Archive | February 2013

Clean Coal Technology and other myths

Power StationI’m surprised that Mike Clarke of Pontardawe Strollers lists “clean coal technology” among his “other forms of renewable energy” (South Wales Evening Post, Have Your Say, 26 February).

As someone who seeks to preserve the “unspoilt beauty” of our countryside, he should be more careful about bandying around such phrases.

Clean coal technology is a smokescreen peddled by those who seek to entice us into continued use of fossil fuels and a new “dash for gas”.

Whilst the removal of harmful gases from coal-fired emissions is technically possible, there are huge concerns around social and environmental damage and the costs and viability of disposing of removed carbon and other toxic materials.

Deployment of ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’, the most trumpeted of these technologies, is unproven and decades away from being commercialised. It is risky and expensive and leaves behind dangerous waste that has to be stored, just like nuclear power.

To list clean coal technology as renewable energy is to fall into the trap being set by those who seek to exploit the former South Wales coalfields through extraction of shale gas and Coal Bed Methane involving the highly controversial technique of Hydraulic Fracturing (“fracking”).

The damage caused by a few windmills on the hills will pale into insignificance when compared to the devastation that wide spread fracking would create in the valleys.





Please ask your MP to support this amendment to the Energy Bill

CO2Extract from a letter by Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West, received today:

“… if the UK is going to meet the ambitious and necessary target by the previous government in the 2008 Climate Change Act …, it will be necessary to substantially decarbonise electricity generation.

I am disappointed that despite the recommendations of the CCC [Climate Change Commission] and the concerted support from business, trade unions, academics and other organisations that the Government have not included this commitment in their Energy Bill …

An amendment has now been tabled to the Energy Bill that would require the Government to introduce a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill for the power sector by 1 April 2014 and I will be supporting it …”

If you believe that this government should be held to the promise to be the “greenest government ever”, please write to your MP and ask them to support this amendment.

What’s really going on with the Human Rights Act?

From well before the last General Election there was a lot of talk in Tory circles about the impact of immigration on the UK.  This has continued since the election, and has of late focussed around perceived problems with deporting “foreign criminals” once they have completed their sentence.

Last year the government issued guidance “designed to put an end to circumstances in which the right to a family life as set out in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights was used to justify granting foreign criminals the right to remain in the UK, rather than being deported.”

Yesterday the BBC reported ‘Teresa May criticises judges for ‘ignoring’ immigration rules’.  It seems the Home Secretary believes that our judges are “making the UK more dangerous”.

In an article published in the Mail on Sunday, Mrs May said that judges had “got it into their heads that the ECHR Article Eight ‘right to family life’ could not be curbed.”


Human Rights ActArticle 8 of the ECHR, which is repeated as Article 8 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998 reads as follows (my emphasis):

1.      Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2.      There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

So it seems that our judges already have all the guidance they need contained within the Act, and already have the power to deport foreign criminals should they consider it appropriate.

Why then is the Home Secretary determined to bring forward a new law making it clear that deportation should be the norm in everything but “extraordinary circumstances”?

To quote human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, could this be a “populist bit of politicking” that will affect only a “miniscule” number of cases?

Or could it be the opening salvo in the Conservative Party’s long held desire to repeal the Human Rights Act; something they are currently prevented from doing by their Coalition partners?

Now that their war on welfare is going so well, could we be about to see the opening of a second front that will culminate in an all out assault on our basic rights and freedoms, starting with the independence of the judiciary?

Israeli footballer refused entry to Dubai

(Another letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

We should not be surprised that Itay Schecter has been “blocked from entering Dubai because of his nationality” (‘Striker forced to miss Swans Middle East trip because of Israeli ban’, 12 February, page 46.)

After all, people are refused entry to the UK because of their nationality every day.  If we can pick and choose who we let into our country, then why not Dubai?

If Israel can pick and choose which rights and freedoms they allow Palestinians, even within occupied Palestine, then why not Dubai?


Keith M Ross

Blow the frackers out of Wales with renewable energy

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

wind-farmCouncillor Ioan Richard sees red after Swansea Council approves plans for a wind farm on Mynydd y Gwair (‘Ospreys fans called on to switch region’, 9 February, page 9); and Mike Clarke describes the decision as an “ill-thought through piece of civic vandalism” (‘Turbines are civic vandalism‘, Have Your Say, 12 February).

Disappointed campaigners might take one crumb of comfort from the decision.  The more renewable capacity that is installed in Wales, the less justification there will be for exploiting shale gas and Coal Bed Methane.

In “fighting for the preservation of priceless beautiful landscapes throughout Wales”, the next battle that the Pontardawe Strollers Society and others will face will be to keep the frackers out of their back yards.

Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 211 covers an area of 10,000 hectares centred on Councillor Richard’s home ground of Mawr, and stretching to the outskirts of Pontardawe.  It has been included in the draft Local Development Plan as Candidate Site MA0011: Exploration and potential development site for coal methane and unconventional gas.

This is just one PEDL area among many across the former South Wales coalfields.

The devastation that wide spread fracking would cause in the valleys will make us wonder why we ever made a fuss about a few windmills on the hills.

But the solution lies in our own hands.  In Wales we have all that we need to become 100% renewable in our energy production, both individually and as a nation.

Do that and we can tell the Westminster backed frackers just where to go with their “pernicious, greed-inspired” plans for “destroying our once green and pleasant land”.


Keith M Ross

The real truth about power subsidies

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

If Dave Lees (‘The truth is inconvenient’, Have Your Say, 2 February) is going to bandy around inconvenient truths, the least he could do is tell the whole inconvenient truth.

Subsidies required to support his preferred option of nuclear power dwarf those envisaged for renewables.

He quotes France as an example.  The proposal by French company EDF to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset will require a subsidy of at least £1billion for this station alone.  With a further six such stations proposed by the government, we begin to see the level of subsidy in its true context.

Added to this is the massive cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations and storage of nuclear waste, all at taxpayers’ expense.

Just this week we heard that the proposed Severn Barrage “would require subsidies, financed by all energy users, for the first 30 years of operation” (‘Do we need a barrage in the Severn Estuary?’, 31 January, page 30)

In his Autumn Statement last year the Chancellor announced a consultation on potential tax incentives (i.e. subsidies) for shale gas exploration.

In the modern world it seems that no one will contemplate a major power generation project without the promise of support from the public purse; while the companies involved make massive profits and pay humongous bonuses to their executives.

Strip away the subsidies and renewables are far and away the best option for the simple reason that there are no fuel costs, no need to transport the fuel and no waste to be disposed of or stored for thousands of years until it becomes safe.


Keith M Ross

The huge costs surrounding EDF's nuclear plans have alarmed even pro-nuclear groups.

The huge costs surrounding EDF’s nuclear plans have alarmed even pro-nuclear groups.

The price of coal

Coal Mining

Reaching out under Swansea Bay from Blackpill are the workings of a colliery drowned when the sea broke through into the galleries.  The owners denied that certain men had lost their lives and refused the families compensation.  Years later high tides caused the water level to rise up the old shaft in Clyne Valley, bringing with it several skeletons from the old workings.

Details of the accident are scant and I need to do some more research, but I’m guessing the accident happened around 1870 because in 1943 a local poet called John Beynon wrote the following:


We had no time to pray

who shared poverty and were brave:

a  row of faces, hung ballons,

in the darkness as the roof split

lengthwise, squashed under its hammer,

a soft melon to the forged wall

of water we could not see

but had, unwillingly, to obey:

we rolled unconscious, already drowned.


They closed the pit and a mile inland

seventy years later the sea rose up

the crumbled shaft and burst

over the long grass and lay

our bones in homage under a drying sun,

to kindle, not disown:

how we would have laughed to see

the flash of windscreens and curious eyes

as we were spat out, one by one,

the rank earth repelling all their lies

and our voiceless anger gloriously sown.

The Pickled Gherkin

If I have to tell you, you will never know.

Christopher Patrick Ross

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