Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why the surprise at VW conning people?

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Quote attributed to New York muralist James De La Vega

Why is anyone remotely surprised that car makers (Volkswagen will not be alone) have sought to deceive everybody over the fuel emissions?

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.21.46Adverts like this try to pretend 136g CO2/km is ‘clean’. When a sparrow shits on your head instead of a seagull, you don’t feel pleased about it and pretend it has made you in some way cleaner!

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And when we get reviews like this, we don’t see too many people getting incredulous. Cleaner than my tiny light IQ no less! Wow! How do they do that? Now we know! I like the way that they have dodged using the word Green, instead calling it BlueMotion, which could so easily translate as Tory Shit.

The drive for this particular capitalist con has been the Vehicle Excise Duty framework in this and many other countries that has rated cars on their purported emissions. It has looked like this for the last few years:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.42.58Thus the incentive to get new cars below the 130 g/km threshold and the further drive to get cars for the cost conscious motorist below the 100g/km threshold. This would be all well and good if the system to assess these cars emissions ever had any credibility. Running the tests in laboratories was only ever going to yield unrealistic figures compared to real life driving conditions, but also opened up the process to easy manipulation, as now uncovered with Volkswagen.

But this is nothing new at all. The same has been going on for donkey’s years with fuel consumption figures. We expect them to be ridiculously over optimistic, but they give us some sort of benchmark for relative comparisons. And this is the potential real scandal of the VW story. Have they pulled a stunt that their competitors have missed out on? The industry will be up in arms if that is the case and will seek retribution and vengeance on behalf of their shareholders, not their consumers! But I suspect this not to be the case at all. I suspect that many will have been at it. We shall see.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.44.21In any case, as far as this country is concerned, our ‘Greenest Government’ has largely resolved this issue with his recent budget scrapping any green incentive in the Vehicle Excise Duty scheme. This is how it will look from April 2017:

The first year rate is a pathetic gesture to greenwash the gullible, but the reality is that apart from zero emissions full-electric cars, all cars will pay a flat rate £140 per year. For some bizarre reason cars that retail over £40,000 will have a kind of ‘wealth tax’ imposed for 5 years – but this is irrespective of emissions, and once they get older and begin to get more inefficient this surcharge goes. Well done George!

There is, in fact, so much in this story that simply underlines all the established criticisms of capitalism that I could go on and on. Instead, just keep this story in mind as you read this:

Also, please read the attached reply/comment from Doug Rouxel which develops some of these points.

But for those who want a glimpse of what green cars can look like in a capitalist world, if all we did was eradicate the now ancient technology of the internal combustion engine, if only our ‘green’ Tory bullshitters were brave enough, this should keep you satisfied:

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To where should an ecosocialist in Wales turn? Into the wilderness?

As we start the build up to the Welsh Assembly elections next year, I find myself in the political wilderness, and pleased to be so.

Wildernesses are generally beautiful places, populated by few people, but those you come across there are invariably fascinating characters with tremendous survival instincts. There is peace and time to think clearly. Survival is built upon respect for your surroundings and your companions.

I am defining the political wilderness as that space on the political landscape outside of the political conurbations of the political parties, inhabited by self-sufficient political activists working to their own political agenda. I have stumbled across more truly impressive, comradely people here than in any party I have ever been associated with.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 14.31.22For the sake of clarity, I recently completely cancelled my membership of the Green Party of England & Wales. I am no longer attached to any political party, and it feels great.

Many have long suspected that I might be tempted to join Plaid Cymru. I have indeed been tempted, I will admit. But on close inspection, I saw nothing significantly different to the Green Party that I had become so disillusioned with. The differences are there, but they are are largely subtle.

Neither party is an ecosocialist panacea, although both are much nearer to it than anything else on offer. For example, both have (contrasting) problems with nuclear policy. Both have integrity issues brought about by casting aside avowed policy for political expediency at the merest whiff of (short-term) electoral success – making longer-term progress nigh on impossible. Both allow sectarianism to go unchallenged and thereby destroy any prospect of pulling together, to mutual and wider benefit. In other words, they are both pretty much like any other political party, when push comes to shove.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 14.33.32Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 14.36.55Politics does, however, have too much influence on our lives to be ignored completely. But I increasingly find that focussed single-issue apolitical campaigns can have more success in influencing policy and outcomes than direct involvement in politics. It achieves tangible results for people and is thereby a much more satisfying use of my time and money. For example, I will continue to focus energy on the anti-fracking and bedroom tax campaigns until these issues are successfully resolved.

I will also vote in elections – but not out of blind party loyalty. I will look at who is placed before me and make strategic decisions as to how best to vote to get an outcome that represents at least some sort of step in the right direction. In the absence of a credible electoral system and the lack of any tactical nous by parties, in terms of managing to work together to counter the democratic deficit, it is incumbent on voters to vote tactically as best they can. In our current sham democracy tactical voting is the only option left to us. It should not be frowned upon, but encouraged – and you can’t do that easily when you are in a political party (although I tried!).

In most cases, the choice in Wales ought to be between a Green candidate and Plaid Cymru candidate. But there are individuals (very few, but some) in other parties that I would happily endorse if they were on the ballot paper in front of me (one Labour candidate, two Lib Dems and a Pirate come to mind straight away). There are also a small number of individuals in both the Green Party and Plaid Cymru that I find objectionable enough to not be able to vote for or endorse.

For those interested enough, I may well share my views on who I would vote for around Wales nearer the time. In the meantime, I am going to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness for a while.

Gerwyn Williams (Coastal Oil & Gas etc) – new friends?

Gerwyn Williams’ stable of largely valueless companies, including Coastal Oil & Gas and UK Methane, have found themselves a new home.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 09.00.21Given the apparently parlous state of his finances, I suppose that paying out rent for an office on Bridgend Industrial Estate, that he barely ever used for anything but a glorified mailing address, was a luxury that had to go in these austere times. Luckily, he appears to have been offered a helping hand from a company with a vested interest in fracking worldwide – Guardian Global Technology Ltd of Village Farm Industrial Estate in Pyle.

The registered address of all Gerwyn’s companies has recently been changed to match that of Guardian’s site. According to their website their mission statement is:
“To use our intrinsic culture of innovative thinking to deliver leading edge technology to our clients in the global oil and gas industry, enabling them to capitalise on increasingly challenging opportunities.”

Those clients include some of the major players in the fracking industry worldwide, including Halliburton and Schlumberger. Curiously, their website makes no direct reference to fracking and hydraulic fracturing. Perhaps they don’t want the association and/or search engines connecting them. But we know that frackers are a core part of their target market because one of their executive and board members, Chief Technology Officer Iain Maxted, was kind enough to make this clear when he appeared at a Sustainable Wick public meeting in Wick a few months ago, where Frack Free Wales were doing a presentation..

Iain Maxted - looked smarter at the Wick meeting with his queen blue linen jacket and neatly ironed kerchief jutting from his top pocket.

Iain Maxted – looked smarter at the Wick meeting with his queen blue linen jacket and neatly ironed kerchief jutting from his top pocket.

Iain Maxted is a Wick resident, so I suppose he just could not stay away when he heard of our public meeting. It turns out that he is a quite a colourful character of some local notoriety.

I wouldn’t dream of questioning his credentials as a mining engineer. I wouldn’t be surprised if crude oil courses through his veins, so steeped in the industry he evidently is from his CV. But not untypically, when talking about other aspects of the industry, including his knowledge of the markets, there was a unmistakeable whiff of you-know-what (or perhaps the cows had been grazing too close to the Community Centre that day).

His disregard for the countryside is also beyond question too, and one reason for his local notoriety. I don’t suppose anyone would be surprised that a guy like this would drive a big 4×4, but this guy owns a fleet of them that he parks on the pavements outside his house to the perpetual annoyance of many of his neighbours. This picture is a screenshot from Google maps – taken in 2013 apparently.

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When we drove past recently we saw two of the fleet on the pavement and we got another indication of this guy’s mentality when we clocked the number plates:

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A quick online check suggests these plates are worth about £1500 each. I wouldn’t mind betting he’s got another one at least. Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 23.13.56For just £15 he could have bought one of these t-shirts and achieved much the same affect, but hey!

That yellow beast, by the way, is a phenomenally powerful V8 Dakar 4×4 pure off-roader. In his current job, Iain doesn’t get to tear up the countryside directly. He just supplies the kit to let the frackers do it. But with this big boy’s Tonka toy, he can go ripping and roaring his way around the countryside to his cold heart’s content.

I digress, but there is irony here. Not everyone in the oil and gas industry is as patently obnoxious as Iain Maxted. I actually have come to quite like Gerwyn Williams. He is a pretty straight guy just trying to rustle up enough to retire peacefully to his luxury home, currently being constructed for him next to the gorgeous Newton Beach on the outskirts of Porthcawl.

Gerwyn's luxury retirement home looking like a multi-storey car park a year ago, and with the only visible addiation this year of some glazing, looking like a small supermarket at the moment.

Gerwyn’s luxury retirement home looking like a multi-storey car park a year ago, and with the only visible addition this year of some glazing, looking like a small supermarket at the moment.

But things just aren’t working out as planned for Gerwyn. His home is progressing at a snail’s pace, as he clearly cannot afford to finish what he has started. The same is true with his PEDL licences. He may well have got Environment permits sorted for a couple of sites recently, but I seriously doubt he has the resources to do the test drilling. Having lost the backing of people like Eden Energy, I can’t see Guardian’s magnanimity extending to a 7 or 8 figure loan!!

Things have not exactly been going as planned for Guardian either. Only last year, they extended their Pyle plant (extension opened by none other than Carwyn Jones) and took on extra workers. But now they too are struggling, having already made 29 of their 80 employees redundant earlier this year. 

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 09.25.23With the next devolution bill coming soon, we will get towards the end game of all this and see an outright fracking ban in place across Wales. Any significant investment at this stage has surely got to be throwing good money after bad. Iain Maxted and Guardian might not be too bothered – their business does not rely on Wales – but given their own current woes, it easy to see why they may dream of a fracking boom in Wales. But such are the vagaries of this industry,  it is clearly impossible to build a reliable future on it.

Gerwyn Williams. Plans in ruins?

Gerwyn Williams.
Plans in ruins?

Overall, I think, Gerwyn, you should choose your friends more carefully. Cut your losses, pal, and finish off that house. You have blotted the landscape at Newton with what you have there at the moment. You must realise by now that your plans to blot and blight across South Wales are doomed to fail. Wouldn’t it be nicer to just be able to sit and reminisce about all this over a pint in the Jolly Sailor, than have to continue to put up with working with arses like Maxted? Life really is too short.