Monthly Archives: June 2015

Press Release – Environmental Campaigner Paul Mobbs to speak at venues across South Wales next week


25 June 2015

Renowned Environmental Campaigner Paul Mobbs will be speaking at venues across South Wales next week at the culmination of his ‘Never Mind the Politics, Here’s the Fracking Reality’ Spring Tour 2015.

Explaining the purpose of the tour, Paul Mobbs said, “In the wake of the election I’m once more organising a UK speaking tour – traveling the country to bring a new perspective on the politics of energy and economic policy; and, most importantly, why the ‘fractured accountability’ of our political class, and the growing power of lobbyist and ‘special interests’, is distorting the objective reality of the “options” we are being offered today.”

The four talks in South Wales are as follows:

Tuesday 30th June @ 7:30pm
‘Going to Extremes’ – the projects to develop unconventional gas extraction in Britain
Upstairs, Old Market Tavern, 20-21 Trinity Street, Cardiff CF10 1BH

Wednesday 1st July @ 7:30pm
‘Beyond Fracking’ – the next steps in the extreme energy debate in Britain
Lesser Hall, Cowbridge Town Hall, 21 High Street, Cowbridge CF71 7AD

Thursday 2nd July @ 7:45pm
‘Beyond Fracking’ – the next steps in the extreme energy debate in Britain
Volcano Theatre, 27-29 High Street, Swansea SA1 1LG

Friday 3rd July @ 7:30pm
‘Less (is a Four Letter Word)’ – Economics, Ecological Limits and Politics
Llangadog Community Hall, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire SA19 9BR

Keith Ross of Frack Free Wales, who helped to organise the South Wales leg of the tour commented, “We’re delighted to welcome Paul Mobbs back to South Wales again. His detailed research and experience of environmental campaigning over a 30 year period have made an invaluable contribution to the campaign against fracking in particular, and on wider environmental issues.”

“Paul’s talks are invariably informative, entertaining and digestible; no previous knowledge of the subject required.”


Paul Mobbs of Mobbs Environmental Investigations, is a freelance campaigner, activist, environmental consultant, author, lecturer and engineer. His work focusses on writing, research and speaking around the them of “ecological futures” – examining present economic, energy and development trends and considering what these mean in the ongoing debate about the human species and their relationship to the environment which supports them.

You will find more details of Paul’s work at

Caroline Lucas’ views on the way forward resonate with my long-held position

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 19.57.57In today’s Guardian ‘Comment is Free’ section, Caroline Lucas recognises and promotes the need for the progressive left in Britain to “increase its relevance and appeal“. How? She has picked up on themes that I have been promoting for a long time. She says: “This must include support for a fairer voting system, a commitment to genuine engagement with voters, and an open mind, at least, on locally agreed electoral pacts. It’s certainly a challenge, but an entirely different type of politics could be the result.” 

She poses this challenge directly to the candidates for the Labour leadership, whilst acknowledging that Jeremy Corbyn is the only one likely to listen. But she also needs to get this message across to those that perceive themselves as being of the progressive left in the Green Party and potential ally parties. She recognises that there are members of the progressive left in the Lib Dems, the SNP and, of course, Plaid Cymru. Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 16.17.38I say ‘of course PC’, not simply because I am speaking from Wales, but because there can be no doubt that Plaid Cymru has the the greatest proportion of, and most committed people, of the progressive left than either the Lib Dems or the SNP (and maybe than the Green Party itself in Wales I suspect). This is confirmed by this analysis the parties manifestoes for the 2015 General Election by the Political Compass people.

Senior members of Greens, SNP and PC  working together for the common good

Senior members of Greens, SNP and PC working together for the common good

Caroline is, of course, far from going out on a limb here. Today’s Guardian piece may well be couched as her ‘personal view’, but Natalie Bennett was also promoting the same sort of message with the well publicised talk of alliances involving the Greens, SNP and PC before the General Election. It is, I would suggest, the only realistic way that the progressive left will get a meaningful handle on government, perhaps, in my lifetime, and it is not just Caroline Lucas, Natalie Bennett and myself beginning to recognise this. Plenty of others in a variety of parties recognise that sectarianism is the achilles heel of the left (you can certainly add at least the Pirates and Left Unity to the mix; TUSC and others may well struggle to subscribe to the whole concept). Unfortunately sectarianism is very much alive and kicking, certainly here in Wales. This is evident when you take a closer look at what Caroline Lucas suggests as a way forward. She suggests:

One strategy – which is my personal view and on which I would value contributions from others – might be to consider the potential for progressive pacts. A possible first step could be for Labour, Greens, Lib Dems, the SNP and Plaid Cymru to empower local branches with the ability to back candidates from other parties if they wish.

Secondly, and in a transparent and open way, those of us who want progressive pacts could set out a core set of pledges that parliamentary candidates must follow if they want cross-party support. No doubt, for a local Green party to back a candidate from another party, that candidate needs to commit to serious action on tackling climate change, recognising that we must live within ecological limits, and take a very firm stance against further austerity and the selling-off of our public goods. Crucially, local voters would need to have their say and be properly involved – they’re the ones who should be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Re the first part, it took a number of years for me and Bridgend Green Party to build a rapport with Bridgend Plaid Cymru members and reach a point where we could have sensible discussions about, initially, keeping out of each others way in our target wards, but latterly of perhaps taking that as far as openly endorsing each other’s candidates. However, I am no longer involved with Bridgend Green Party and it is now largely in the hands of enthusiastic newcomers (riding in on the recent membership surge), and I suspect collaborative progress has stalled somewhat. It was only ever, at best, an oasis of mutual respect in a desert of mutual suspicion and contempt across Wales, in terms of the attitudes prevailing in many local parties, and promoted by a few noisy, parochial, sectarian activists in both parties. These prominent personalities achieve undue influence and do untold damage to the cause. They are also expert in utilising social media to maximise the impact of their mischief making. In this context, Caroline is being naively optimistic if she thinks empowering local parties to do the right thing will actually lead to many of them actually doing the right thing. I suspect she knows this, but will be being careful to not fall foul of the Green Party’s constitutional emphasis on local decision making.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 20.25.13She has already stirred voices of disquiet in Wales through some of her comments during the election campaign about supporting Plaid Cymru candidates where there was no Green candidate. I have heard newish Green members, that perhaps don’t know Caroline very well, preposterously suggesting she may have been ‘got at’ by the larger numbers of PC MPs. What they and others should know is that Caroline Lucas is the strongest and most astute of operators – the Party’s single greatest asset. Those that seek to criticise her for ‘interfering’ on their patch simply underline their parochialism. There is nobody in the Party that has done more to earn the right to have her opinion heard, and no one who has more right, as an individual, to seek to have influence over the direction of the party. At the end of the day, she knows she cannot force the party one way or the other, but she is doing what all good leaders do – i.e. show conviction in the right way forward.

Re the second part of Caroline’s proposals, there ought not to be too much of a problem here – in theory. There is plenty of common ground that can be readily identified, and nothing that she mentions should be contentious. They are the natural enough ‘red lines’ that identify people as of the progressive left. There are, of course many issues that are harder to reconcile, but these are not ‘red line’ issues, simply areas of disagreement that give each party its distinct identity within a progressive alliance. If they are not kept this way, they become not just an obstacle to alliance, but, more importantly, a barrier to progress for any of us.

This is where the the mischief makers focus their attention. They shine a light on areas of difference, often misrepresenting things as they do so, and try to assert ‘red lines’ that need not exist. They use issues that divide opinion, to a greater or lesser extent, within the parties – which is one key reason they cannot be allowed to be red line issues.

As for Caroline’s last point, I am not sure how she envisages getting local voters involved in these tricky resolutions. The way I have always seen it is that whoever is in the best position locally should be the favoured candidate for the progressive left as a whole. This is giving the decision to the electorate. Where a party is in with a chance of a FPTP victory on the basis of past performance, then that party’s candidate should get endorsed without further contest. If it is not clear cut, and it is presumed that nobody from the progressive left is in a position to win, the next relevant election should be used to give the local electorate the opportunity to indicate who they see as the strongest option, and that leads to the selection of the favoured party/candidate thereon.

This will not produce balance in the numbers of candidates from each party. The whole exercise is about getting progressive left candidates elected irrespective. It needs an attitude of self-sacrifice for the greater good. In Wales, there are possibly one or two Lib Dems and Labour candidates with decent progressive left credentials, but in the battle between the more avowedly progressive left parties of the Greens and Plaid Cymru, it has to be conceded that PC will dominate. After all, the Greens only outpolled PC in one seat in the recent General Election (take a bow Chris von Ruhland in Cardiff Central). There were a few where it was very close – where both parties were way off the pace – and I am sure PC would cede most of these to the Greens to develop. The Pirates and Left Unity, could perhaps be granted a target seat to take on and develop as their contribution to the progressive left alliance if they can show some support on which to build in a locale.

But all this is, on my part and, sadly, Caroline’s part is little more than aspirational. The bottom up democracy of the Green Party makes it harder to achieve than, perhaps, in some other parties, especially at a time when members of a few months – of all manner of mixed, uncertain and often naive outlooks – greatly outnumber the the longer-established, experienced and savvy members. Add to this the fact that some of the longer-established members have their own agenda, and the experience to promote it at the expense of the common goodScreen Shot 2015-06-17 at 20.30.40 of the party, and the progressive left cause in general (the really dangerous mischief makers I have alluded to already), and the prospects for the vision that Caroline and I share are not good.

My inability to make the case forcefully enough to have an impact in Wales was no surprise to anybody (especially me). I hope and trust that the masses of new members in Wales wake up to the fact that Caroline is an iconic figure who transcends party and national boundaries. She is uniquely positioned and experienced within the whole progressive left movement. She knows what she is talking about. There is every possibility that Wales Green Party may be detached from the GPEW before long. Irrespective of whether this happens or not, for the love of everything you hold dear, take your lead from people like Caroline, rather than the ‘leadership’ you may be offered more locally.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 19.50.58PS – I would urge you all to read Caroline’s new book. It gives testament to the experience and wisdom she has accumulated over the years.
Guardian review:
You could read Lucas’s book as an effective summary of key debates on the UK’s future. But even more powerfully, it opens the door on a political past we are condemned to live with and sniffs the stale air of an institution to where we outsource our democracy. Stepping back, it is not Lucas who looks all alone in Westminster but Westminster that looks odd and out of place in the world. Far from hanging up swords, you suspect that, by the end of the book, many more readers will want to take up theirs to campaign for change.

QUOTE FROM page7 describing her first day or two in Parliament: “we talked about building some cross-party alliances. The more I could work with others, the greater the difference I could make on the issues and causes that mattered for Brighton and for the country: and this would be easier for me than an MP with deep-rooted party allegiances and rivalries. The first of these was with the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru, who were part of an informal group that pooled information on upcoming government business. They were very helpful and invited me to join this group without any preconditions. At once, I had some honorary honourable friends, and was plugged into the Westminster system a little more firmly.”

There is so much we can learn from in this one short quote!!

David Harvey explores the relationships between marxists, anarchists and geographers

David Harvey is a highly influential marxist geographer who made a big impact on me as a geography undergraduate in the early 1980s. He is probably as responsible as anyone for me being the Green Leftie that I am today. He has published a very timely review of marxist and anarchist traditions that inform much of the thinking of the progressive left today, and makes an impassioned plea that proponents of these traditions put aside our differences such that: “this does not preclude collaboration and mutual aid with respect to the many other common anti-capitalist struggles with which we are engaged. Honest disagreements should be no barrier to fertile collaborations.
This a message that I seem to be constantly trying to impress on all who consider themselves to be on the progressive left, especially here in Wales

It is a lengthy, but accessible essay that I would urge all to read in its entirety, but here I select some nuggets that spoke especially poignantly to me:

Selected extracts from: “Listen, Anarchist!” A personal response to Simon Springer’s “Why a radical geography must be anarchist”
David Harvey
City University of New York, USA (published 10/06/2015 )

The overlapping interests of marxism, anarchism and geography.
To the degree that anarchists of one sort or another have raised important issues that are all too frequently ignored or dismissed as irrelevant in mainstream Marxism, so too I think dialogue – let us call it mutual aid – rather than confrontation between the two traditions is a far more fruitful way to go. Conversely, Marxism, for all its past faults, has a great deal that is crucial to offer to the anti-capitalist struggle in which many anarchists are also engaged. Geographers have a very special and perhaps privileged niche from which to explore the possibility of collaborations and mutual aid. As Springer points out, some of the major figures in the nineteenth century anarchist tradition – most notably Kropotkin, Metchnikoff and Reclus – were geographers. Through the work of Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford and later on Murray Bookchin, anarchist sentiments have also been influential in urban planning, while many utopian schemas (such as that of Edward Bellamy) as well as practical plans (such as those of Ebenezer Howard) reflect anarchist influences. I would, incidentally, put my own utopian sketch (“Edilia”) from Spaces of Hope (2000) in that tradition.

How we can serve the cause
In his open letter to his anarchist colleagues Reclus wrote: “Great enthusiasm and dedication to the point of risking one’s life are not the only ways of serving a cause. The conscious revolutionary is not only a person of feeling, but also one of reason, to whom every effort to promote justice and solidarity rests on precise knowledge and on a comprehensive understanding of history, sociology and biology” as well as, it went without saying, the geography to which he had dedicated so much of his life’s work (Clark and Martin, 2004).

Potential for a new left force
There are, of course, many anarchisms and many Marxisms. The identity of anarchism in particular is very hard to pin down. There is frequently as much bad blood between factions within these traditions (if such they are) as there is between them. By the same token, there are as many commonalities between factions across traditions as there are differences. These commonalities prefigure the potentiality for a new left force,

Where value is produced v where value is realised + the politics of refusal
There is a big distinction in Marx’s theory between how, when and where value is produced and how, when and where it is realized. Value produced in China is realized, for example, in Walmart and Apple stores in North America. There are perpetual struggles over the realization of value between consumers and merchant/property-owning capitalists. The battles with landlords, the phone, electricity and credit card companies are just the most obvious examples of struggles within the sphere of realization that pervade daily life. It is in such realms that the politics of refusal often make a lot of sense

Searching for meaning in our lives
What unifies all our perspectives is what I can best call “a search for meaning” in a social world that appears more and more meaningless. This requires a real attempt to live as far as possible an unalienated life in an increasingly alienating world. I admire the social anarchists I have known because of their deep personal and intellectual commitment to do just that.
Social anarchists are not, however, alone in this. I am all for it too. I featured alienation (a taboo concept for many Marxists of a scientistic or Althusserian persuasion) as the seventeenth and in many respects crucial contradiction in my Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (2014). You don’t have to be either an anarchist or a Marxist to attempt to create a personal and social world which has meaning and within which it is possible to live in a relatively unalienated way. Millions of people are perpetually struggling to do just that and in so doing create islands of unalienated activities. This is what many religious groups do all the time. Many young people in the world today, faced with meaningless employment opportunities and mindless consumerism are searching and opting for a different lifestyle. Much of contemporary cultural production in the Western world is building upon exactly this sensibility and the broad left, both anarchist and Marxist, has to learn to respond appropriately.

Why political activism fails
Firstly there is the failure to shape and mobilize political power into a sufficiently effective configuration to press home a revolutionary transformation in society as a whole. If, as seems to be the case, the world cannot be changed without taking power then what is the point of a movement that refuses to build and take that power? Secondly, there is an inability to stretch the vision of political activism from local to far broader geographical scales at which the planning of major infrastructures and the management of environmental conditions and long distance trade relations becomes a collective responsibility for millions of people.

The necessity of taking power
I find Bookchin’s line on all of this interesting, even if incomplete. Resolutely opposed as he was to the state and hierarchies as unreformable instruments of oppression and denial of human freedom, he was not naïve about the necessity of taking power:
Every revolution, indeed, even every attempt to achieve basic change, will always meet with resistance from elites in power. Every effort to defend a revolution will require the amassing of power – physical as well as institutional and administrative – which is to say, the creation of government. Anarchists may call for the abolition of the state, but coercion of some kind will be necessary to prevent the bourgeois state from returning in full force with unbridled terror. For a libertarian organization to eschew, out of misplaced fear of creating a “state”, taking power when it can do so with the support of the revolutionary masses is confusion at best and a total failure of nerve at worst (Bookchin, 2014: 183).

The dangers of decentralisation and localism
As I argued in Rebel Cities (2013a), decentralization and autonomy are primary vehicles for producing greater inequality and centralization of power. Once again, Bookchin sort of agrees: “at the risk of seeming contrary, I feel obliged to emphasize that decentralization, localism, self-sufficiency, and even confederation, each taken singly, do not constitute a guarantee that we will achieve a rational ecological society. In fact all of them have at one time or another supported parochial communities, oligarchies, and even despotic regimes” (2014: 73-74).

How should we see the ‘state’?
My own simplified view is that the state is a ramshackle set of institutions existing at a variety of geographical scales that internalize a lot of contradictions, some of which can potentially be exploited for emancipatory rather than obfuscatory or repressive ends (its role in public health provision has been crucial to increasing life expectancy for example), even as for the most part it is about hierarchical control, the enforcement of class divisions and conformities and the repression (violent when necessary) of non-capitalistic liberatory human aspirations. Monopoly power within the judiciary (and the protection of private property), over money and the means of exchange and over the means of violence, policing and repression, are its only coherent functions essential to the perpetuation of capital while everything else is sort of optional in relation to the powers of different interest groups (with capitalists and nationalists by far the most influential). But the state has and continues to have a critical role to play in the provision of large-scale physical and social infrastructures. Any revolutionary (or insurrectionary) movement has to reckon with the problem of how to provide such infrastructures.

Management of the commons

I make common cause on this with Bookchin who writes: “No organizational model, however, should be fetishized to the point where it flatly contradicts the imperatives of real life” (2014: 183). Springer and many other anarchists and autonomistas consider the only legitimate form of organization to be horizontal, decentered, open, consensual and non-hierarchical. “Just to be clear,” I wrote, “I am not saying horizontality is bad – indeed I think it an excellent objective – but that we should acknowledge its limits as a hegemonic organizational principle, and be prepared to go far beyond it when necessary” (2013a: 70). In the case of the management of the commons, for example, it is difficult if not impossible (as Elinor Ostrom’s work had demonstrated) to take consensual horizontality to much larger scales such as the metropolitan region, the bioregion, and certainly not the globe (as in the case of global warming). At those scales it was impossible to proceed without setting up “confederal” or “nested” (which means inevitably hierarchical in my view but then this too may just be semantics) structures of decision making that entailed serious adjustments in organized thinking as well as forms of institutionalized governance.

The need for collaboration
The mobilization of political power is essential and the state cannot be neglected as a potential site for radicalization. On all these points I beg to differ with many of my autonomist and anarchist colleagues. But this does not preclude collaboration and mutual aid with respect to the many other common anti-capitalist struggles with which we are engaged. Honest disagreements should be no barrier to fertile collaborations.

TTIP – EU beginning to run scared? Greens/PC at forefront of opposition; Labour sitting on the fence as usual

I am pleased report that through various channels, such as the 38 Degrees channel I promoted a few days ago, MEPs have had huge amounts of feedback from people across Europe. Jill Evans (PC MEP) describes the response and the concerns here (click on image):

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.07.02

This pressure was all geared towards influencing the vote on TTIP by MEPs today.

In unusual circumstances, the vote in the European Parliament on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal was cancelled yesterday.

The official line from the Parliament was that because more than 200 amendments were tabled the vote should be postponed to enable the Trade Committee to consider the amendments before tabling them for a future plenary session.

Campaigners and Greens believe the controversial deal will remove standards and protections that are currently enshrined in laws across the EU and US. Examples of these regulations include labour rights that protect people at work, environmental regulations and food safety laws. Of particular concern is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which would potentially allow corporations to sue Governments in secret courts if a Government passed laws which limited a corporation’s profits or activity. More than 2 million EU citizens have signed a petition against the deal.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, said:

“The decision to cancel the vote on TTIP stinks of political parties in the European Parliament running scared of the huge public opposition to TTIP. The deal represents a monumental power grab by corporations and it must be stopped in its tracks.”

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England said:

“This attempt to remove the right of all MEPs to vote on this very important report on TTIP is nothing short of a scandal. Thousands of constituents have emailed me today and I will not be cheated of my right to represent their will to oppose ISDS and the undermining of European protection of environments and animal welfare.”

As a point of information, when I contacted the 4 MEPs for Wales about this vote I received absolutely no contact from Conservative, Kay Swinburne, or uber-Conservative, UKIP’s Nathan Gill. No surprise there then. The Green/EFA block to which Jill and the Green MEPs belong are consistently at the forefront of opposition to the whole concept . Welsh Labour, as seems to be their perpetual position these days, are firmly on the fence.

I received a full response from our Labour MEP, Derek Vaughan, that puts their position clear enough. I quote:

Let me reassure you that as a Labour MEP, I am fully opposed to ISDS and will vote accordingly on June 10th.

The votes on Wednesday in the European Parliament on TTIP aim at giving a clear view from the European Parliament to EU negotiators on what would or would not be acceptable to MEPs in the final TTIP deal. The vote will be a guide to them as they negotiate TTIP over the coming years.

This is not a vote for or against TTIP itself. Only once the final text is presented to the European Parliament will MEPs have the chance to support or oppose the deal. Until this happens – and it will probably take years before negotiations are concluded – there is no TTIP to vote for or against. MEPs have no formal powers while trade negotiations are ongoing: we can only vote yes or no to the entire deal once negotiations are concluded. Crucially, we cannot stop negotiations either. So we will judge the TTIP by its merits, and in the meantime try to influence the negotiations so that all of our concerns are properly addressed.

Last week Labour MEPs supported a report by the trade committee, which is the text that will be put to vote in the European Parliament on June 10th. The text includes key protections for the NHS and public services and binding labour and environmental safeguards. It also clearly states that we will not accept any lowering of our food standards.

Importantly, it states that we trust national courts in the case of investor protection disputes, as opposed to special ISDS tribunals. The report doesn’t go far enough on ISDS, but it is an important step in the right direction. We will now try to strengthen the reports’ provisions against ISDS, to make it absolutely clear that the European Parliament refuses to have it in TTIP.

Labour MEPs have therefore tabled amendments that explicitly rule out ISDS from any trade deal with the US. The amendments read as follows:

Amendment 27 “…to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and have a fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances, while benefiting from no greater rights than domestic investors; to oppose the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP, as other options to enforce investment protection are available, such as domestic remedies…”

Amendment 115 “… to propose a permanent solution for resolving disputes between investors and states – without the use of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) private arbitration – which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny…”

He concludes by saying: “we must seize every opportunity we have to set a new agenda. TTIP represents such an opportunity, and that’s why Labour is not ruling it out at this stage.”

I don’t know whether this is Labour being naive or deceitful. They are not going to be given a full draft to consider and be allowed to veto. They will end up endorsing it as fully paid up members of the neoliberal club. It seems to me to be a bit like saying “We have no opposition to big 4×4 cars as long as we can have them weighing less than a ton and with a one litre engine.” It misunderstands the whole concept, and simply cannot be done like that.

It is not the only concept they seem to completely misunderstand. Try ‘Socialism’ for example!

The scale of corporate welfare for the oil and gas industry

We hear a lot about the power of the markets to sort things out. It is one of the tenets behind the attack on the welfare state and privatisation of public services. But don’t for a minute think that the Government is against welfare support for some and that markets can be trusted to resolve things like energy security.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 12.31.19Although we hear a lot about unsustainable or unjustifiable subsidies for renewable energy from Tory rags like the Mail and Telegraph, the truth of the matter is that are totally dwarfed by subsidies to fossil fuel companies that we have been forking out for decades.

The following is an extract from a recent Guardian article about a stunning report published by the IMF last month, entitled HOW LARGE ARE GLOBAL ENERGY SUBSIDIES?  This attempts to include the indirect subsidies, as well as the direct subsidies (shown in the graph above).

Extract from Guardian article:

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said: “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Lord Stern said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate: “A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date.

Ending the subsidies would also slash the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50% – about 1.6 million lives a year.

Furthermore, the IMF said the resources freed by ending fossil fuel subsidies could be an economic “game-changer” for many countries, by driving economic growth and poverty reduction through greater investment in infrastructure, health and education and also by cutting taxes that restrict growth.

It has been blindingly obvious to the scientific community that we have to leave most of the reserves we already know about in the ground if we are to avoid climate change catastrophe around the globe. Yet the industry spent over $700 billion searching out new reserves, money effectively given to them in our names by our governments!

Click on the image below for a good video summary of the KEEP IT IN THE GROUND argument:

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 11.32.10

However, given the corrupt crony capitalist system that prevails (with every neoliberal government – be it Tory or Labour – we keep electing), these arguments are simply ignored. It is the high level power games of foreign policy that are allowed to dictate the agenda these days, and are especially being turned to and relied upon by the frackers. The following Guardian video explains this succinctly and clearly enough. (Click on image)

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 11.42.21

So beware the spin, the smoke and mirrors. Welfare cuts for me and you would be completely unnecessary if corporate welfare was dismantled. If the supposed capitalists truly believed in their precious markets, and supply and demand were allowed to prevail, we could have the true energy security and ridiculously cheap energy that can be achieved with renewables (not that I’m arguing for unfettered markets – I’m just pointing out how they do not even consistently benefit capitalist interests).

But that would eliminate the ill-gotten gains of the fossil fuel oligarchs that dominate the world market for government favours. They are not going to give it all up easily, but this is the battle we need to see fought and won.

TTIP – why you need to know about, why you need to care about it and why you need to do something about it

I would urge you all to do three things:

  1. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 17.53.32Get a handle on why this is so important, and a serious threat too all of us, by reading (in about 10 mins) the report compiled by our Plaid Cymru MEP, Jill Evans >>, found HERE (although targeted at and referencing Wales, it applies to the whole UK)
  2. Voice your concerns to our MEPs using the tools provided by 38 Degrees below. It takes just one minute of your time. (For those in Wales, you can safely untick Jill’s name from the list of recipients – we should all be thankful she was returned last year!!!)
  3. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 18.09.31Wake up to the way the world works today by reading the very accessible, easy to understand guide by Noam Chomsky How the World Works”. According to The New York Times, Noam Chomsky is “arguably the most important intellectual alive.” But he isn’t easy to read . . . or at least he wasn’t until this book came along. Made up of intensively edited speeches and interviews, they offer something not found anywhere else: pure Chomsky, with every dazzling idea and penetrating insight intact, delivered in clear, accessible, reader-friendly prose.

Jill’s introduction to the TTIP & Wales Report:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) may soon have a major impact on Wales. TTIP is the bilateral trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and the USA. Not many people will have heard of it yet, but it could undermine the many high standards and good regulations that we have fought so hard for in the EU. This includes the fields of employment, food standards, the environment, public services, and many more. It could hand over greater power to global corporations at the expense of elected governments. The TTIP negotiations have been secretive and deliberately opaque. Considering the magnitude and scope of the agreement, it is unthinkable that it could be ratified without full democratic involvement and agreement. To date, the Welsh Government has not done a study of the potential effects of TTIP in Wales. This is badly needed and I will continue to call for it to be carried out. I welcome the fact that increasing numbers of people in Wales are getting actively involved in the campaign against TTIP and are making their voices heard. This report is a collection of the views of some organisations and individuals concerned about its implications. I very much thank the contributors for voicing their opinions which will help create the public debate we need.Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 18.10.38

38 Degrees Logo
Caught red-handed: shady corporate lobbyists are spreading lies about TTIP. They’ve been emailing our MEPs, making false claims about widespread support for the dodgy trade deal. [1] Before MEPs start taking it seriously, let’s drown the lobbyists out.

It’s urgent – next week, all MEPs will take part in a series of votes about TTIP. They could have the chance to vote to scrap some of the most dangerous parts of the deal, like the bit that lets big businesses sue our government if they don’t like our laws. [2] Corporate lobbyists have been telling MEPs that their colleagues support this part of the deal – but in fact, many of them don’t.

Together, we need to make sure that in the final few days before the vote, MEPs inboxes are full of emails slamming TTIP. If thousands of us email our MEPs now, the lying lobbyist emails will soon be at the bottom of their email inbox, forgotten about.

So can you get in touch with your MEPs now to ask them to vote against TTIP next week?

Email your MEPs

It’s clear that corporate lobbyists are worried. They’ve run out of ‘credible’ arguments and now they’re just making things up to try and get MEPs to support TTIP.

But we’re the voters, and MEPs represent us. So we can focus on creating as much noise as possible about why TTIP is bad. When MEPs walk into the vote next week, they will know we’re backing them to vote against the worst parts of the deal.

The other side may have money, but we’ve got people-power. Will you email your MEP now, to ask them to vote against TTIP next week?

Email your MEPs

Thanks for being involved,

Bex, Amy, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team

PS: Great news – we were in the papers yesterday! Over 19,000 38 Degrees members chipped in and funded adverts to expose the MEPs who haven’t done enough to stop the worst parts of TTIP, the dodgy trade deal. [3] The adverts are now splashed across local newspapers in the areas where the politicians are elected. Click here to have a look at what they look like:

PPS: Next week’s vote isn’t the final vote on TTIP – the full text of the deal still hasn’t been published. However, It’s one of only a few chances MEPs will have to make recommendations that could change TTIP (or throw it out altogether). It’s not a legally binding vote, but what MEPs decide will send a strong message back to the European Commission about where we all stand on TTIP. If there’s enough opposition, especially to the worst parts of TTIP, it could damage the deal for good.

[1] European Free Alliance: Distorted facts, blatant lies: business group’s big push to get ISDS through:
[2] MEPs will be voting on a resolution on TTIP in Strasbourg on June 10th, including ‘red lines’ they want to send to the TTIP negotiators. It’s one of only a few chances MEPs will have to make recommendations that could change TTIP (or throw it out altogether). It’s not a legally binding vote, but what MEPs decide will send a strong message back to the European Commission about where we all stand on TTIP. If there’s enough opposition, especially to the worst parts of TTIP, it could damage the deal for good:
Euractiv: What will Parliamentarians vote on TTIP?
You can read more about the upcoming vote in this blog by War on Want’s John Hilary:
[3] Euractiv: MEPs give passing vote to TTIP:
You can read more about what happened in last week’s vote here:

Pushing people beyond their limits

Chris Blackhurst is the former chief editor of the Independent . He has written a piece for the paper this week that I think goes to the very core of many of the problems in the neoliberal society we live in today.

He starts by recounting the cycle of bullying he endured at school, whereby the new intake are ‘initiated’ by the older boys, but go on to inflict the same thing on subsequent little kids when they become the big boys. Those that took it ‘on the chin’ would be considered to have passed through the initiation. Those that made a fuss (snivelling or snitching) would be targeted indefinitely. Personally, I was streetwise enough to know how it worked, but hated seeing the nastier bullies making the lives of the weak and meek a misery. I was fortunate enough to have additional tools in my armoury. I was big, strong and athletic. I took great pleasure in embarrassing the bullies to the fullest extent I could in any sporting activity. Some reacted badly to this, and on a couple occasions they started fights that I finished.

I guess this is was all the beginning of my socialist principles and lifelong tendency to stand up for the weak and the meek and to take on the bully boys. Not that I have always come out on top. I endured a couple of sound kickings in my formative years, and have succumbed in the fight a couple of times in my adult life, leading to a couple of meltdowns. Chris Blackhurst’s article stresses just how endemic the culture of relentless pressure has become. Pressure becomes stress. Stress becomes intolerable. The intolerable leads to calamity.

Blackhurst was prompted to write after the well-publicised cases of Army reservists being pushed beyond their limits on a hot day in the Brecon Beacons, and also the not-uncommon case of a Goldman Sachs banker being driven beyond his limits. In both cases we see needless deaths on the one hand and employers claiming they take their employees welfare seriously on the other. In both cases, there have been plenty of similar incidents both before and since. Talk to people within the organisations, however, and you soon get to the truth of the prevalent attitudes. You see, these things just happen. Some people simply aren’t cut out for the job. If the couldn’t stand the heat ……. etc.

It isn’t just the Army and the bankers of course. I expect that nearly all of us can relate to these attitudes in most of our workplaces to some extent. Increasingly so, no doubt in these ever-more austere times. I recognise it all too readily in the sector I work in. It is major reason why I have not been fit to work at all for the last 4 months. An ONS report states that 15.2 million working days a year were lost to stress or depression in Great Britain last year. That is 10 times the number lost to migraines and headaches. Research also suggests that this is little more than the tip of an iceberg as 71% of people surveyed report that they would worry about telling an employer if they had a mental health condition, for fear of getting a negative response.

I have not shrunk away from being upfront with my employer about it. They are very good at presenting a caring front. They put out regular ‘health and well-being’ emails and this has included ones about mental health with some ‘Top Tips’. Job done as far as their ‘Investors in People’ tick box sheet is concerned. When I offered information during ‘Mental Health Week’ about the mindfulness programme I had undertaken, my email was not even acknowledged. Now that I am trying to engage with them about a phased return to work, I am getting no response at all. While I have been off work (a period following a clumsily handled forced redundancy process) I have received reports of colleagues that survived the cut being pressured my completely unrealistic, un-negotiated targets for roles they were not even initially employed to do. Several have apparently quit, others have been told ‘perform or you will be sacked’.

Many in my position would probably have felt the financial pressure (just 2 weeks on full pay and two weeks on half pay in a rolling year) to return to work too soon, with potentially dire consequences to their well-being. I am nervous about what I am returning to. With genuinely caring and sympathetic employers I could possibly have been back in work by now (although had that been the case, I may have avoided my meltdown completely).

The thing that bothers me most about these situations is that so many managers in these organisations are so ready to serve these corporate ‘do or be damned’ mentalities. They are just like the basically decent kids that feel it is just the way of the world that they mete out the bullying. It is the only way they can avoid the bullying from above them. And so it goes on. Who is going to say ‘stop’? Who is going to realise that it’s not always acceptable to do to others as was done to us.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 11.19.07Despite their emasculation since Thatcher’s time, trade unions still represent the best protection we have from workplace bullying. Find the best one for you here:  UNION FINDER

Lord Browne – a leopard changing its spots?

There was some very encouraging news in the battle to prevent critical climate change in the Independent / i newspapers yesterday.

“Scientists and economists have joined forces to launch a global research initiative to make green energy cheaper than coal within 10 years, a target they believe is critical to avoid dangerous climate change. They have compared the goal to the Apollo programme of the 1960s when the United States stated that it would put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

Leading academics, including former government chief scientist Sir David King, past president of the Royal Society Lord Rees, and economists Lord Stern and Lord Layard, in effect said that the world cannot be saved from global warming unless coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – is put out of business.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 13.21.38They have called the plan the Global Apollo Programme and hope to recruit countries from around the world in an international commitment to boost research and development into key areas of renewable energy, storage and electricity transmission.”

Full story 

However, my innate cynicism kicked when I spotted our old ‘friend’ Lord Browne amongst the seven authors of the report. This man has a oil and gas coursing through his veins:

  • Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 13.23.06Joined BP as an apprentice in 1966 while still at university.
  • Rises through the ranks to become BP’s chief executive between 1995 and 2007.
  • Responsible for the ruthless programme of cost-cutting at BP that is widely acknowledged to have compromised safety, leading to a string of major accidents, most notably the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010.
  • Chairman of notorious frackers, Cuadrilla Resources, since the inception of the company in 2007.
  • Managing Director and a Managing Partner of Riverstone Holdings, that includes Riverstone Energy – a Guernsey-domiciled (tax dodging?), closed-ended company planning to invest in energy companies and assets worldwide, focusing on exploration and production of oil and gas.
  • Resigns his Riverstone Energy directorship in April 2015 just weeks after agreeing to become executive chairman of L1 Energy, a $10bn venture established by Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, two of the Russian billionaire businessmen with whom BP went into partnership while Lord Browne ran Britain’s second-biggest oil company.

As reported by Sky News,  Lord Browne’s reshuffling of his business portfolio comes as capital-rich global investors target an array of opportunities thrown up by the slump in oil prices.

Since Riverstone Energy listed in London, raising hundreds of millions of pounds, it has bought stakes in nearly a dozen businesses, including the Calgary-based Canadian International Oil Corporation, Castex Energy, which explores for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and Sierra Oil and Gas, which is focused on Mexico.

Lord Browne’s connections across the international energy sector are designed to assist L1 Energy at a time of acute political sensitivity, highlighted when the UK Government indicated in February its intention to block the fund’s purchase of a number of North Sea gas fields. Watch this change now.

In addition to his role at the listed Riverstone vehicle and its private equity firm, Lord Browne has also relinquished the chairmanship of Cuadrilla Resources, the privately-owned fracking company which has faced opposition to its efforts to extract gas in parts of the UK.

He recently stepped down as the Government’s lead non-executive director, a post that involved co-ordinating the appointment of dozens of private sector figures to the boards of Whitehall departments.

So, all of a sudden, we are expected to believe that this man is hoping to save us from climate catastrophe. I think not.

The not-very-well-hidden agenda in this Global Apollo Programme (GAP) is the explicit aim of putting COAL out of business. The academics involved rightly point out that coal is in many ways the dirtiest and nastiest fossil fuel, and there are sections looking to boost research and development into key areas of renewable energy, storage and electricity transmission. But what, if any, of this is exciting Lord Browne?

Although not explicitly mentioned in the GAP report, what I suspect and predict Lord Browne to jump up and down about is the evil that is coal. This will lead to him trying to re-incarnate the corpse of the “bridge fuel” fallacy (neatly summed up here ), to the clear and obvious benefit of his oil, and more specifically, gas fracking interests.

So what of the other authors of the GAP report?

  • Sir David King – Blair’s Chief Government Scientist, consistently strong on climate change, but pro-nuclear power.
  • Lord Stern – economist who pointedly said: “Climate change is the result of the greatest market failure the world has seen”.
  • Lord O’Donnell – Cabinet Secretary for Blair, Brown and Cameron. No obvious credentials for being involved at all.
  • Lord Rees – Astronomer Royal and notable astrophysicist. Has an interest in the interface between science, ethics and politics.
  • Lord Turner – Chair of the FSA presiding over the near-total collapse of several major banks and chair of the ineffectual Committee on Climate Change
  • Lord Layard – old Etonian Blairite whose ideas informed New Labour concepts like ‘welfare-to-work’ (he’s a Labour life peer). Has Russian connections.

So what should we make of the Global Apollo Programme?

Read it. It is good stuff, but nothing new and little more than a good ‘A’ level geography project based on existing published resources that we have been using for years.

That it is written by a bunch of establishment cronies can be taken at least two ways. Firstly, it could be taken as a positive sign that the establishment is finally prepared to take the whole issue seriously at last. I might be prepared to accept that had Lord Browne not been involved. Personally, I think the whole thing is going to be used as a way of softening the public up to the onslaught of fracked gas as a purported ‘bridge fuel’. Some of the signatories may not have that as their primary intention – but I, for one, see no reason to suspect that Lord Browne is anything but the dirty fracker he has always been.

Fracking and related activity planning applications live in Wales at the moment

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 23.23.25

Remember that UK Methane and Coastal Oil & Gas are both Gerwyn Williams companies. He is scratching around trying to fund some drilling activity so he doesn’t have his licences taken off him. Re the Bridgend sites, Cwmcedfyw has seen test drilling for CBM done and dusted. It is not a major concern. Similarly, Ffaldau has been generating electricity on a small scale from CBM extraction without fracking and is not a significant concern. St John’s Colliery saw drilling aborted sometime ago and is unlikely to be revisited anytime soon. This leaves Merthyr Mawr as the focus of attention in the Bridgend area at present. Gerwyn has just recently applied for an Environmental permit for this site – and two other in South Wales, namely Five Mile Lane, and Llandow ). These are clearly top of his initial hit list. Watch this space.