homes are to be cut, the government has announced, although by less than expected.

The subsidies will be cut by 64%, although this is less than the previous proposal of an 87% reduction.

The cuts have been softened following a storm of criticism.

The government says large-scale solar farms are cost-competitive, but the sector says it is being forced to stand on its own feet before it is ready.

The industry is worried about a new government cap on the volume of solar installations.

Source: UK announces cut in solar subsidies – BBC News

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