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Coalition takes greenwash to a new level

ConDem coalition energy policy is being made on the run, in secret and in cahoots with the energy corporations. The self-styled “greenest-ever government” is engaged in a behind-the-scenes dash for fossil fuel and nuclear.

Here’s the evidence for the prosecution:

1. Having closed down one loss-making fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield, the government has announced plans to build another at a cost of £3bn of taxpayers’ money. So much for claims that new nuclear plants will have to be financed privately, including dealing with waste. The plant will try to transform Britain’s stockpile of nuclear waste into mox (mixed-oxide) fuel for a new generation of thermal light water reactors. As Douglas Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said:

This proposal will lead to a subsidised plant creating subsidised fuel so that subsidised operators can produce subsidised electricity and then receive subsidised waste disposal. The only winners in this are the nuclear operators, already rich with their 18% domestic fuel price rises this year.

2. The government has been passing on details of Greenpeace’s legal challenge to new nuclear plants, to the Nuclear Industry Association and even directly to French nuclear giant EDF, the most likely candidate to build any new plants. Greenpeace has complained to the High Court and says it is an abuse of power that “prevents democratic scrutiny”.

3. Green MP Caroline Lucas has exposed oil and nuclear industry penetration and influence in Whitehall. She has found that 50 employees from companies like EDF, Npower and Centrica have been seconded to work on energy issues in government departments, free of charge, over the past four years. "Companies such as the big six energy firms do not lend their staff to government for nothing – they expect a certain degree of influence, insider knowledge and preferential treatment in return," said Lucas, who also found that the government had met with the “big six” producers and the power trade associations almost 200 times since the May 2010 election.

4. The government has been covertly passing information to Canadian diplomats lobbying to stop the European Union classifying oil extracted from tar sands as having a heavy carbon footprint – which of course it does. This would make the oil less attractive to European fuel suppliers, trying to meet requirements under the Fuel Quality Directive.

5. In his autumn statement, Chancellor Osborne took £1bn out of the budget that had been set aside to develop carbon capture and storage to spend on other new infrastructure. He promised £250m of public money to help industries with high emissions of greenhouse gas subvert EU carbon caps, and also pledged a review of “green regulations” to “clear the way for development and economic growth”. In other words, dump them all.

6. The draft rules for the government’s much-vaunted Green Investment Bank would not allow it carry through a plan to make millions of homes more energy efficient. Instead the bank will have to invest on commercial terms and show a profit. As a result, it is unlikely to invest in areas that are good for the environment, but deemed too risky by other lenders, though that was supposed to be the point. The bank’s funding is no longer put at £3bn but “up to £3bn” and it will not start operating until 2016 at the earliest.

We hereby find this government guilty of greenwash, building extensively on the example of their New Labour predecessors, and we award environment secretary Chris Huhne the “hypocrite of the year award 2011”. How do they sleep at night? No problem because they are fulfilling their role as they see it – promoting growth at all costs during what is rapidly turning into a global slump of the capitalist system.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
8 December 2011

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Dave Douglass says:

But thats not right Penny, this government has killed all work on carbon capture and storage, it killed the LOngannet project, only the Hatfield one is left and hanging on a thread, if it falls there will be no CCS project left and coal power is finished on this island, along with global plans to make coal consumption cleaner, instead they have earmarked £200 BILLION on windmills, some greenwash Penny.

Penny says: There does have to be a transition plan for going from fossil fuels to renewables, and if carbon capture and storage could be shown to be better in this transition than burning fossils directly, then it might form part of that transition. But there are two problems: 1) The government has stopped funding to see if it does work and 2) it has given new licences for very deep water oil extraction of Scotland's northern cost, and for the crazy plan of shale gas extraction. They have no plan for making a transition from fossil fuels to renewables; they prefer to go on allowing the corporations to pursue business as usual, whilst prices rise for consumers and more and more people can't heat their homes.

Robbie says: The problem with quoting statistics from climate change deniers is that they are usually invented. Far from earmarking £200bn on windmills, they have only spent £2.5bn on all renewables last year, down from £7.1bn spent in 2009 [see UK investment in green energy stagnates at £2.5bn].

corneilius says:

Thanks for the clarity and information....

Power will always attempt to co-opt emergent solutions, and use them in ways to entrench their Power.

They sleep at night because their behavioural psychology is geared towards retaining power and when they do things that entrench their power THEY FEEL MORE SECURE....

Hierarchical Power doesn't corrupt, it IS corrupt, and it's a psychological addiction.

Addicts can only break the cycle they are caught up in when they CHOOSE to, and then only with sound empathic help, even if it is they who provide that for themselves.

Self empathy amongst the grass roots will in time free us all from the addiction to Power (compliance is part of that addictive psychology).

Keep on writing and sharing what you are learning....


free needs says:

I quite agree with a quote from Derrick Jenson :

The point is that worldwide ecological collapse is not some external and unpredictable threat—or gun barrel—down which we face. That’s not to say we aren’t staring down the barrel of a gun; it would just be nice if we identified it properly. If we means the salmon, the sturgeon, the Columbia River, the migratory songbirds, the amphibians, then the gun is industrial civilization.

A second part of the problem is that the question presumes we’re facing a future threat— that the gun has yet to go off. But the Dreadful has already begun. Ask passenger pigeons. Ask Eskimo curlews. Ask great auks. Ask traditional indigenous peoples almost anywhere. This is not a potential threat, but rather one that long-since commenced.

The larger problem with the metaphor, and the reason for this new column in Orion, is the question at the end: “how shall I live my life right now?” Let’s take this step by step. We’ve figured out what the gun is: this entire extractive culture that has been deforesting, defishing, dewatering, desoiling, despoiling, destroying since its beginnings. We know this gun has been fired before and has killed many of those we love, from chestnut ermine moths to Carolina parakeets. It’s now aimed (and firing) at even more of those we love, from Siberian tigers to Indian gavials to entire oceans to, in fact, the entire world, which includes you and me. If we make this metaphor real, we might understand why the question—asked more often than almost any other—is so wrong. If someone were rampaging through your home, killing those you love one by one (and, for that matter, en masse), would the question burning a hole in your heart be: how should I live my life right now? I can’t speak for you, but the question I’d be asking is this: how do I disarm or dispatch these psychopaths? How do I stop them using any means necessary?