Sunday, 21 October 2018

Book Review - Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption by Simon Pirani

Written by Gordon Peters

For a short time very recently the latest IPCC report on climate change hit the headlines and everyone - not just those committed to reducing it - was reminded of the accelerating costs to the planet and continuing livelihoods of carrying on the burning of fossil fuels. The report did not pull punches and said we had until 2030 to take steps well beyond any yet enshrined in policies to prevent the impending 3 degree rise this century, with the devastating impact on millions of lives, on cities, on species survival entailed.

Yet in our high consumption and celebrity news culture, that message again recedes and being able to do business as usual, or even faster, whether with Brexit or without Brexit, colonises discussions of public interest. Climate change is important perhaps, we seem to be told, but getting markets and business opportunities in order has to come first.  And the market can find further incentives to help tackle climate change.

But it is the very functioning of the market and the social and political relations constructed to maintain and enhance it which have driven fossil fuel extraction to such high levels, and just as importantly steered the ways in which technological invention and change to produce energy have developed. It took the Industrial Revolution and the drive for entrepreneurial profit, to give coal a central position in the economy. And the big acceleration in energy consumption from the 1970s following the oil shocks and crises of that decade has been driven by neo-liberal and de-regulatory capitalism.

These are conclusions drawn by Simon Pirani in this new book which traces the history of fossil fuel burning from pre-industrial times to the present day, with a comprehensive review of available data and a wide-ranging use of sources across the world. He notes the now accepted terminology of the Anthropocene but is quick to point out that what matters most is how the political economy of societies determines demands for energy and then directs technological know-how in certain directions.

Rural electrification in India varies considerably between states depending on the social, political and economic pressures at work so that where for instance a social movement was strong electrification was rolled out while elsewhere urban and industrial investment meant the poor and the countryside were neglected.

In South Africa the economic and political weight given to mining meant that electrification went in that direction and underlined the impoverishment and separation of black communities left without. Social and class forces shaped electrification everywhere. In terms of energy generation technology overall, it was with the invention of the combined-cycle gas turbine that electricity power plants became more efficient leading to large scale investment in gas pipelines, tying in carbon extraction increasingly to geopolitics.

 At the same time the global development agencies, the IMF and World Bank, played a big part in the post-crisis expansion of neo-liberal policies pushing a ‘standard model’ of electricity market reforms across the developing world, reducing subsidies, and skewing reward to foreign corporate investment with risks left to states to pick up, and growing indebtedness of countries and people.

From the 1990s fossil fuel consumption has intensified as the labour process has begun to undergo significant change, with technological innovation not only driving productivity but altering expectations of working time, of job security and employment rights, and in the tendency towards mass consumption and debt. The potential then for ‘de-coupling’ economic growth from resource use which more efficient technologies promised has been overtaken by the scale and volume of resource use, particularly oil and gas, and despite some attempts to wean off it, coal as well.

Together with rapidly increasing financialisation in the global economy, and the co-option of new technologies to restore profitability, the money created from energy transactions in the past thirty years or so has embedded fossil fuels in world trade.

There is hope in some quarters - and successes in divestment exist - for stranded assets being a way out of this vicious circle. Pirani does not discuss stranding assets as a tactic or strategy at much length. He considers the weight of vested economic and political power to have shown itself well capable of overshadowing such regulatory attempts as have been made.

It is certainly now clear that the Rio, Kyoto and Paris protocols are of themselves insufficient to make much difference, as the IPCC has found out. Closer to home we need only look at how the Conservative government has reduced support to renewables and maintains high subsidies for fossil fuel extraction. That there might be a technologically inspired route out of fossil fuel dependence which would free us from capitalist imperatives, as proposed by Paul Mason or Snricek and Williams, is given short shrift by Pirani.

History confounds them. He turns ‘automation to post-capitalism’ on its head, saying in effect that while technological opportunity is moulded by the needs of capital accumulation and reproduction, its own potential is in fact constrained, and that we need a social and economic transformation to free the technologies that will act more for natural and human benefit.

As a historian Pirani well demonstrates that left to the political elites and market reforms there is little chance indeed of de-carbonisation of the economy going far. Carbon trading does not change stock market priorities nor begin to tackle entrenched inequalities, as long as the rich world can continue to cordon itself off.

And ‘’tiptoe steps’’ such as we have are very far from enough, as all the data on most recent accelerations show so well. In a very useful chapter this book outlines how the different sectors of energy consumption add up, namely from industry, agriculture, military [so often underestimated] to transport, buildings, households and waste which situates the context so much better than the often heard division between what individuals contribute, or can do, and what the system, state or other institutions contribute, or can do.

That latter injunction –we can only do so much -too often tends to a feeling of relative powerlessness. Pirani addresses the question of power head on.  The potential of Internet related technologies to conserve energy and enhance decentralized networks for electricity distribution, and for that matter local generation and distribution, are hardly tapped at all and impeded by large scale commercial control which indeed has greatly added to wasteful consumption.

As long as market-based solutions are the vector for change such state regulation as is tried will only go so far, and much of the public discussion by elites will be at the level of paying lip service. Decentralised grids are eminently feasible, and renewables costs keep falling – but the market pricing structure and subsidies still heavily favouring fossil fuels inhibits mainstream adoption of smaller scale and renewable technologies.

This book points towards a transformative economic and social approach to the use of energy which challenges market predominance, and urges collective movement of people in situations where they mobilise their own commitment and resources for a different order capable of sustaining life and community not predicated on inexorable economic growth.

It reminds us very well that we cannot depend on existing elites, or new elites for that matter, even well-meaning ones, if the world of markets remains unscathed. It refers to protests and movements such as those in India, and in Nigeria, against corporate or state vested interests of exploitation where fossil fuel extraction and its human costs have been challenged, with some inroads made.

It does not offer particular suggestions on how collective struggles could coalesce, or where alternatives to fossil fuel dependence through technology could ally with mobilisations for economic and political change. But that is now the challenge. Preston Road anti-fracking action and the political implications now playing out show how important it is to make such alliances. Pirani’s book gives all the evidence needed to support such a movement.
Gordon Peters is a political activist and a supporter of the Ecosocialist Network

Burning Up
[Pluto Press], London, 2018

Saturday, 20 October 2018

People's Vote March - London - Photos and Report

On a beautiful autumn day in London, hundreds of thousands of people attended the People's Vote march. Organisers said that more than 670,000 people joined the demonstration, one of the biggest public protests since the anti-Iraq war march in 2003.

The weather helped to produce a carnival atmosphere and the demonstrators were in a cheerful mood. I saw no problems and the police presence was pretty low key.

The crowd was certainly large, but it is difficult to assess the scale when you are in the middle of it. Parliament Square was packed and the crowd stretched all along Whitehall, and I could only inch along the road because of the numbers pouring towards the stage where the speeches were being made.

Many of the marchers were young people, who said that their future was being ruined by the decision to leave the European Union. Two of these young people told the Evening Standard why they had decided to come on the protest. Alice Beal said: "All of us were under 18 at the time of the referendum," and Nicky Tarran said: "People say the British people have spoken, we haven't."

Friday, 19 October 2018

Is Trying to Deny Parliament a Meaningful Brexit Vote Taking Back Control?

The government is trying to bar amendments being tabled by MPs to whatever deal is struck on Brexit with the European Union (EU). MPs managed to amend the Brexit Bill to allow a ‘meaningful vote’ on the result of the negotiations, but the government seems to think that meaningful is a take it or leave it vote. The implication being that if the government loses the vote, then the default position will be to have no deal at all.

This was first revealed by Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, saying that amendments will not be allowed because amending it could prevent it from being ratified. He wrote to the Commons’ procedure committee hoping to secure its endorsement of this position, but Labour party members of the committee managed to convince the committee to seek opinions from independent constitutional experts, on whether this would be unconstitutional.

I think it would be unconstitutional and I can’t really see how the government can get its way on this. This was perhaps reflected when Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsome appeared to be accepting of this when she said yesterday that, the reality before the United Kingdom would ‘amount’ to an either/or choice on May’s deal, even if the Commons were to debate possible amendments.

It is just about possible that the government will try to use the ‘Royal Prerogative’ which is part of the British constitution, and used for mainly foreign affairs matters, like deploying the armed forces and making or unmaking international treaties. Basically, the government can use this prerogative to sideline Parliament. Although, with MPs specifically previously amending the legislation to have a proper say, it is debatable whether or not the government could bar them now.

The government used the prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, when notice was given to the EU of the UK intention to leave the bloc. Use of the prerogative remains subject to the common law duties of fairness and reason though. It is therefore possible to challenge use of the prerogative by judicial review in most cases. This is what Gina Miller did when she took the government to court, and won.

All of which leads me to think that this route will not be attempted by the government over the final Brexit deal. Some Pro-EU MPs are considering an amendment to the approval motion to authorise a second referendum, whilst hard Brexit MPs are thinking about an amendment to limit the timescale of any transition period. This is all normal constitutional and Parliamentary behaviour, if rather inconvenient to government, but it is 'taking back control' in action.

Whatever Brexiters say about upholding ‘the will of the people,’ constitutionally, the people are not ‘sovereign.’ Indeed, the referendum itself was only advisory, as all referendums are under the British constitution. Apart from where we have pooled our sovereignty with the EU, technically the Monarch is sovereign, but in practice sovereignty in the UK is held by Parliament, not ‘the people.’ You might disagree with this, but it is true all the same.

The rather vague but effective slogan of ‘taking back control’ deployed by Brexiters at the referendum, is surely meant to mean ending pooled sovereignty with the EU and returning it entirely to the British Parliament? But the way politics and politicians work, arguments are made on the basis of whatever agenda the politicians are pursuing at the time. MPs by and large know what our constitution consists of, even if it can be vague at times and is infamously ‘unwritten,’ or least not all written down in one place.

Parliament is of course divided over Brexit, and shows no signs of coming to a sensible compromise over the issue. I have argued before that joining the European Economic Area when we leave the EU would be such a sensible compromise, but there doesn’t seem to be enough support in Parliament for this. There is also no support for a no deal Brexit. So, what to do?

The way I see it, we have two options that could move the country on from where we are today. The first, is a general election, where either the government is changed or the complexion of MPs is, one way or another. The second option is to put this back to the people in another referendum, now that all of the implications have become clearer, with the option of whatever deal we are offered, or staying on our current terms. Realistically, a general election, and perhaps a referendum, will require an extension to Article 50 beyond 29 March next year.

The People's Vote March in London tomorrow (Saturday) will demand a final say referendum. Assemble at 12 noon at Park Lane, near Marble Arch, and march to a rally at Parliament Square at 2pm. More details here.     

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Do We Need to Tax Wealth Properly in the UK?

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission on Economic Justice have produced an evaluation of the taxation of wealth in the UK. The report, A Wealth of Difference’ concludes that wealth inequality is damaging the UK’s society and economy, whilst the current tax system is failing to tackle and in some cases is even exacerbating inequality. The authors propose a number of reforms to the system including replacing council tax with an annual property tax and replacing business rates with a land value tax.

Wealth Inequality in the UK

Household net wealth in Great Britain is valued at £12.8 trillion, of which 44 per cent is owned by the wealthiest 10 per cent and only 9 per cent is owned by the bottom 50 per cent of people. Wealth is twice as unevenly distributed as income in the UK, with a Gini coefficient of 0.62 for wealth compared to 0.32 for income.

Wealth refers to assets including property, financial wealth, pension wealth and physical wealth such as vehicles. Wealth inequality in the UK fell after the World Wars but has been increasing since the 1980s due to neo-liberal policies. This has been driven by increasing returns to capital compared to labour which means those who earn income from assets have seen their incomes grow more than those who work for a wage. Underlying causes include house price inflation and falling homeownership, financial asset price inflation, automation, low pay and weak labour bargaining power.

Increases in inequality have clear social implications. Beyond this, it is also limiting for economic growth. Those with greater incomes have a lower marginal propensity to consume, meaning they are more likely to hoard their wealth rather than spend it in the economy. The current system of taxation incentivises ‘rent seeking’ behaviour which means that people invest in existing assets such as housing which pushes up the price of that asset without generating any new economic output or activity.

The Current Tax System

One of the most powerful tools to combat wealth inequality is taxation to fund progressive spending. Currently, income from labour is taxed more heavily than income from wealth. Wealth in the UK is primarily taxed through capital gains tax (CGT), inheritance tax (IHT), dividend income taxation and stamp duties which bring in only 4 per cent of total tax revenues. In contrast, income and consumption taxes bring in 60 per cent of tax revenue.

The report identifies several key problems with the current system of wealth taxation: there are significant opportunities for avoidance, the system fails to raise large amounts of revenue, it creates economic distortions (for example, exemptions to CGT for first homes, encourages investment in property over other assets, differences in taxation of dividends vs income encourages senior pay to be dividend based).

The under-taxing of income from wealth compared to income from labour is regressive since wealthier individuals are likely to have greater income from assets than labour income and finally it will be fiscally unsustainable in the long run to raise sufficient revenue if income from labour continues to decline relative to income from capital.

Report Recommendations:

Tax all income from wealth under the income tax schedule

Treating income from capital as the same as income from labour from a taxation perspective would make the system considerably more progressive. In addition, it would increase incentives for labour market participation by the wealthy, raise more revenue and reduce opportunities for avoidance by simplifying the system (removing exemptions). Finally, shifting the balance of taxation towards capital rather than labour means the government will continue to be able to raise revenues in the face of increasing automation and technological change.

Abolish inheritance tax and introduce a lifetime donee-based gift tax

Wealth transfers give an unearned advantage to the recipient and work against social mobility, creating a strong social and economic justification for taxation. Inheritance tax currently has many exemptions and opportunities for avoidance that could be improved upon by a gift tax.

The report proposes taxing any gifts above a lifetime allowance of £125,000 under income tax. However without improvements to HMRC’s digital infrastructure it would have to rely on self-reporting and would require valuations of non-monetary gifts. The resolution foundation estimated such a tax could raise £15bn in 2020/21 (£9.2bn more than the current IHT).

Abolish non-domiciled status and reform the transparency of trusts

Improvements to transparency could reduce opportunities for avoidance as well as reducing the complexity of administering the system.

Introduce an annual property tax to replace council tax and eventually stamp duty.

The report recommends replacing council tax entirely with a new property tax. This wold be proportional to the present day value of homes and is different to a land value tax since it also taxes the value of the property itself. This would be levied on owners rather than occupiers (however owners are likely to pass this on in the form of higher rents).

A deferral mechanism would be needed to protect those who are asset-rich but cash-poor. Since the tax is linked to property values it would help to recapture some of the value generated by public investments in infrastructure such as new train stations. A charge of 0.5 per cent of property values is estimated to generate at least as much revenue as the current system. This could also replace stamp duty land tax in the future.  It would be possible to introduce progressive rates, exempting properties of low value and allowing for regional variation.

Introduce a land value tax to replace business rates

Land value tax has always been popular among economists. It taxes the value of the land (not the property on it) based on its most valuable use under existing planning permissions. This would penalise those who own land and do not develop it, incentivising more efficient use of land, without penalising those who make improvements to their properties. This would require considerable effort to value land regularly and establish a register of land ownership however it has been achieved in some European countries and elsewhere across the world.

Such a tax would support productive investment (unlike business rates), capture unearned rents from ownership of land and reduce incentives for speculation on land. It may also make parts of the country with less valuable land more attractive to businesses. An exemption to the first £20,000 per hectare would exclude most agricultural land. A rate of 4 per cent would generate the same value as the current business rates system.

These are all good ideas. We need to tax the wealth held in the UK more fairly if we want decent public services for all.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Stop Misdiagnosing Climate Change – the Root Cause is Capitalism

Written by Diana Stuart and Ryan Gunderson and first published at Common Dreams

The recent IPCC report has received widespread attention. The report states that rapid and bold actions are necessary to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change and that the goals of the Paris Accord will be insufficient.

This has resulted in an outpouring of opinion pieces calling for individuals to take actions in their daily lives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to pressure elected officials to take significant steps to support renewable energy. This sense of urgency is critically needed, yet most of these calls for action are misguided due to a widespread misdiagnosis of the climate change problem.

To address a problem, it is most effective to identify the root cause. One might argue that the root cause of climate change is fossil fuel combustion. However, this overlooks how our current economic system not only continues to protect and sustain the fossil fuel industry but also drives the continuous increases in production and consumption causing environmental degradation at large. What is this system? Growth-dependent capitalism. Here we focus on the impacts of that growth.

The prioritisation of economic growth is what makes highly effective actions, such as buying-out or nationalizing fossil fuels and keeping them in the ground, infeasible. A recently released UN document, related to the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report, suggests that the root cause of climate change is the economic system, namely one that prioritises profits at the expense of ecological and social well-being.

Evidence is mounting that demonstrates how prioritising a growing economy is the true driver of climate change. Data shows a positive relationship between economic growth and GHG emissions. This makes sense since GDP growth correlates with material production, including carbon: GDP growth by 1% equals a 0.6% growth in material use a 0.5–0.7% increase in carbon emissions.

Even scientists working on carbon budgets have come forward stating that reducing GHG emissions is incompatible with economic growth. While proponents of “green growth” support the idea of increasing GDP while reducing GHG emissions (known as absolute decoupling), this has yet to be realized. In most cases, decoupling in developed nations has been a result of increased carbon-intensive production in developing nations.

Greening growth through alternative energy, efficient technology, and carbon markets has had limited and paradoxical impacts. Efficiency gains are in many cases partially or completely offset by increased consumption. Because we are not implementing policies to decrease fossil fuel use, a unit of energy produced by alternative energy does not replace a unit of energy produced by fossil fuels and is correlated with increased total energy use. In a system prioritising economic growth the effectiveness of green alternatives will continue to be constrained by increasing levels of production and consumption.

In addition, market mechanisms that prioritise profit have not slowed climate change. The EU Emissions Trading System, the oldest and largest carbon market, has not dramatically reduced emissions. In 2017, the EU policy director stated that “the EU carbon market will continue to fail at its task to spur green investments and phase out coal.” Due to these realities, we need to move beyond an economy that prioritises growth.

But isn’t economic growth critical for a thriving society and human well-being? Actually, economic growth has only been a social priority for a relatively short time. As stated by ecological economist Herman Daly, it is largely believed that “without economic growth all progress is at an end.” He counters this belief by asserting, “[o]n the contrary, without growth . . . true progress finally will have a chance.” Stopping economic growth doesn’t mean we cannot meet our needs. We will still have enough. We will simply put an end to the production and consumption of more and more unnecessary things that harm us and the environment for the sake of a 3% annual increase in GDP.

In fact, studies show that economic growth that goes beyond satisfying basic needs does not increase happiness. What it does is push us beyond ecological limits in dangerous ways. By putting growth in its place, we can prioritise people, climate, and prosperity before profit. More and more people are starting to question whether a capitalist system that prioritises profit and growth above all is really a good thing. 

These ideas are spurring on an increasing number of academic and activist projects that offer alternatives. For example, the degrowth movement supports planned economic contraction and dematerialization in developed nations. Degrowth proponents explain why people would be happier in this new economic system. While there would be reduced total material production and consumption, there would be growth in social services, well-being, sharing, community agriculture, energy and worker cooperatives, not to mention a stronger sense of community.

This does not necessitate living without modern conveniences, just not more and more of them.  A range of degrowth policies have been proposed, including work time reduction, which has been shown to reduce material production, energy use, and GHG emissions while increasing health and well-being. Policies to reduce working hours would represent a critical step in restructuring our economy to address climate change.

Perhaps this all seems radical. That would be appropriate, as the word “radical” from the Latin radicalis means relating to the root. To accurately diagnose the climate change problem, we have to get at the root – our economic system. As the authors of the UN document explains, we need to “focus on life-improving and emissions-reducing goals rather than abstract economic goals.” They call for a new system where “economic activity will gain meaning not by achieving economic growth but by rebuilding infrastructure and practices toward a post-fossil fuel world with a radically smaller burden on natural ecosystems.”

They conclude by making clear that “states are the only actors that have the legitimacy and capacity to fund and organize large-scale transitions.” While communities move forward with important projects that put ecosystems and people first, we also need to push our governments to recognize economic growth as the root cause of climate change and implement policies to re-create our economy.

Diana Stuart is an Associate Professor in the Sustainable Communities Program and in the School of Earth and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. Her work focuses on climate change mitigation and adaptation, agriculture, conservation, animals studies, political economy, and social theory.

Ryan Gunderson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Justice Studies in the Department of Sociology and Gerontology and Affiliate of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability at Miami University. His research interests include environmental sociology, the sociology of technology, social theory, political economy, and animal studies.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Friday, 12 October 2018

Meet the Real UK Scroungers – the Royals

Princess Eugenie today married Jack Brooksbank, a “tequila ambassador,” whatever that may be, in Windsor. The lavish wedding was replete with carriage drawn by four white horses, and is estimated to have cost the public purse around £2 million, in security, policing and road closure costs, although it has probably cost UK tax payers a great deal more. Princess Eugenie is the daughter of the Andrew and Sarah, the Duke and Duchess of York, and ninth in line to the throne.

Eugenie, who is employed as a director at the London art gallery Hauser & Wirth, does not receive any money from the sovereign grant, which replaced the civil list, but is supported from her father’s private income. But who pays what for Royal marriages is a somewhat murky area.

Campaign group Republic, whose petition for no taxpayers money to be used has attracted almost £50,000 signatures, says that the cost to tax payers could well be considerably higher than the £2 million official ‘estimate.’ The wedding appears to be of similar scale as Harry and Meghan’s (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) wedding earlier this year, a wedding that they say cost taxpayers over £35 million, and was officially estimated at £2 million. A spokesperson for the group added:

“Taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much money is being spent and which of our public services are being diverted to make the wedding possible. The government should make transparency the priority and publish a report of all costs to taxpayers.”

Eugenie doesn’t receive any money directly from the ‘Sovereign Grant’ but her father does, although I’ve been unable to find out how much exactly he does get. It is likely that he also gets money from his mother too, the Queen. Funding for the Sovereign Grant also comes from a percentage of the profits of the Crown Estate revenue (initially set at 15%) and will be reviewed every five years. Last year these profits totalled £304 million. This property though was in some way plundered in the past from whoever owned the buildings and land.

The Queen also generates income from her land and property portfolio. These assets are known as the Duchy of Lancaster and are held in trust for the sovereign. The Duchy is managed and run for the Queen and she receives all the net profits – about £12.5 million a year at the last count. This income is referred to as the Privy Purse. Again this land was plundered at some stage in history by the Royals ancestors.

The Duchy of Lancaster is one of two royal duchies, the other being the Duchy of Cornwall which provides income to the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales is entitled to the annual net revenue surplus of the Duchy, which was worth £20.8 million last year. Prince Charles also receives money from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.

All of which leads to staggeringly casual wasteful spending on the part of the Royals, Prince Andrew, for example, squandered £14,692 on a round trip to see the golf at Muirfield. His younger brother, Prince Edward, meanwhile, took a £46,198 charter flight to Sofia, Bucharest and Ljubljana.

Although, Republic’s petition has attracted almost 50,000 signatures, which is pretty modest by on-line petition proportions, I noticed from television footage and reports, that there was only a sparse crowd that came out to watch proceedings, despite free tickets being offered to the public.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who is remotely interested in this wedding, of what is a fairly minor member of the Royal family. I’d bet most people didn’t even know who Eugenie was, until this wedding story broke. I do sense a growing ambivalence from the British public to the monarchy generally these days, if not outright hostility.

Some have tried to compare the policing costs of this wedding to that of public demonstrations, but organisers do provide their own stewarding and protest is a fundamental part of our democracy. The Monarchy and assorted hangers on are merely a reminder of our undemocratic constitution and practices.

It doesn’t seem to me to be right, when the population at large are being asked to tighten their belts further after eight years of austerity, with benefits cut for the poorest in the country, leading to a rising number of suicides, that such largesse with public funds should be permitted, when it comes to royal weddings.  

Thursday, 11 October 2018

National Climate Crisis Demonstration - No to Fracking – Saturday 20 October

Written by Allan Todd

In my most recent blog about developments at the fracking protest at Preston New Road (PNR) in Lancashire, I’d suggested it was important to start disrupting the days of the various facilitators of fracking - and that, with the first horizontal frack in the UK about to take place, a national demo at PNR was an absolute priority.

A week that just kept on giving!

Well, the week or so that followed that blog post turned out to be a time that just ‘kept on giving’!!

Just to list those ‘gifts’ briefly:

Monday 1 October - a 9-person (Yes- 9!!) lock-on that began on that week’s Green Monday, & lasted until Wednesday 3 October!

The start of the 9-person lock-on

On the same day, the 100 Women & the Lancashire Nanas paid a visit to the Tory Conference in Birmingham.

The 100 Women outside the Tory Party Conference

Thursday 4 October - yet another truck surf at PNR!

Truck surfing at PNR!  

Friday 5 October - just hours after Cuadrilla had released a statement that they’d do the first frack on Monday 8 October, two local anti-fracking campaigners - Helen Chuntso & Bob Dennett - WON an interim injunction AGAINST Cuadrilla, which stopped them from fracking until a proper inquiry into the environmental & emergency safeguards that Lancashire County Council have (or haven't!) got in place!

Saturday 6 October - That Saturday saw over 300 people march, in solidarity with the FrackFreeThree, from Preston Railway Station to Preston Prison. The noise from drums & whistles easily penetrated the walls of the prison, & a text from one of the 3 currently imprisoned there confirmed they had heard the protesters.

Demo in Preston for the FackFreeThree

Monday 8 October - Frack Free London decided to pay a visit to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in London, where they erected - under the new ‘permitted development’ rules the Tories are planning to push through - a 4m-high fracking rig!!

‘Permitted development’ in London!

A Red & Green Alliance?

The Green Monday on 8 October saw what, hopefully, may be the first real ‘shoots’ of a Red-Green Alliance - not just against fracking, but also to do all that can be done to get rid of this Tory government: which, surely, has to include an effective but mutual Red-Green electoral pact?

The first speaker on Monday was Clara Paillard of Merseyside PCS trade union - and one of the founder-members of Red Green Labour: an ecosocialist group which aims to make the Labour Party ‘greener’.

 Clara Paillard, of the PCS union, speaking on Mon. 8 October

Clara’s very passionate speech:

was followed, later in the day, by a visit from Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. After she had spoken, several people present asked her to make a real effort to get Jeremy Corbyn to come up to PNR - & so honour his two promises to come to show his support.

 A national CLIMATE CRISIS demonstration

In a week when the United Nations IPCC warned that we must reduce carbon emissions sharply over the next twelve years if we are avoid climate disaster, we are bringing it all together with a national demo on Saturday 20 October at Preston New Road, Lancashire.

Given that the recent IPPC Report has said that the world needs to urgently abandon all fossil fuel use, & that Cuadrilla will soon carry out its first frack, Frack Free Lancashire have called for a national demonstration to show that we say ‘No!!’ to fracking - not just in Lancashire, but anywhere in England. 

The day will begin at Maple Farm Nursery [on the A583, PR4 3PE] from 11.00am onwards. There will be speakers, music and food. Friends of the Earth are backing this demo in a big way - including giving some help towards transport costs for those groups needing to book coaches and minibuses. You can find out more about that via this link:

More details - & updates - can be found on this Facebook events page:

Planet Earth needs YOU!!

For all these reasons - and more - we need YOU to make a special effort to come and join us at PNR on Sat. 20 October. Bring banners & placards - and LOADS of friends! In view of the IPCC Report, this demo must surely ‘trump’ any other event that weekend.

Allan Todd is a member of Allerdale & Copeland Green Party, an anti-fracking activist and a Green Left supporter