Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Climate protests - just a thought or two.

There is an ongoing protest at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, Britain's biggest coal-fired power station, with protesters from Camp for Climate Action, Plane Stupid and Climate Rush combining resources and manpower. This protest is reported to be an attempt to close the facility down.

Mrs Rigby has mixed feelings about things like this. She thinks it's all well and good to protest, and complain about coal-fired power stations, it's good to worry about the dangers of nuclear power - but there also has to be a healthy dose of realism, and the slimmest chance of success.

Maybe the decision by E.On to scrap postpone plans for Kingsnorth have given them some encouragement, after all, it was reported that
... E.ON said recent falls in demand for electricity had forced it to rethink, but that the plant could still be built if economic conditions permitted.

However, green campaigners were claiming a major victory over what they viewed as in effect a cancellation of the Kingsnorth station ...
Green campaigners need to realise that money's tight, E.On is a German company and if cutting costs and outgoings in UK mean they stay profitable then that's what they'll do - even if it means that our lights start going out.

Mrs R believes that these protesters have to understand that Britain will not function without electricity, and electricity has to be made somewhere. She thinks it's just a bit immoral to use power that's been made elsewhere - where you can't see it happening, and where you can't protest. She also believes there's a difference between protesting because you can, and protesting because you should.

If these protesters have reached Ratcliffe-on-Soar on foot or using pedal or wind power, then all well and good - congratulations to them. But if they've been bussed in, have shared cars or used trains and coaches then they're hypocritical, because each and every one of these forms of transport relies on electricity to get it going - and she challenges these protesters to successfully start any car, bus or coach that has a duff battery, and do it every single time they want to make a journey. The novelty would soon wear off. And Mrs Rigby would like to remind these people that so-called "eco-friendly", battery-powered, cars aren't a true alternative because they get plugged in and use electricity to recharge their batteries and every single component of these cars is put together in factories - and the factories are, guess what, they're powered by electricity that comes from power stations such as the one at Ratcliffe-on-Soar.

Mrs R looked at how these protesters communicate with each other, to organise this and other protests. The information is online, at for example, Twitter, GreenMomentum or The GreatClimateSwoop/ClimateCamp sites. The latter even has live newsfeeds, videos, photographs of this protest - to make sure everybody can see what's happening.

Accessing the internet in UK depends on networks of cables and wires, and sometimes satellites. Computers and mobile phones won't work without help from either a battery or mains electricity - solar power is available to charge/recharge, but can be desperately slow on a cloudy British day.

The bits of wire and other components used to make these things will have been made with the help of electricity - any other form of power would be uneconomical, possibly unreliable and maybe even too slow. They will have been transported and put together by people or machines - with the help of electricity to run air-cleaning systems and conveyor belts.

These protesters might not mind too much if E.On decides to close Ratcliff-on Soar, they'll see it as a victory and they'll go home patting themselves on the back, delighted with their achievements. Maybe they are happy to do without without the benefits of electricity, but they forget about the rest of us.

Few of these protesters will have lived through rolling power cuts, they will not have had to figure out how to get a meal in the dark, with no heat. They will not have had to do their homework by candlelight, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. These young, fit and healthy protesters forget about the elderly who have their meals-on-wheels delivered all at once, and who rely on their freezers to keep their food safe to eat.

Although these protesters might be delighted by the total darkness and silence that several hours without electricity can bring, would they cheerfully climb to the top of a darkened tower block because the lifts won't work? If not, then why should they force it those who will have no alternative?

It has been suggested that this winter may bring power shortages, although nobody seems to want to take the blame for the lack of forward planning, there are no doubt some who will attempt to shift the blame onto climate protesters for successfully closing power stations, and thus turning out Britain's lights. - And that is the little thought Mrs Rigby would like these protesters to mull over.

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