Kingsnorth is dead, long live Nuclear

Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire: a Victorian relic
Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire (Flickr user: Jonobass)

Great news today for eco warriors everywhere – E.ON have pushed back their plans for the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant by three years. As a result, the project will not be completed until 2016, if at all. The German electricity company cite the state of the economic market as their reason, but they are callous not to acknowledge the impact of Green protest groups such as Greenpeace and Climate Camp.

Kingsnorth has long been seen as a symbol of backward-thinking policy, and this delay will be celebrated as a huge victory, mainly because it makes the project all the less likely to ever be completed. If E.ON think the conditions for building a coal-fired power station are bad now, then enthusiasm for burning fossil fuels is unlikely to improve in seven years time as we approach peak oil. For Green activists, this should be seen as evidence that protesting and lobbying does work and can make an impact on multi-national corporations, just don’t expect them to admit that you’ve won.

Many will be sceptical of the impact that Greenpeace and Climate Camp have had and claim that global economic factors play a much larger role  in these decisions. Even if this is true, it should still provide encouragement for environmental protesters. Recent predictions suggest that the recession has resulted in a 3% global reduction of greenhouse gases. There has never been a better time to drive home the point that there are cheap, workable and cleaner ways of producing electricity. The time and effort spent on Kingsnorth could have been much better spent researching alternatives. E.ON claims to be leading the charge in developing Nuclear power to tackle the global threat of climate change (their words, not mine), now they need to put their money where their mouth is and give up on Kingsnorth for good. Coal is dead and should be resigned to the Victorian age.

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G20: The view from the frontline

Firsr damage at Threadneedle Street
First damage at Threadneedle Street

Violent, anarchist protesters grabbed headlines yesterday by smashing their way into a branch of RBS on Threadneedle street, effectively stealing Barack Obama and Gordon Brown’s thunder. Whilst this certainly got people’s attention, it is hardly the most effective way to convince the G20 to listen and act responsibly on the climate and economic crises.

At the frontline the atmosphere was electric – crowds pushing, chants erupting out of nowhere – not dissimilar to a heavy-metal gig or a music festival. It was hard not get swept up with the call and response: “Whose streets? Our streets!”

But it didn’t have to be like this. Had the Metropolitan Police not pursued such stubborn ‘kettling’ tactics on the protest at the Bank of England, the damage could have been mitigated. Admittedly, there were several thugs who were intent on violence, but their ire was spurred on by the thousands of peaceful protesters who had been trapped in this small part of the square mile.

Police surrounded the main area, blocking all the exits by standing shoulder to shoulder and refused to allow protesters to leave “until the protest was over” for fear of the various London protest groups combining to form a riot, but the frustration of being penned in one area for hours without food, water or toilets is enough to make borderline dissidents turn to violence. Such controversial ‘kettling’ practices were only deemed legal in January.

Helicopter hovers over the G20 protest
Helicopter hovers over the G20 protest

Police stood by in full riot gear, but remained calm to the rising tide of anger. Photos were taken from rooftops and helicopters hovered ominously. The basic tactic seemed to be: “Let them loot and smash all they want, we’ll arrest them later.” After half an hour of unbridled window smashing, egg throwing, smoke-grenade lobbing and curtain ripping, 24 police horses were brought in to force the crowd back. In our modern times it is humbling to see such graceful creatures and their composure amidst the chaos. Melanie Reid has written an excellent column about this over at Timesonline.

Eventually an exit was opened, but there was no mass rush to escape. Rather, the disinterested protesters were left to find this back-door on their own. The majority of the protest was peaceful and colourful; full of dancing and accompanied by music from Billy Bragg and Get Cape. Wear Cape Fly. However, without a powerful enough PA to address the entire crowd, the event lacked focus or guidance.

A campaigner talks into a kinetic energy-powered PA at Climate CampClimate
A campaigner talks into a kinetic energy-powered PA at Climate Camp

Over at Bishopsgate, the Climate Camp protest was a much more peaceful affair. The hippie atmosphere provided a welcome relief and the level of debate and discussion was far more intellectual.

One speaker used a PA system powered by kinetic energy from a bicycle and invited passers-by to play climate change Top Trumps. If meaningful global change is going to come from direct action and protest, this seems like a much more likely source than the aggressive anarchist tactics which were unleashed at Threadneedle Street.

I took all of the above photos – to see more and two video clips from this protest, visit my Flickr stream page. My partner-in-crime Abby Edge has a lovely slideshow of photos she took on the day and some great analysis over at her blog, Grassy Roots.