Jobs and climate change - the big issues

Dave Douglass looks at the larger issues in developing an integrated and ecological energy policy that is not at the expense of workers’ jobs

As a coal miner of 40 plus years and an activist of the NUM, I supported the Vestas workers. As I understand it, the plant made blades for OFFSHORE, wind turbines. I have no objection to these at all, provided they are far enough off shore not to scar the seascape. Even though I am against nuclear power, if this was a nuclear power plant I would still support the workers in their struggle for jobs and control of their lives. I  understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, the company made blades for US turbines not British ones? These are bigger than those applicable here. The company is scaling down its British operation because it thinks people here have too many rights, such as rights to object to the inappropriate siting of land based wind turbines. They want the right to plant them anywhere regardless of the opinion of the people in the district and region they chose to host their industry. Surely nobody can support this demand. The debate on energy is vital, but so is democracy and the right to protest.

Nationalisation of the plant under workers’ / consumers’ control is a sound demand. The plant can be refitted to make the type of off-shore blades which will be required as offshore wind turbine plants are expanded. This is NOT what the government have in mind.

Milliband instead is pushing a bill through parliament which will REMOVE the right of local people, and local and regional councils to refuse planning permission for inappropriate wind estates in national parks, moor land and mountains and other places of natural unspoiled beauty and wilderness. They will chose the form of energy, they will impose it on us, our rights to object will go. Note that some of Campaign Against Climate Change and the Climate Camp protesters by and large only support THEIR OWN right to protest, not the right to protest per se. Doubtless they will cheer this bill.

They must think on, however. The “right” to remove our rights to object to and block the building of inappropriate land wind turbine estates, also removes our rights to protest at the construction of new nuclear power stations and the mass expansion of new nuclear which will come as a adjunct to the “renewables” programme. Nobody should support this bill regardless of views on coal, nuclear or wind generation. I would take that as a given, but I bet it isn’t.

Many of those in Campaign Against Climate Change and the Climate Camp movement who are beating the drum for jobs at present but, to tell the truth, they don’t give a bugger about jobs in coal mines, coal power stations, rail freight transport etc. They want shot of these jobs. They have no programme for integrated energy, including clean coal, turbines, solar and other renewables. This is why the campaign to save the jobs of Vestas workers, which is correct and I support 100%, is being hijacked by a different agenda.

Wind power cannot, replace coal generation, fighting for turbines and against coal at the same time, means actually fighting for an expansion of wind generation true, but also increased nuclear generation, it can’t work otherwise. Wind can only be backed up by coal or nuclear. If you support wind and knock coal, you automatically support wind and nuclear. You can’t have JUST wind generation. And in case someone says I’m calling for nuclear workers to lose their jobs. I’m not, I’m saying the current generation should be phased out as its life comes to an end and not replaced. There are five times more jobs in coal generators than nuclear ones.

The campaign FOR land based wind generation is being posed as an alternative to coal power generation. The people who promote the wind estates are against coal power, even clean coal technologies which they scoff at and pour cold water on as an idea. They must know that wind generation can only be used as a supplement in power generation. Power generation must have a base load supplier which is constant. The only two base load suppliers are coal and nuclear. If you campaign against coal, you automatically are campaigning FOR nuclear. So the Campaign Against Climate Change which is thrilled to bits with wind generation and hates coal generation are actually spot on line with the governments programme. Expand nuclear power, have a green wash programme such as hugely costly and inefficient wind estates and sit on any idea of native clean coal power and revival of the British mining industry. They don’t want miners, not at home anyway.

Vestas - yes, off-shore wind turbines - yes, brown field sites turbines - yes, wholesale land-based wind turbine construction without consideration of environmental impact and preservation of unspoiled areas - NO. For clean coal power, supplemented by renewables, solar, geo-thermal, and water turbines, wave power and offshore wind.

25 August 2009

Dave Douglass is former NUM branch secretary Hatfield colliery, S Yorkshire, and political activist and author. He recently reviewed Unfinished Business, the miners’ strike for jobs 1984-5.

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