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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another dash for gas

Remember the Miners Strike back in the 1980s? History has shown that it wasn't about saving jobs and keeping pits open, but a clash of ideologies, and a power struggle between Thatcher and Scargill. Scargill had to be stopped, but every now and then he spoke a word of truth (as all good liars do). He said that the UK was sitting on over 300 years worth of coal, enough to make the UK self sufficient. However, Thatcher wasnt having any of it. In order to destroy Scargill, she also destroyed the coal mining industry. Before it had a chance to recover, the green movement had gained a foothold, and we are now living with the consequences of substituting one looney ideology (communism) with another (the green movement)

I remember a crazy decision by Oxfordshire County Council to allow the coal used to generate electricity at Didcot Power Station to be brought in by road instead of by merry-go-round train. It increased traffic levels enormously, and did untold harm to the road system as they increased the weight of the lorries. And all to stop the unions from having any control over the power supply (by stopping the coal from getting to the power stations).

Another crazy ideology that helped destroy this country's self reliance was the selling off of the Electricity Industry. The consumer was supposed to have more choice in where he bought his electricity, but the undeniable reality is that the only savings on offer were in the accounts department, not in the generation or supply of power. I buy my electricity from Scottish Power, but the electricity doesn't come from Scotland. It comes from the Grid.

At the end of the 1980s we had a government monopoly on electricity and gas supplies. Being Nationalised, it meant that we all owned a share. We were offered shares in our own utility companies, and the industry was split up into smaller pieces in order to provide "competition". The bosses of the newly privatised companies morphed into the first of a new breed- fat cats. The boss of the Anglian Water Authority earned about £40k. Two years later, the same boss, this time of Anglian Water, earned ten times that. For what? Doing essentially the same job.

The power companies, by virtue of the subsidies given by the government, became very attractive and were soon changing hands. Within a few years they were in foreign hands. So much for self-reliance.

There was money to be made from electricity generation. European regulations decreed that the older nuclear power stations be closed down, and the green movement lobbied hard to prevent any more being built. The disaster at Chernobyl, which was caused by engineers deliberately overriding the safety systems in order to see what would happen, sealed the fate of the nuclear power industry.

Coal was anathema. So was nuclear. What would take their place?

The dash for gas saw lots of small gas powered generating plants built across the country- at a time when our gas fields were life expired, so they had to run on imported gas. There was a rumour that they could be adapted to burn chicken shit, but so far none has been adapted. They could be adapted to burn household rubbish, but the green movement has stopped that as well.

So we now find ourselves still sitting on 300 years of coal. The coal burning process has been cleaned up so that emissions are now comparable to burning gas, but the green movement's influence means that new coal-fired plants aren't being built. Indeed, they want to close down the existing coal fired plants. They haven't said how we are to make up the shortfall in generating capacity.

Last week the government announced plans to built thousands of windfarms in the North Sea. Denmark is touted as the "greenest" country in Europe, because of the vast numbers of wind powered generators. What they neglect to say is that for most of the time the Danes have to import electricity from their neighbours, because the windmills don't work if there's too little wind, or if there's too much. They also don't work if they're iced up.
Last week they cut the gas supply to many businesses in the UK, as there were difficulties with maintaining the supply, which now comes from Norway and Russia, neither of whom can be said to be our friends.
While this was happening, the government announced that more gas-fired power stations would be built in order to make up the shortfall in generation capacity.
We will then be totally at the mercy of the wind and potentially hostile foreign governments for our electricity.

And we are still sitting on 300 years of coal. Successive governments are preventing this resource from being exploited for entirely ideological reasons.
1. The hatred of union power.
2. The false promise of privatisation
3. The Green Movement.
4. The destruction of the working class, now replaced by a people totally reliant on government handouts, and unwilling to work for it.

The ultimate outcome of competition is that there is only one winner left standing. Breaking up a nationalised monopoly will ultimately result in a privatised monopoly or cartel, beyond our control.
It is also short sighted to have to rely on our foreign competitors for our gas and electricity. They will happily sell to us as long as we can pay, but what if the price is jacked up? Russia cut off supplies to the Ukraine last year. What if they use their gas monopoly as a political weapon?
What if the UK loses its AAA rating and is judged a bad risk? What if we can't afford to buy from abroad? What if the foreign companies withdraw from the UK and turn out the lights as they leave?

This is how empires die. destroyed from within in return for political favours.
Here's the article that inspired this.

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