East Midlands Green Party Blog


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A Light on Energy

No to Fracking

This month East Midlands Green Party are focusing on the theme of energy. When I started writing this post, the street to which I’ve just moved went into blackout twice in one night. We stumbled over boxes to light candles. Being greenies, we had solar lights and a windup torch. I later found out that on the 13th of October the BBC reported the risk of blackouts this winter is higher than at any time over the past six years, according to the National Grid. Sitting in the dark we discussed, (along with things like how great one of our neighbours is and if he needs candles), the probability of power outages becoming more frequent and the effects on homes, businesses and public services. We don’t know our other neighbours yet, or those who might have troubles. We do know that the price of basic fuel often exceeds our own budget, along with an increasing number of others. We are lucky enough to be in paid employment, though my paid hours are few. Yet I know we are going to be cold and that this will effect my own physical capacity to work and live well, together with affecting my mood. Being constantly cold is not regularly associated with well-being. It does not help that there are so many others in similar or worse situations.

Under the present  insane system the priority is the pursuit of (short-term) profit rather than the meeting of human need or long-term solutions to the energy crisis. With Fuel Poverty on the rise and the cold winter  coming, charities such as Age UK are warning of associated fatal illness bought on by the cold which can and does result in the death of tens of thousands each year. Flu, asthma , chest infections, strokes, depression are some of the killers in the cold affecting low income households, including struggling families, infants, the elderly and those with disabilities. It affects us all as a society and as individuals. Within my circle of family and friends are those at risk. I am personally a high risk of complications  in cold spells due to my own health.

There is inefficiency and greed within an energy system based on polluting, wasteful extraction of resources that are becoming ever more scarce, or those which leave life-killing, cancer causing radioactive waste. Fracking manages both to be wasteful and polluting, destroying land and water. It is also radioactve.  One report citing some of the compelling research on this was by Douglas Main on October 3rd, for NBC News USA, where fracking is already in operation. Geochemistry and Water Quality Proffessor Avner Vengosh of Duke University stated levels of radium in fracking wastewater let out into rivers in Pennsylvania were ‘higher than those found in some radioactive waste dumps, and exceed the minimum threshold the federal government uses to qualify a disposal site as a radioactive dump site’ and that this will get into the food system on every level. The report by Main can be found at http://www.nbcnews.com/science/fracking-wastewater-contaminated-likely-radioactive-8C11323012. There is no promise to meet the energy needs of our communities. The industry is heavily subsidised by us through tax but comes with no health or environmental security.  It is no accident that fracking is banned in France, which will protect public safety and environment. It is also no accident that it is exempt from the clean water act in the USA, which is the only way it could be pushed forward.

Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, BBC News, reported on August 13th this year that ‘researchers from the University of Texas in Arlington found increased levels of arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in the Barnett Shale, an area with around 16,000 active gas wells.’ A component in rat poison and famous in the classic film ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, arsenic is one of the worlds most effective and vile poisons. In fracking the outmoded, wasteful, centralised energy production industry has come up with something that is more deathly and desperate than anything we have so far seen. It leaves water undrinkable, carrying cancer causing and other poisonous chemicals and radioactivity.

Humanity has become dependent on wasteful, polluting, inefficient and heavily subsidised fuel instead of investing in renewables which are infinite , the relevant technologies are largely clean and increasingly efficient.  Green Party policy states the immediate objective: To promote full use of currently available renewable energy sources for heat, electricity and transport and provide the necessary support for the relevant markets and industries to grow. Meanwhile our Green Energy Policy also states the aim: To reduce demand for fossil fuels as rapidly as possible by inducing industry, householders and the public sector to invest in energy conservation. Under the present coalition, with no real opposition from Labour, subsidies of millions are going into £Billion Oil Companies while investment in renewables has been pulled. The Big Oil industry has limited accountability and little interest in communities becoming more self-sufficient through localised energy production.

The efficiency of renewables is increased with localised energy generation, open to community co-ownership. Green Party Policy has long-term aims for a Green Economy with energy generation focused on combined renewables locally.  Our policy states: Energy would be generated, stored and distributed as close to the point of use as practicable, with maximum local control. Our policy has at its core a commitment to make energy production ‘fully accountable to the public sector‘. The fossil fuel industry, which itself should be fossilised, works on nationalised, centralised power structures and is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose. Much fuel is needed in the transportation of fuel in these systems, meaning more pollution, less power.

Increasing fuel poverty and power outages (blackouts) and the health and safety implications are the tip of a large iceberg we are being taken towards by those with the blinkered arrogance to believe we are somehow unsinkable.  Jarred Diamond,  in  ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive’ tracks the ancient societies that have fallen because humankind has misused, mismanaged and devalued water and soil and other natural, vital resources. He then links it to what we are doing in the post industrial ‘civilised’ world. Let’s not watch the titanic failure of inadequate energy policies destroy lives, futures, economies. The Green Party is the only political party in the UK with sustainable, workable energy policies.

There is something soulful in the scientific understanding that energy does not die, it chances to change. This is a holistic wisdom in the purest sense,  touching on the poetry of a ‘council of all beings’ and remaining true to both science of sustainable energy production and the lives and economies that rely on energy production being sustainable in every sense of the word.

I will end with this, the introduction to The Green Party’s comprehensive Energy Policy. To me, after the power cut, it is a light in the dark:

‘Our world is bathed in energy radiated from the sun, but is also provided with stocks of fossil fuels in which energy is locked up. Our economic development has taken us away from using sun, wind and water power to a technology dependent on dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels represent natural capital. Industrialism has been committing the fundamental economic error of using capital as income. As E.F. Schumacher has pointed out, the wealth generated from the use of capital energy resources must be directed towards making ourselves independent of that type of resource.http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/en

Soundrack to changing energy policy:

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

Boys on the Balcony – Seize the Day

If you Tolerate this – Manic Street Preachers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4qledBpbig

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

http://www.thenation.com/blog/160166/top-ten-antinuclear-songs

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wg2gAbb0NuE

by Antonia Zenkevitch for The Green Party


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Fight Fracking Threat to Local Life in Lincolnshire Wolds

biscathorpe1
No to Fracking
A planning application to drill for oil at Biscathorpe has been made by Egdon Resources Ltd.  This company holds licenses to develop the gas-shales by fracking between Lincoln and Gainsborough, and in the North Somercotes area.
It is unlikely that many will know Biscathorpe.  It is an idyllic and unspoilt beauty spot in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, with two fords crossing the River Bain, a lost medieval village and a picturesque church.
There is much concern about the consequences of drilling for oil in this area.  The impacts could include pollution of the river, damage caused by lorry traffic, noise and lighting, upsetting the fragile local ecology, and an end to the beauty and tranquillity of the neighbourhood.
Furthermore, following the recent IPCC report that there has already been enough oil and gas discovered to result in catastrophic global warming, there is the wider concern of additional oil exploitation in Lincolnshire.
On Sunday next, 13th October, a walk to Biscathorpe is being planned by the East Lincolnshire Green Party, at which all who might be concerned about this issue are welcome to join in.  Katarina Boettge, the Green Party’s East Midlands candidate for the European Parliament, will be participating.  Walkers are invited to meet at 12 noon on the green, Neve’s Garden, in Donington-on-Bain, for a stroll along the Viking Way to Biscathorpe for a picnic.  There and back, the walk is about three miles.  Sturdy footwear is advised, particularly if wet.
More information about the campaign to oppose the Biscathorpe oil well and to keep fracking out of Lincolnshire can be found at http://transitiontownlouth.org.uk/frack.html
Contact:  Maureen Barnett (01472 840674)


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Law of the Land

When we speak of ‘The Law of the Land’ this phrase has many meanings. We have different areas of law and justice. Last night I watched news footage of Caroline Lucas’s son being picked up by his ear by police as he sat in peaceful protest against fracking. I wondered how many kinds of justice were being undermined. There is criminal justice law and civil or social justice and the environmental laws there to help protect both us and the land. John Youatt, wrote a piece on fracking on the Derbyshire Green Party blog. He is a retired planner and former minerals officer and his arguments are informed and compelling. In the light of public arrests and ridicule this is a further response to fracking. This post regards the injustices we are suffering and the silencing of our campaign.  Some of these infringements of justice include:

  • Our legal and moral right to peaceful freedom of assembly
  • Environmental Protection Laws, with both EU and UK commitments undermined
  • Our legal and moral right to clean water
  • Our legal and moral right to clean air
  • Our democratic rights to be heard
  • Our right to heritage
  • Our right to jobs
  • Our right to question how tax payers money is spent

I must interject that the police are not always like this at demonstrations. Years ago at the largest ‘Stop the War’ march in London, police officers helped us get over barriers in an overcrowded area and gave directions and smiled. This blog piece is not anti-police but more broadly anti-injustice and pro democracy.

Many people are unaware what fracking is and there has been little or no public information. Fracking adds to ground water pollution, destruction of communities, destruction of natural habitats, destruction of human health. Fracking increases climate chaos and decreases potential job provision in jobs rich green energy. Our government is subsidising oil companies with millions for this destructive process, which speaks volumes about its lack of economic efficiency. This is unforgivable in the present economic and environmental climate. The total absence of any kind of opposition by the Labour Party is also unforgivable. Whilst the cost of green energy goes down as its effectiveness increases, the cost of fracking will increase as its effectiveness decreases and the damage it creates for humans and habitats grows.  In the UK we can boast some of the most diverse natural habitats in the world, with animals and vegetation and whole ecosystems dependent on a balance being broken. Those eco-systems include us. We need a healthy environment to live in too. We are breaking land and communities if we do not fight the frack.

We need to redefine our understanding of the word ‘criminal’ when people are led away for exercising their legal right of protest peacefully. We must question whether under such circumstances we are in a democracy or what another regional Green Party member termed a ‘mature oligarchy’; a carefully constricted ruling by the few.  We need to redefine our idea of how the law is used when environmental laws and human rights law are side-lined in order to push through an inadequate, wasteful and damaging energy program. We need to question our protectors of the peace when peaceful protest meets the brutality of protesters’ faces pushed into the ground or young men picked up by their ears. Yesterday there was criminality and there were arrests but it was not the criminals who were arrested.

This blog post urges you to join the peaceful but vocal fight against fracking. Support Caroline Lucas MP and The Green Party as the only political party challenging this insanity and short-termism.  You do not have to wear a rainbow jumper to protest. The threat of fracking affects us all, from all walks of life, our heritage, our health and our future.

FIGHT THE FRACK, JOIN THE GREEN PARTY – FAIR IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR!


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George Osborn / Guy of Gisborn – Green notes on a ridiculous budget

naughty Guy of Gisborn

Robin Hood Laughs

Has anyone noticed certain similarities between the Sheriff Henchman Guy of Gisborn and George Osborn? No, I don’t mean the steamy Richard Armitidge depiction. I mean the derisive bailiff who took from the poorest what they did not owe.  This Robin Hood Region blog  shares some Green arrows of truth to drive into the latest budget; a budget already full of holes:

  • Subtract from those with least and you end up with less than nothing -basic maths!
  • Unemployment has increased since his government came to office (2.53m up from 2.47m) with those people blamed for poverty.
  • There are economic and environmental holes all over the budget.
  • Words and phrases such as ‘unavoidable’, ‘there is no alternative’  are the words of bullies and abusers the world over. Is it coincidence that these are words spoken today by our government? We must each draw our own conclusions…

  • “With the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warning that tax rises, welfare cuts, and wages freezes will push over 7 million children below the breadline in the next two years, it’s scandalous that this millionaire Government is still so reluctant to make the richest in our society pay their fair share of tax.” Caroline Lucas
  • If millionaires and multinational corporations pay ever-decreasing income tax the deficit will get worse – basic maths!
  • Corporation tax avoidance works against small & medium sized businesses which make up 60% of private sector.
  • “Treating 1 million of our cold draughty homes each year would create 140,000 jobs, save each household up to £250 in fuel bills, and cut carbon emissions.” Natalie Bennett

Robin Hood Nottingham

  • The Chancellor has failed to provide the framework to fulfill the enormous potential of our green economy.
  • The right to earn £10,000 tax free for the decreasing amount of people in steady work does not add up when public service cuts and other economic injustices mean more do not have jobs or cannot work because of  issues such as disability or age
  • The budget still relies on taxing the poorest most, targeting the most vulnerable, including children, single parent families and those with disabilities.
  • The budget fails to value the vital work of those within the public sector, undermining schools, hospitals etc … undervaluing their service and their staff
  • The budget goes against the directive of the International Monetary Fund (IMF):
  1.  IMF says the cutting corporation tax does not boost growth!
  2. IMF says we need to spend more not less. Cuts are not working.
  • Fair corporate taxation does not mean an noncompetitive economy. Sweden, Finland and others have managed.
  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change say shale gas is unlikely to reduce energy prices significantly. It will suppress the development of vital renewables:

  •  ‘The lazy, arrogant ‘no alternative’  argument lacks vision, intelligence, humanity & sense.
  • “Amidst the tax breaks for shale gas and boastful roadbuilding pledges, there is one huge green economy-shaped hole in this flailing Chancellor’s Budget.” Caroline Lucas
  • UK new nuclear is likely to be  more expensive  and less safe  per unit of electricity supplied than any other low-carbon energy source and too slow to deploy to meet our pressing energy needs.

This budget is a continued, self defeating war on the poor and has total disregard for environmental resources and balance we and other beings need in order to survive. It is socially unjust and economically reckless. It flies in the face of the needs of the majority for jobs, for warm homes, for enough money to live with dignity. It creates more poverty and then blames the poor. It works against sane action for safe, healthy environment and sustainable futures for all. Robin Hood Tax, or financial transaction tax on banks’ more risky ventures is one way forward. I encourage people to look into ever- Green policies to find out more and to vote Green in the fight for fairness.

Further Reading on Green Responses:

http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2013/03/20/budget-2013-time-for-plan-g-stop-failed-austerity-and-invest-in-the-billion-pound-green-economy

http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2013/03/20/budget-2013-another-deceptive-and-divisive-budget-for-private-profit-and-public-pain/


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The Wrong and the Right in Energy Policy

The following is the voice of our indomitable Mike Shipley in which he presents a Green Party vision of vital, workable, sustainable energy policy in alternative to the wasteful and socially and environmentally reckless government energy agenda which subsidizes and gives tax breaks to trillion pound Big Oil companies and under-funds renewable alternatives:

The Wrong and the Right in Energy Policy

The International Energy Agency has warned the world that by 2017, we will have a better than even chance of being locked in to a 2C rise in temperature.  This is a result of the investment decisions now being taken that will determine global energy infrastructure for the next 30 years or more. Unless someone, somewhere starts to make a serious commitment to the decarbonisation of  energy production, we will experience at least 2C of global warming by mid century and be on track for at least double this by century’s end.

Who will take that lead?  The International community, bought off by oil interests, have shelved any decision on cutting carbon emissions until 2020. This is too late to stop a 2C rise without truly massive emergency investment.  The British Government has also signalled that it has abandoned any pretence of showing leadership, with a policy portfolio dominated by private interests.  In his last budget statement George Osborne handed tax breaks to oil and gas companies to encourage a new round of exploration in the North Sea and to open the door to gas fracking.  Coupled with his slashing of feed in tariffs for renewables, his energy policy is to lock the UK into high carbon and increasingly expensive fuels for the next generation.  Even the pilot CCS project at Long Gannet in Scotland has been abandoned through lack of support by the private sector.

Osborne is always quick to point out that there isn’t the money available to radically change the UK energy infrastructure.  Oh yes there is.  The trouble it is in the hands of the big oil and gas companies and they won’t pay their taxes or even invest in the next generation of renewable fuels.  As a result of Osborne’s ill timed policy of giving tax breaks to the worlds richest companies, nearly £26 Billion will be invested in North Sea exploration 2011 – 2013.  This is the money that was desperately needed to invest in our sustainable energy future.  Of course the industry and Osborne herald this as good investment, generating jobs and tax revenue.  Except that the investment comes as a result of promise of taking less tax and the industry is globally shedding jobs.  This investment is about private wealth. The Scottish Government estimates that there is £1.5 trillion of oil to be won from the UK Continental Shelf, these companies are investing to get that wealth quickly, and they can only earn it if they burn the oil and release the carbon dioxide.  Osborne has slammed the door on 2C and opened the one marked 4+.  Thank you Gideon!

The oil companies have become untouchable, they sit on mountains of cash and are using it to enrich their shareholders and senior executives, they give vast sums to politicians and organisations that will look after their interests and promote climate change denial.  The top 5 oil companies, which include BP and Shell, made $1trillion in profits in the decade 2001-11.  In addition they receive public money as subsidies and tax breaks,  the richest of them all, Exxon-Mobil, pays a mere 18% tax rate.  If any finance minister has the nerve to demand a higher share of that profit to help a struggling local economy or to build national infrastructure, they pull out and go elsewhere.  This happened in the UK when Gordon Brown increased taxation on the oil sector, in response oil companies reduced output to reduce their tax liability until they got an oil friendly Chancellor.

All this new investment sends a clear signal to the financial markets that the safe place for money is in the fossil sector, Government support for renewables is lukewarm and hedged with uncertainty, therefore it is unattractive to investors, so it is starved of cash.  Investors want maximum and quick profits. The oil that will flow as a result of these tax breaks will be burned adding to the still rising levels of carbon dioxide. Yet as we know that 80% of existing oil reserves needs to remain unburned if we are to limit temperature rise to a level we can reasonably hope to afford to live with. With men like Osborne in control, delivering the policy demanded by Big Oil, that is not going to happen.

 But it doesn’t have to be like this.

At our Spring Conference, a draft policy paper for Energy was presented.  This policy shows how it would be possible to implement an energy strategy that addressed the real issues that are ignored by the Liberal Democrat Conservative Government.  It presents a strategy that enables the full decarbonisation of both energy and transport by mid centuryA strategy that will end fuel poverty, that will create sustainable business opportunities and skilled jobs, that will invest in research and the development of new technologies so creating significant export opportunities.  A strategy that will give the UK a long term affordable, reliable, sustainable and largely indigenous energy supply.  The Green Energy Strategy would turn the UK into a global showcase, demonstrating how a technology based civilised society can operate within the carbon budget required to cut carbon dioxide to a safe level of 350ppm.  Now wouldn’t that be a better policy option than making the richest companies and people in the world even richer while consigning us all to a very unstable and hazardous future?