Posts Tagged ‘environmental subsidies’

XR, Drax and Knives

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

Extinction Rebellion‘s occupation of Central London was in its third day on Wednesday 17th April bringing traffic in the area to a standstill. And as there were no buses through the middle of London and those in the area around only moving at snail’s pace through near gridlock, the only way to move around was on foot or by tube. I chose to walk from Waterloo to Grocer’s Hall although the Waterloo and City line would have got me there in a fraction of the time so I could walk through XR’s ‘Garden Bridge’ still in place on Waterloo Bridge.

There were workshops and events taking place on the bridge, and only bicycles and people walking could cross. And although there was a strong police presence, while I was there they were simply standing around and watching, although I was told by the protesters there had been arrests earlier in the day, and there were people locked on below the lorry which was being used as a stage to make this more difficult to move.

Axe Drax protesters against Drax, a huge power station in Yorkshire, were as usual protesting outside the Drax AGM taking place in Grocer’s Hall in the City of London against both the incredible output of greenhouse gases it produces and the environmental damage both from the coal it burns, imported from open-cast mines which are destroying the environment and communities abroad and the wood, largely from destroying American forests by environmentally disastrous clear-felling. Drax burns more wood than the total UK production each year, and in 2018 this produced over 13 million tonnes of CO2. But nonsensical rules on environmental subsidies means that in 2018 Drax got £789 million in subsidies taken from surcharges in our electricity bills for this massive climate changing pollution. And Drax was planning to increase its pollution by building the largest gas powered generating station in the UK.

I took the tube from Bank to go back to Westminster where XR were still blocking Parliament Square and the roads around, with activities going on in and around the square and tents filling much of Broad Sanctuary.

The Axe Drax protesters had moved from the Draz AGM and were holding a protest at the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution which make Drax and its huge pollution viable. These subsidies should be used as they were intended to promote genuinely renewable low-pollution energy energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind and wave power rather than, as at Drax, increasing global heating. A few from XR had come along to support them.

Finally in a completely unconnected protest I joined the campaigners from Operation Shutdown, a consortium of “mums, dad’s and other bereaved family members and loved ones” supported by other campaigners, who had come to Downing Street calling for the community to unite and demanded more urgent action by the government to halt the growing epidemic of knife crime.

It would be hard not to feel their pain, but to demand stiffer penalties for knife and gun crime is not the answer, as we know this has not worked and simply results in the criminalisation of more in the community. But they also call for other measures some of which would certainly help in cutting these killings, mainly of teenagers and young males.


They want really determined and coordinated putting into action of the recently announced public health approach to knife crime. This has to include an end to cuts to local services including youth work and their restoration to pre-austerity levels, more adequate safeguarding, a coordinated approach to trafficking and grooming and abuse of children and young people and a proper sharing of information and accountability.

After the speeches the protesters marched the short distance to Bridge Street where they presented two wreaths to the police and held a silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, killed at Parliament by terrorists.

They then moved on to Westminster Bridge where they sat down for another lengthy rally with more speeches by relatives of those who have been killed.

Knife crime Operation Shutdown
Drax Protest at BEIS
XR around Parliament Square
Drax wood burning must end
XR Waterloo ‘Garden Bridge’ continues


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


BEIS told to Axe Drax

Saturday, March 28th, 2020
Mayer Hillman, 88 year old Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute

I arrived some time after the start of this protest by Biofuel Watch outside the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) having been at the Royal Courts of Justice for the XR Lawyers declaration of Rebellion, but was fortunately in time to hear some of the main speakers, including Mayer Hillman who has been writing about environment issues for many years – and whose work has inspired some government actions such as energy standards for housing and 20mph speed limits to reduce road deaths. But his warnings on the need for urgent climate action over many years have so far failed to produce any significant actions.

You can listen to his video “The Last and Most Important Advice I Will Ever Give” on YouTube, which puts the information on Climate Change simply and directly. Over 70% of the greenhouse gases causing global warming come from burning fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – which are produced by around 100 companies, and we have to stop using fossil fuels. The other main source is deforestation, with the destruction of forests for agricultural land and the burning of wood.

Drax is a major UK source of carbon dioxide, and claims huge ‘environmental subsidies’ for doing so, despite their huge contribution to global warming. Switching to wood burning has made Drax a worse polluter but the UK government gives it £2 million a day for ‘renewable’ subsidies out of our electricity bills for doing so – and Drax has plans for expansion to also become the UK’s largest gas-fired power station.

As Hillman says, if life on the planet is to continue we need urgently to stop both fossil fuel use and deforestation, but our current politicians have failed to take effective action. We need to vote them out and vote in others who will do so.

He urges people to join the global rebellion led by XR and for young people to be inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg and join the youth climate strike protests.

More at Biofuel Watch – Axe Drax at BEIS.

End rewarding Drax for pollution

Friday, August 9th, 2019

I’ve never felt bad about having a bonfire in the garden. We generate a lot of small branches from various shrubs and trees that have to be regularly cut back, and it’s material that mostly won’t compost. And although we have several large compost bins, we’ve found from experience that they don’t get hot enough to destroy a few really tough and troublesome weeds, So these often get put on the bonfire too, though we could pay for the council to collect them as garden waste.

All this carbon release is of short-term carbon, mostly this year’s carbon, and there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by our gardening.

And of course the bonfire produces carbon dioxide, but firstly it is only a fraction of the carbon dioxide which has been turned into wood and leaf in our garden, with the rest remaining locked in as our bushes and trees grow bushier and taller, or being eaten (and thus released) as fruit and vegetables. More too gets back in to the atmosphere from the green waste that does go into our compost bins.

Of course there are other pollutants from our very occasional garden bonfires, including particulates and doubtless toxic chemicals. But I am fairly sure that the amounts of these are relatively small and will add little to those already in our air here from the nearby roads, motorways and Heathrow.

But burning wood to produce electricity at Drax is a quite different matter. One obvious difference is that of scale: Last year Drax burnt 7.2 million tonnes of wood pellets, equivalent to at least twice that amount of green wood, and more than the UK’s total annual wood production, and released 13.02 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (in addition to another  4.36 million tonnes from coal and other fossil fuels.)

The wood burnt at Drax is ‘old’, having grown over many years, and even with the most sustainable forest planting to replace it will take more than 50 years. The majority of it comes as pellets from the USA, mostly produced from hardwood from the clear-cutting of biodiverse forest ecosystems, and the major producer, Enviva has been subject to heavy criticism both for its destruction of these swamp and wetland forests, and for locating its highly polluting pellet plants in areas of social deprivation already exposed to high levels of industrial pollution.

Drax’s carbon-producing wood burning is only financially viable because it gets huge subsidies. In 2018 these amounted to £789.2 million, This money comes from our energy bills which carry a surcharge, intended for promoting renewable electricity. It should not be used to promote highly polluting and essentially non-renewable wood burning. The subsidies are greater than the company’s annual profits and without them wood-burning would not be viable.

Drax also gets subsidies from the government for burning coal, though on a rather smaller scale, but also impossible to justify. For 2019/20 this is  £22 million, and similar subsidies are expected until 2025. It is also expected to be subsidised for burning gas, and wants to greatly expand its generation from gas.

These huge subsidies to Drax for its contribution to global warming come at at time when our government has slashed subsidies for truly renewable energy production from onshore wind and solar power as well as those for energy efficiency and conservation.

More about the protest outside Drax’s AGM in the City of London, and later outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution in two posts on My London Diary:
Drax wood burning must end
Drax Protest at BEIS


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.