Coal giant dictates government climate policy

Posted by bex — 31 January 2008 at 7:50pm - Comments

One email, four words and six minutes: that’s how long it took for the government to reverse its energy policy and trash our chances of meeting our climate change targets.

We’ve got our mitts on some government documents which show how a single angry email from E.on destroyed a central pillar of the government’s energy policy in just a few minutes.

E.on, you might remember, is the German company that wants to build the first new coal fired power plant in the UK for 30 years at Kingsnorth in Kent, which will pump out as much CO2 as thirty developing countries combined. The company is the biggest greenhouse gas polluter in the UK and, it seems, holds more sway over government policy than, say, the world’s foremost climate scientist. When E.on says jump, the government jumps.

We’ve known for a while that the government wants new coal, and that it’s been using the myth of “clean coal” (coal with carbon capture) to justify its desire – despite the fact that coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels, and that the carbon capture technologies don’t actually exist.

In an email to the government – which we got hold of under the Freedom of Information Act - E.on snaps at the government, saying that business minister John Hutton “has no right to withhold approval” of the new plant.

E.on also tells the government not to include carbon capture and storage in their conditions for building the new coal plant.

It took the government just six minutes to reply: “Thanks. I won’t include.” Just like that. (It's a shame the thousands of emails you've sent to John Hutton and Gordon Brown asking them to say no to new coal didn't have the same impact.)

In the same email, E.on admits that carbon capture doesn’t exist (or, in their words, it “has no current reference for viability at any scale”), exposing the government’s energy policy and E.on's media strategy – based on a faith in the potential of carbon capture technology to deliver 'clean coal' – as hollow.

It's now completely obvious that the company and the government are only interested in pressing ahead with a conventional, polluting plant as soon as possible - regardless of the implications for our carbon emissions targets.

Just one week after this email was written, ministers told us that we’d be generating 30 to 40 per cent of our electricity from renewable energy by 2020. So, what will it be? A renewables revolution, or a renaissance for the most polluting fuel there is?

We can stop climate change. There is a solution that will slash our carbon emissions and ensure energy security - watch our film to find out more. You can also write to John Hutton to demand a public inquiry into Kingsnorth. But, if these documents are anything to go by, he won’t listen to you - unless you work for a giant German energy company called E.on.

You can read the emails and documents (all pdfs) for yourself here:

Document 1
Document 2
Document 3
Document 4
Document 5

Hi
you guys should take a leaf out of the book of some activists in Nottingham. They managed to close Radcliffe power station last year and are currently on trial. They are using the same defence that Trident Ploughshares use i.e. their crime is intended to stop a greater crime viz climate change. This is the first time stopping climate change has been used as a defence (apparently) and it seems to be working. Read more about it on Nottingham Indymedia
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/...

If Greenpeace were offering a workable energy policy at a reasonable cost, maybe you would also get a civil servant to acknowledged an email as quickly.

As for the rest of the emails, it is interesting to see in number 4 the rational behind the decision to replace Kingsnorth power station, and in document 5 that it is proposed that the existing station must close within one month of commissioning of the new station.

I may be missing something here and I'm sure Bex will enlighten me but how come Medway didn't object on the grounds of para 5 of the PPS1 supplementary document in which it states, and I quote: "There is an urgent need for action. Used positively, spatial planning has a pivotal and significant role in helping:
secure enduring progress against the UK's emission targets, by direct influence on energy use and emissions, and in bringing together and encouraging others"
PPS1 makes it clear to planners and politicians that they must put climate change at the top of the political agenda. They are clearly not doing that. Also, look at paras 10 and 22 which refer to the promotion of DE.

Thanks for the link hellopo - interesting stuff. You probably know we're going to court for a committal hearing in a couple of days (facing charges of aggravated trespass and criminal damage re this), and our lawyers sent a letter about Kingsnorth to ministers this morning so, one way or another it looks as though there'll be some coal-related courtroom drama this year.

Bex
PS I've asked our coal campaigner for a more in-depth answer to your second comment than I can give. I'll get back to you - he's a little tied up today :)

All coal and gas burning power stations are a potential source of biofuels, and all new UK one's should be so set up, with old ones retrofitted
see

http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=2222
PetroSun algae farm to begin operation April 1
The USA's first commercial-scale, open-pond algae farm to produce oil as a biodiesel feedstock will begin operating near South Padre
Island, Texas, on April 1. PetroSun Biofuels Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroSun Inc., will operate the farm, which is located
on the site of a former shrimp farm,
An aerial view of the algae farm can be found at
http://tinyurl.com/2clmzc.

Hi you guys should take a leaf out of the book of some activists in Nottingham. They managed to close Radcliffe power station last year and are currently on trial. They are using the same defence that Trident Ploughshares use i.e. their crime is intended to stop a greater crime viz climate change. This is the first time stopping climate change has been used as a defence (apparently) and it seems to be working. Read more about it on Nottingham Indymedia http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/...

If Greenpeace were offering a workable energy policy at a reasonable cost, maybe you would also get a civil servant to acknowledged an email as quickly. As for the rest of the emails, it is interesting to see in number 4 the rational behind the decision to replace Kingsnorth power station, and in document 5 that it is proposed that the existing station must close within one month of commissioning of the new station.

I may be missing something here and I'm sure Bex will enlighten me but how come Medway didn't object on the grounds of para 5 of the PPS1 supplementary document in which it states, and I quote: "There is an urgent need for action. Used positively, spatial planning has a pivotal and significant role in helping: secure enduring progress against the UK's emission targets, by direct influence on energy use and emissions, and in bringing together and encouraging others" PPS1 makes it clear to planners and politicians that they must put climate change at the top of the political agenda. They are clearly not doing that. Also, look at paras 10 and 22 which refer to the promotion of DE.

Thanks for the link hellopo - interesting stuff. You probably know we're going to court for a committal hearing in a couple of days (facing charges of aggravated trespass and criminal damage re this), and our lawyers sent a letter about Kingsnorth to ministers this morning so, one way or another it looks as though there'll be some coal-related courtroom drama this year. Bex PS I've asked our coal campaigner for a more in-depth answer to your second comment than I can give. I'll get back to you - he's a little tied up today :)

All coal and gas burning power stations are a potential source of biofuels, and all new UK one's should be so set up, with old ones retrofitted see http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=2222 PetroSun algae farm to begin operation April 1 The USA's first commercial-scale, open-pond algae farm to produce oil as a biodiesel feedstock will begin operating near South Padre Island, Texas, on April 1. PetroSun Biofuels Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroSun Inc., will operate the farm, which is located on the site of a former shrimp farm, An aerial view of the algae farm can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2clmzc.

Follow Greenpeace UK