Tuesday, 5 August 2008

No Coal protests spread to England

In mid-July civil disobedience stopped coal trains in Australia. Arriving in Alberta this morning, we read about local farmers' fight against strip-mining. In the USA, mountaintop removal has become a major political issue, Black Mesa shows the impact on native people, and discussion of a post-carbon economy has begun. The latest protest is in England, where George Monbiot is about to join the King's North Climate Camp:

ecologist George Monbiot

As soon as I have finished this column I will jump on the train to Kent... Everything now hinges on stopping coal. Whether we prevent runaway climate change largely depends on whether we keep using the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Unless we either leave it - or the carbon dioxide it produces - in the ground, human development will start spiralling backwards. The more coal is burnt, the smaller are our chances of future comfort and prosperity...

It is not because of butterflies or frogs or penguins or rainforests, much as I love them all. It is because everything I have fought for and that all campaigners for social justice have ever fought for - food, clean water, shelter, security - is jeopardised by climate change. Those who claim to identify a conflict between environmentalism and humanitarianism have either failed to read the science or have refused to understand it.

Our government could lead the world in one of two directions. Roughly one third of our power stations will come to the end of their lives by 2020. It could replace them with low-carbon plants or it could repeat - this time in full knowledge of the consequences - the disastrous decisions of the past. [German energy company]
E.ON's application to build a new coal-burning power station at Kingsnorth is the first for many years. [Five other proposed plants would add 54 mTCO2 per year]...

The government seems determined to make the
wrong decision. It has inherited the party's traditional love for coal, but, being New Labour, now supports the bosses instead of the workers, and has colluded with them to make the case for a new generation of power stations. It has one justification for this policy: that one day dirty coal will be transformed into clean coal by means of carbon capture and storage (CCS). All that is needed to effect this transformation is a sprinkling of alchemical dust, in the form of the future price of carbon. The market, it claims, will automatically ensure that coal plants bury their carbon dioxide, as this will be cheaper than buying pollution permits. Last month the House of Commons environmental audit committee examined this proposition and found that it was nonsense.

This is the sum of government policy: to cross its fingers and hope the market delivers... companies are asked to write their own rules... There is a simple means by which the government could ensure that our future electricity supplies would not commit the UK to stoking runaway climate change. It would do as California has done and set, by a certain date, a maximum level for carbon pollution per megawatt-hour of electricity production....

Several recent studies have shown how, through maximising the diversity of renewable generators and by spreading them as far apart as possible, by using new techniques for balancing demand with supply and clever schemes for storing energy, between 80% and 100% of our electricity could be produced by renewables, without any loss in the reliability of power supplies. Unlike CCS, wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydro and geothermal power are proven technologies. Unlike nuclear power, they can be safely decommissioned as soon as they become redundant.

[How can we make our government] stand up to business... when the future prospects of mankind are at stake? If fear is the only thing that moves them, we must present them with a greater threat than the companies planning new coal plants. We must show that this issue has become a political flashpoint; that the public revulsion towards new coal could help to eject them from office. You could do no better than joining us at Kingsnorth this week.
(excerpts from full text of his "Coal Scuttled" article in the Guardian 5 Aug 08)

See also the Kings North Climate Camp website and worldwide Climate Convergences camps July 10-15 in Newcastle, Australia, July 28-August 4 in Eugene, Oregon and High Falls, NY; August 3-11 in Kent, UK; August 5-11 in Louisa County, Virginia; and August 15-26 in Hamburg, Germany. Sep 15 in Virginia. Ted Nace article "Stopping Coal..." Orion Jan/Feb 2008, and Coal Moratorium Now! list of proposed US coal plants.
NGOs international appeal for 350 ppm limit on CO2. UK scientists object to coal plans.
The 350 ppm debate in the USA. DailyKos: Is coal the new oil? and coal kills
Our previous posts on Selling indulgences and Steps to sustainability: how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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