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Energy for Democracy

Dropping The Campaign Wrecking Ball

Intelligent commentators, authors and policy people are often suspicious of campaign groups. At the back of their minds they are drawing on a cultural discourse, primarily conducted in the media, that equates campaigners with mini-Hitlers – spreading disinformation and cult behaviour.

It is true that – as Mein Kampf reveals – the National Socialists in Germany used the latest communications tools to coerce and channel the energy of democracy towards their goals.

Some of the Nazi ambition was for democratic engagement, involvement in the process of rebuilding the country. Yet some of the methods were perverse, and caused an inexorable descent into the abuse of power.


When people like Mark Lynas accuse Greenpeace and other green campaign organisations of failings, there is any underlying theme – accusations of manipulation – both of facts and people. The sub-text harks back to the combat against fascism and Nazism in Europe.

We’re never going to make any progress on climate change if those advocating for energy change are equated to early 20th Century dictators and totalitarians.

Energy is a Social Good

I recently wrote an essay called “Energy for Democracy” making a first attempt at connecting the dots on grassroots democratic mobilisation and energy change. The subject set was in the field of “Environmental Communication”, and so I went back and looked at the development of mass media, advertising and public persuasion. I then went on to think about how propaganda and governance are interrelated. And I also looked at philosophy, and politics. I looked at the early 20th Century ideological splits in Europe, and the part that industrial development played. I looked at how democratic and other forms of socialism dealt with the problem of energy.

I posited that, since energy is produced for the Common Good, it should be subject to democratic management. I found myself “channelling” the spirit of Ramsay Macdonald, and going back to the questions of society and the integration of new industries that were pervasive before the two so-called “World Wars”.

Energy Of A Similar Wavelength

And today I find this very theme picked up by Ulrich Beck in The Guardian newspaper, along with the expression “energy change”, which is a term I am using increasingly to encapsulate the pivotal and essential response to climate change :-

https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/20/germany-nuclear-power-renewable-energy

“Germany is right to opt out of nuclear”, he headlines, “The rejection of nuclear power is a result not of German angst but of economic thinking. We must invest in renewable energy”.

I was gladdened when he stepped from economics to democratics :-

“…Ultimately, the rejection of nuclear is not a result of German angst but of economic thinking. In the long run, nuclear power will become more expensive, while renewable energy will become cheaper. But the key point is that those who continue to leave all options open will not invest…People everywhere are proclaiming and mourning the death of politics. Paradoxically, the cultural perception of the danger may well usher in the very opposite: the end of the end of politics…what is denounced by many as a hysterical over-reaction to the “risks” of nuclear energy is in fact a vital step towards ensuring that a turning point in energy generation becomes a step towards greater democracy…The novel coalition between the state and social movements of the kind we currently see at work in Germany now has a historic opportunity. Even in terms of power politics, this change of policy makes sense…”

The British are stumbling towards democracy, too, but they keep tripping over old divisiveness, and create new divisions too, just to complicate matters.

People Power – Not Potty Nor Puny

The Climate Camp has just been a baby step on the pathway to democratic movement on energy. Camping in coal trucks and dropping banners from power station cooling stacks has been a sign that democracy has been ailing – if there were genuine engagement between the governments, private enterprises and “campaign” groups over the future scenarios for energy, then people wouldn’t need to camp outside banks and coal-fired power plants.

As a consumer of mainstream media, all you see is the blockade of a Biofuel refinery, or people gluing themselves to the entrance of the Royal Bank of Scotland, or the occupation of a plant nursery at the site of a proposed runway. If you think “what a ramshackle bunch of unwashed hippies, straining the last of their voices, railing at the State, in a vain attempt to roll back the tide of industry, progress and Thorium reactors”, then you haven’t understood the bigger picture.

People want to be engaged in the decisions made about energy in this country – properly engaged. People want to use their knowledge to influence decisions. If the only means they have of expressing their democratic will and their opposition to hydraulic fracturing is to D-lock themselves to Shale Gas drilling equipment, then perhaps they might just do that. This might happen in Poland too. The alternative would be a proper discussion between the people groups and the governments. Where’s the European Union environmental legislature while all of this is happening ? Shale Gas could destroy Poland.

Energy Collectives – Expressing Collective Democratic Will

Groups like Fair Pensions are building momentum between people groups and investing institutions – raising the flag for clean energy. This isn’t about fighting – let’s drop the battlefield language, including that word “campaign”, which is so often used in a derogatory, dismissive, belittling way. This is about getting people working together on a new, sustainable future, and it requires all the righteous anger rising up to be channelled into a positive, productive movement, fully expressing the will of the people.

Consultations and placard-waving demonstration protests are not the way forward – we need energy change, and that’s going to require a whole lot more democratic energy. People don’t want dirty energy, and they don’t want nuclear power. Dirty energy should be asked to leave the building, nicely, politely. Firm but fair.

Group Thinking – Democratic Intelligence

Investment in renewable and sustainable energy is creating long-lasting assets for the UK and other countries. We don’t need and we don’t want dirty, radioactive energy any more. A thousand cheers for German democracy !

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Be Prepared Big Picture Emissions Impossible Energy Disenfranchisement Environmental Howzat Foreign Investment Fossilised Fuels Hydrocarbon Hegemony Wind of Fortune

Alien robot inspects windfarm

The design of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change “Energy Infrastructure” website shows what appears to be an robotic, alien figure in a green and pleasant land under a wind turbine. It must be a trick of the light, but I’m sure you can see the join between its head and its body, and added to that, there’s an unearthly glow around its helmet :-

https://www.og.decc.gov.uk/EIP/pages/recent.htm

But what intrigues me more than the choice of photographs to adorn this website, and the curious, 1940’s style graphic of an electricity pylon used as a logo, is the mention of the recent permission granted to an CCGT/OCGT power station planning proposal at RWE npower Willington C in Derbyshire :-

https://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/consents_planning/consents_planning.aspx
https://www.og.decc.gov.uk/EIP/pages/onshore.htm
https://www.og.decc.gov.uk/EIP/pages/recent.htm
https://www.og.decc.gov.uk/EIP/pages/projects/willington_ccgt_decision_letter.pdf

Burning petroleum refinery residues ? Yes.

The decision letter lays out that :-

“On 24 September 2010 the Company formally requested if section 36 consent was granted that it could be on the basis of a phased development, that is the construction of the open cycle gas turbine generating station, followed by the combined cycle gas turbine generating station once development consent for the natural gas pipeline had been obtained. The Company has explained that the open cycle turbines can be operated on distillate oil and would be used only for periods to meet peak demand or in response to intermittency in renewable generation”

The gas pipeline has been requested :-

https://infrastructure.independent.gov.uk/projects/east-midlands/willington-gas-pipeline/

But I’m asking myself, has no progress been made in energy policy ? Are we going to carry on burning oil refinery residue at times of peak demand ? The people and many of the Parliamentarians have shown their resistance to new coal-fired power stations, and there does appear to be a moratorium on new coal, kind of. But do people realise that some of the new “peaker plants” that are believed to be necessary will be burning fuel oil ? You see, Willington C is not alone :-

https://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/97626/rwe-npower/about-us/our-businesses/power-generation/fawley/

“In June 2011 we announced that we are investigating the possibility of developing a new distillate oil-fired open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) plant at our Fawley site. For more information about the proposals…” :-

https://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/97626/rwe-npower/about-us/our-businesses/power-generation/fawley/
https://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/657602/rwe-npower/about-us/our-businesses/new-power-stations/fawley/

https://www.thisishampshire.net/news/9066256.Energy_giant_pledges_consultation_over_new___100m_power_plant/
https://www.internationalsustainableenergy.com/news/rwe-npower-investigates-new-ocgt-plant-at-fawley/
https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/9066256.Energy_giant_pledges_consultation_over_new___100m_power_plant/?action=complain&cid=9407217

Are people aware of what fuel oil is and what burning it can do ? :-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_oil
https://www.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch01/final/c01s03.pdf
https://www.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch01/final/c01s11.pdf

So you see, people, if you refuse wind farms, you get Civil Service non-engineers agreeing RWE npower can carry on burning toxic oil refinery waste to provide your electricity. Great choice, Britain !

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Bait & Switch Carbon Commodities Carbon Taxatious Climate Damages Conflict of Interest Contraction & Convergence Corporate Pressure Cost Effective Dead End Divide & Rule Economic Implosion Emissions Impossible Energy Change Energy Disenfranchisement Energy Revival Energy Socialism Financiers of the Apocalypse Fuel Poverty Global Warming Growth Paradigm Hydrocarbon Hegemony Tarred Sands Unqualified Opinion Unsolicited Advice & Guidance Unutterably Useless Utter Futility Vain Hope Wasted Resource

Carbon Dioxide – a virtual, negative commodity

https://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=7999

I found this excellent little CATO Institute debate somewhere in my Twitter stream, and I watched the whole of it, despite the annoying accents and speaking styles of the speakers, and the insider economics references to Pigou and Coase (they’re only theorems, you know).

I thought that Kate Gordon made some excellent rebuttals to Andrew Morriss’ whining, pedantic free marketeering, and I was with her right up until the last few frames when she said that the Center for American Progress, of course, supports a carbon tax, as this is, of course, the best way to prevent Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Such disappointment ! To find that somebody so intelligent cannot see the limitations of carbon pricing is a real let down. I tend to find that American “progressives” on the whole are rather wedded to this notion of environmental taxation, “internalising the externalities” – adding the damages from industrial activities into the cost of the industrial products. I do not see any analysis of the serious flaws in this idea. Just what are they drinking ? What’s in the Kool-Aid ?

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Cool poverty

They’ve never had it so cold. The British have just shivered through another long, centrally heated winter, and people are receiving enormous gas bills. Social campaigners and parliamentarians are rightly concerned that a clutch of harsher winters and rising energy costs could reverse gains made in tackling fuel poverty. The UK Government’s recent Budget announcement to reduce fuel poverty assistance payments is another blow to maintaining decent and warm homes for the vulnerable, the elderly and children. Proposals to cap the amount that energy companies can charge people in their bills is welcomed by some, but feared by others – as it could jeopardise energy company funding for the Green Deal – a free-to-the-consumer loan scheme for insulation and renewable energy installation. And there’s another problem waiting in the wings. Unlike the United States and Australia, the average British home doesn’t have air conditioning, and it costs real money to install it. If outsized summer heatwaves continue to pop up more frequently in Europe, UK households will face “cool poverty” in summer – a lack of cooling.