Firstly thank you for contacting me. I'm hopping mad about what I've
heard, but I may not have been told the whole story. I can tell you too
the mining community whats left of us feel utterly betrayed by rumours
about you swinging all your efforts to close down what remains of the coal
industry. There are debates about counter-demonstrations etc and press
statements from the power workers and miners. So its vital we do not take
up cudgels over this unless and until and at least that we know where each
other stand. I was a matter of interest with the National General
secretary of the NUM and the Yorkshire Area Leadership last weekend and
they are spitting feathers about the Drax demonstration. The slogans on
the demonstration and the statements made to the press by the protestsrs
demonstrated no concern for the miners, railway workers or power workers.
There was no consultation with us, no debate with us, no seeing what we
wanted or how we see the world or how we can see if there is anything is
common. 'Leave It In The Ground' was the banner which was unfurled at
Drax, 'it' being the coal, and the miners ? where do we leave them ? that
bit wasn't answered. We know where John Major and Maggie Thatcher and
Harold Wilson left us, on the dung heap, and most of us are still there.
'clean coal technology stations'. Yes the technology exists and had done
since the 50s but nobody was interested in applying it. There are at least
two methods, but the latest one is carbon capture, thats not the end of
the story but here isn't the place to elaborate. Enough to say its not a
con, it does produce massive savings in CO2 emissions, plus the bi product
of the Hatfield Main system is hydrogen and energy conservation. Which are
added bonuses on the carbon capture.
Secondly we want to see international ('fair trade' if you like )
standards applied to all imported coal and a level playing field in terms
of health and safety, conditions, hours and union recognition . Countries
with mass slaughter in the collieries should not be allowed to dump coal
here at the expense of workers in their countries and unemployment for
65 million Tonnes of coal is burned in Britain each year only about 18
million of it is mined here, despite the fact that British coal is the
cheapest deep mined coal in the world. It is brought here in part because
rather than fit wipers and efficient filters to all power stations, they
import coal which produces less sulphur and ash and carbon when burned.
Instead they burn the miners at source.
There is about 500 years of coal in Britain, it can provide a breathing
space, to develop renewable sources, certainly solar, yes tidal, though
not destructive wind estates which are laying siege to the bits of free
land and crags and moorland we have left.
The governments main plan is and always been to make Britain Nuclear
dependant. That is why they closed down the mines in the first place.
Climate Camp must be very careful not to cross on the wrong side of the
barricade on this issue. Not to be used to promote Nuclear energy by
making the biggest focus coal .
The spokesperson at Drax this month said there was NO PLACE for coal in
Britain's energy supply ! Thats fairly final. The impact of that
statement, coming as it does with a middle class voice and total
indifference to the situation in the coal communities, is unlikely to
strike any cords this side of the tracks.
I understand you intend to shut down Kingsnorth Power Station in August. I
don't know this station in particular but I was informed this was a
station which was using clean coal technology ? Is that not right ?
whether it is or not we have to ask why coal ?.
Coal is not the biggest producer of CO2 its about the fourth and thats
with unfettered uncontrolled emissions from the third world in particular.
It could be massively reduced by demanding all coal which comes here meets
minimum standards of health and safety and union rights. That the
exporting countries themselves adopt clean coal technologies. Such a
tighter focus would be entirely more credible and principled than simply
saying 'close down all coal power stations, don't build new ones, and
exterminate the last of the miners and their communities'.
I cant say I'm keen on entering the lions den of the Climate Camp as a
former miners leader and life long coal miner. I'm tempted to say I think
we speak differant languages. However I shall pencil this is my calender
and see if I can attend along with any of the NUM leadership in order that
we can put our point view across and hopefully get you to adopt a more
balanced approach to the question of power generation and working class
expectations and demands.
You have my permission to put this letter on the website.
The World For The Workers
I see no reason why this could not be possible and feel you should remain in contact with the climate camp through the website and organise to be part of such a debate.
It is a world that we all must live in and we need to seek solutions together.
Without such solutions to the problems of accelerating climate change none of us will have a planet capable of supporting life.
Here’s our top 10 reasons for not building Kingsnorth, or burning coal or digging it up or well, doing pretty much anything with it other than leaving it in the ground. You don't have to read them all. Any one will give you reason enough to join us this summer. A new power station at Kingsnorth really is that daft.
1. Let's build a coal-fired power station!
If built, Kingsnorth will emit between 6 and 8 million tons of CO2 every year. That’s a hell of a lot of CO2, more even than the proposed third runway at Heathrow would produce. Scientists are usually a fairly reserved bunch but even they are starting to sound frantic about what’s happening with the climate. That’s not surprising given that, if we carry on treating the planet like a cheap boil in the bag dinner, we risk causing catastrophic climate change. That’s probably a bad idea. To avoid it we need to rapidly reduce emissions. So, in a world where we respect the ecology of the planet and the lives of those whose home it is, no Kingsnorth.
2. Kingsnorth is just the beginning. Six other similar power stations are planned.
How do you multiply stupid? We're not sure, but that’s what the power utilities want to do. Unless there’s a big fight over Kingsnorth these companies, with the backing of Government, want to build six more atmosphere-crunching coal fired power stations in the next few years. Collectively these power stations would emit around 50 million tons of CO2 a year. It’s hard to understand such a callous disregard for your fellow humans but if you want to, start by following the money. Power stations make lots of it and, given the amount of coal around, they're a ‘safe’ long term investment. It’s an age-old story but the ending isn’t written yet.
What happens at Kingsnorth is vitally important. When people get together determined to make the world a better place there is history-making potential. Look at the Suffragettes, the struggle for workers rights, the anti-roads movement. Kingsnorth can and will be stopped if enough of us get together to make it happen.
3. Because coal is the most polluting fossil fuel.
Coal was a really cool idea for the convenient long term storage of a load rotting prehistoric forests but burning it to make electricity is a monumentally bad one. It might have made sense at the beginning of the industrial revolution but then so did child labor, slavery and woolen swimming trunks. Now we know burning coal is wrecking the climate. Of CO2 in the atmosphere from human activity around 50% has come from the burning of coal. Mainly this is from Western nations who industrialized first.
Today burning coal is responsible for around one quarter of our global CO2 emissions. One of the great challenges for this generation is to find ways of living on this planet whilst leaving fossil fuels (especially coal) in the ground. We are quite literally the Power Generation. We have to change the ways we generate power and we need to find the power to make these changes happen.
4. Because coal is about as clean as an anthrax sandwich.
Proudly brandishing the phrase ‘clean coal’, the coal industry is confidently striding forth into our warming world. It’s a brilliant piece of PR greenwash. However, like ‘friendly’ fire or the ‘great’ war, it sounds kind of good but actually, when you get down to it, it really isn’t. Modern coal fired power stations are slightly more ‘efficient’ than old ones but the bottom line is: coal burning is responsible for one quarter of global emissions and those emissions are causing serious problems.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is an important part of the ‘clean’ coal myth. It’s basically a method of capturing and compressing the waste CO2 from a power station and then pumping it into salt aquifiers and old oil wells for long term storage. There’s a few problems with CCS. The biggest one is that it doesn’t exist, it's science fiction. Sure there’s the odd experimental trial but at the scale of large coal fired power stations even the industry themselves say it's 10 years away at best.
E.on are saying that the power station they plan to build will be CCS ready. But ready for what exactly. We might be ready for the second coming but that isn’t going to help solve climate change that’s in happening in reality in the here and now. Given that the next few years are crucial and that other ready-to-go alternatives exist, CCS is just a distraction. Eon want to talk about CCS because they don’t want to talk about CO2 emissions. They want to obscure the truth: Kingsnorth power station will emit at least 6 million tons of CO2 every year and damn the lot of you.
5. Oh dear we're running out of oil. Wahey there's loads of coal!
No need to worry about the coming oil crunch, there’s loads of tar sands and coal - we’ll burn that instead. If you’ve got big investments in fossil fuels or you’ve just bought a villa in Greenland then maybe this ‘solution’ to the oil crunch makes sense. To the rest of us it makes about as much sense as a petrol-filled fire extinguisher.
Most of the geological evidence suggests that there is a lot of coal left, up to 200 years at current rates of consumption. But burning it really isn’t an option if we want a planet to live on (forget Greenland, those villas have sold out and the neighbors would be horrible).
6. But if we don’t burn coal the Chinese will.
Blimey. Where do you start? Yes the Chinese are building coal fired power stations but...
1. Climate change is a global problem and nearly every country is going to have to reduce emissions - the British, the Chinese, the Americans - we all have to get our shit together and change the way our societies make and use energy. If we're going to do it fairly (which in our view is essential), that means countries like the UK will have to cut a lot more than the Chinese. If you're burning coal you're making the problem worse. We're burning it here in the UK so that’s where we’ve got to stop it.
2. Not only are average emissions for each person significantly lower in China than in Britain, a large percentage of Chinese coal is burnt so that Chinese factories can make the throwaway consumer items that fill the shopping centers and refuse dumps of the west.
3. We’ve got to start somewhere. The very ecological systems we rely on for life are in jeopardy. If someone doesn’t wake up and try to turn off the gas we'll probably fry sleeping. Arguing about who should set the alarm is as pathetic as it is suicidal.
7. Without these power stations there will be an energy gap.
The old ones are the best ones. Problem: a load of companies want to make big bucks but can only achieve it by doing the rest of us over. Answer: come up with something scary so people are distracted and don’t notice what you're up to. O’oo the energy gap. A frightener isn’t it. It’s meant to be what happens if we don’t build new coal and nuclear power stations to replace the ones that are being decommissioned. We run out of energy, the Christmas lights go out , rubbish blows in the streets and we’re all transported back into the 70s and forced to listen to crackly Val Doonican records on pedal powered stereos.
But the energy gap is a nonsense.
Check out the Government's own projections:
• The amount electricity generating capacity reduction by 2027 from closing old coal and nuclear power stations: 35%
• The amount of energy Gordon Brown has said we will generate from renewable sources by 2020: 40%
On these figures there is no energy gap. In fact were up five percent seven years early. There are other gaps. A commitment cap, a vision gap, a take the bull by the horns and do something useful for a change gap. But no energy gap.
8. Because there is a growing movement against coal.
It’s not just about Kingsnorth. In Wales and Derbyshire people are trying to stop new open cast mines. And from Bangladesh and the Appalachians to Columbia and Ecuador people are fighting against coal and fossil fuel extraction. This summer there are five other climate camps in other countries all focused on the issue of coal.
This is an essential way of facing the energy and climate change crisis. It’s a call to get together and work for something better in solidarity with people across the globe. Its might sound like an old fashioned idea but then these days so does a stable climate and hell, if flares can make a come back anything has to be possible.
9. Because we need to talk about work.
Here’s a crazy idea. Instead of employing people to burn coal how about we build install and run an energy system based on renewables. They’ve started doing it in Germany and the industry already employs 250,000 people which is a lot more than work in our entire power sector . Here’s another one. We know that we need to make a transition from one energy system to another so what about building that transition around the workers in those industries, what about making it a just transition. And one final one. How about instead of working more and being exploited more so we can compete more just to produce more and more stuff, we work less to produce what we need and want, compete less and share more so we have more time and live better. Phew.
10. They don't have to build Kingsnorth.
There are a load of brilliant alternatives that would solve the energy issue without messing with the planet. If we're serious about these other options then it's crucial we stop the building of Kingsnorth and the other five power stations.
We’ve probably already said it so sorry to go on, but if enough of us get together and say no, then Kingsnorth will never get built. Last year a new runway at Heathrow was seen as a done deal. The Climate Camp helped galvanise almost universal opposition to that stupid plan. With enough of us, we can do the same with building new coal-fired power stations. See you at Kingsnorth on August 9th.
Climate Camp website repost
'No Opencast! : History - Direct Action - Analysis - Contradictions'
Taken from Do or Die 7 - Voices from the Ecological Resistance
The camp is an open event to which all are welcome to attend and debate issues about how we can stop climate change. We will also explore practical examples of how we can live, work and take decisions together, in truly democratic and sustainable ways.
We aim to shut down Kingsnorth power station on the 9th of August for one day. We want to clarify that this action is not against the workers at Kingsnorth, nor does it mean we think the UK coal industry should be shut down overnight. It means we want to show the seriousness of the threat both to humans and our environment, now and into the future. This crisis affects the world’s poorest people first and hardest and is a social justice issue. We feel that we must take collective, political direct action to address it.
We recognise the history of political attacks on the miners and the union movement and we firmly resist that. We recognise the need for jobs, viable communities and a strong trade union movement, and we want a decent, fair and long term deal for all, including miners, energy workers and their communities. We believe we face a common enemy of short-termism, capitalism and the exploitation of people and nature that capitalism inevitably brings.
Coal is currently the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and it is an industry that is going to have to respond to the climate crisis. We are against any proposal that would increase our carbon emissions, as a new power station at Kingsnorth would. Extremely rapid reductions in emissions are necessary if we are not to watch millions suffer and die in the most preventable disaster the world has ever known.
We know much hope surrounds ‘clean coal technology’, but we see a lot of ‘greenwash’ there too. ‘Clean coal’ means many different things and is an idea not a single technology. We know many within the coal industry are pushing carbon capture and storage – CCS – and this is proposed for one part of the new Kingsnorth plant. It may offer solutions but on the scale required it is still only theoretical and will no doubt have many costs. Like many technical proposals its impact will depend on the political context it is used in. We are concerned that it does not marginalise solutions that could have a real impact today, like energy efficiency, renewables, local production, public transport etc. All of these could provide thousands of new jobs immediately, and help make our society healthier.
We don’t have a blueprint for the future but we do have a clear sense of the values which will guide it – environmental sustainability and social justice for all. We locate the roots of climate change within the ideas and practice of capitalism. Consequently we know that we cannot ‘solve’ climate change without addressing the way our world is run for private profit rather than social gain and for endless growth rather than satisfying needs.
We have adopted the model of ‘Just Transition’, in which the needs of workers are paramount within the transition to a new economy: their views are central, there should be adequate retraining where required, there should be no loss incurred. An increasing number of trade unions are adopting this model internationally. There will be ways we can make this transition protect, and benefit, workers and communities worldwide.
Climate change poses a question about our economic and social system. It is in fact an opportunity. The theft of resources, the inequality, the destruction of nature, the abandonment of communities unwanted by big business, the injustice, the poverty, the lack of a real say in our lives – all these can be addressed when we address climate change. As prices rise and people question the reasons for the instability, we will have welcome space to talk about capitalism, social justice and real democracy. It will be an opportunity for groups who were previously unaligned to work together. It will be an opportunity for us to realise the importance and excitement of collective action. It could and should offer the opportunity for the trade union movement to re invigorate itself.
We know we should have made greater efforts to communicate with workers and unions at an earlier stage, and we apologise for that. We hope this opportunity is now here and we warmly welcome a dialogue with all sectors over how we can move forward both fairly and sustainably.
We know there is a proposal for a counter demonstration against the camp. We are concerned that this proposal could give the impression that we are on different sides and be seized upon by government and media to avoid talking about the real political issues we could be addressing. Such a division, real or not, could damage us both, whereas mutual respect and aid could help. We need to engage in a constructive dialogue about the way forward.
To that effect we warmly offer to come to your branch or group to discuss these issues, and invite you to the Camp to do the same.
Networking group – Camp for Climate Action 2008
Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
However, the approach of union leadership is seemingly out of step with rank and file mine workers who participate in and are driving forces in local no coal campaigns, who came to the Australian Camp for Climate Action, and one worker in the industry even chose to get arrested stopping coal trains with his daughter!
Climate activists are building strong relationships with workers in the Hunter Valley / Newcastle in Australia (the world's largest coal exporting port) - who are committed to preventing runaway climate change, a just transition for workers and communities, and keeping coal as it already is, sequestered in the ground!
People can check out a reportback and video footage from the Just Transitions panel at Climate Camp Australia here http://climatecamp.org.au/camp-for-climate-action-a-demonstration-inspiratio
It included speakers Geoff Evans (Greenpeace Australia Pacific), Daniel Wallace (Newcastle organiser, Australia Manufacturing Workers Union), Anna Rose (national co-ordinator, Australian Youth Climate Coalition), Graham Brown (retired mineworker) and Peter Barrack (former Secretary Newcastle Trades Hall Council).