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Protesters at David Cameron's constituency office - accusing him of being in bed with the UK's energy oligarchs at the expense of people and climate. Photo: Zoe Broughton.
Protesters at David Cameron's constituency office - accusing him of being in bed with the UK's energy oligarchs at the expense of people and climate. Photo: Zoe Broughton.
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Reclaim the Power! Climate protestors rout security with UK-wide fossil fuel strikes

Oliver Tickell

1st June 2015

The fossil fuel industry and its political backers have been left reeling by an unprecedented series of direct action strikes against targets across the country to protest at continuing investment in and official support for fossil fuels, inaction over fuel poverty and the systematic neglect of renewable energy despite the global climate emergency.

Reclaim the Power wrong-footed fossil fuel industrialists, their security forces and police by striking where least expected - not at Didcot but at half a dozen other sites around the country.

In a surprise move, climate and energy protestors have struck a bewildering array of targets across the UK including David Cameron's constituency office, London PR agencies for fossil fuel and nuclear companies, a World Coal Assocation conference, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and RWE Npower offices directly implicated in exacerbating fuel poverty.

The protestors came early this morning from the Reclaim the Power 'climate camp' under the shadow of Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire, where they have been staging workshops over the weekend and preparing for today's 'day of climate action'.

As a result the Didcot B 1.36GW gas-burning plant has been on high alert in expectation of a site occupation - the 2GW coal-burning Didcot A having already closed down in 2013.

But Reclaim the Power wrong-footed fossil fuel industrialists, their security forces and police by striking where least expected - not at Didcot but at half a dozen other sites around the country.

DECC's false solutions - CCS and fracking

Among the first targets was the World Coal Association conference on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), being held today at the Institute of Directors, London. Activists blocked both front and back entrances to the conference to protesting at the coal industry's promotion of the technology, backed by DECC.

The technology is very expensive, has yet to be proven at a viable scale, increases the volume of coal that needs to be burnt in power stations by 30% or more to produce the same volume of power, and, according to the protestors, is "a smokescreen for the necessary action needed on climate change."

Protestor Sam Taylor said: "Despite the coal industry's desperate attempts, coal and other fossil fuels will never be clean and prevent the vital investments we need in renewables. CCS is a sticking plaster for our broken energy system: the government needs to stop subsidising fossil fuels, and we need a full transition to renewables now."

Another dozen protestors blockaded the steps outside the DECC offices in a move aimed at the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd - a keen proponent of fracking who who is planning to open up most of the UK to the industry, including national parks, wildlife sites and drinking water aquifers, and is leading a second 'dash for gas' in the power sector.

"Against the advice of their own Committee on Climate Change, the government has approved the construction of up to 30 new gas-fired power stations, and intends to go 'all out' for shale gas - with up to two thirds of the UK licensed for fracking", said Rowan Tilly.

"This new dash for gas is recklessly at odds with our national and international obligations on climate change. You can no longer tell where government ends and corporations begin and unless we act now we will soon find ourselves be locked into infrastructure which will burn carbon for years to come while killing off renewable energy."

Masterminded by Mediazoo? Ineos's 'campaign of fear'

Across town at Imperial Wharf, eight activists - dressed as PR executives - occupied the Fulham offices of PR firm Mediazoo to protest the company's representation of fracking giant Ineos, arriving with a banner reading "Fracking is shit. You can't polish a turd."

Mediazoo, a PR company whose website boasts extensive experience of dealing with "industrial disputes", "fatal accidents" and "child labour", are consulting Ineos on PR and media strategy. Ineos have recently pledged £640m of investment in fracking in the UK.

Ineos Upstream CEO Gary Haywood recently stated "I want Ineos to be the biggest player in the shale gas industry." Mediazoo were responsible for what UNITE described as Ineos's "campaign of fear" during the dispute at Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland when 1,400 workers fought cuts to pay, jobs and pensions.

"Communities facing fossil fuel extraction don't have big PR companies like Mediazoo to represent them, but here and across the world, we are seeing communities taking matters into their own hands to fight the energy giants and the grip they hold over our political system", said Jacob Jones, one of the activists.

"Fracking is sold to us as a way of bringing down bills, but we know its part of the same system that caused 15,000 excess winter deaths last year because people couldn't afford to heat their homes. It's time to take back energy from the dirty big six and reclaim the power."

Hanna Wheatley, another protestor at Mediazoo, said: "The burgeoning fracking industry in the UK is locking us into another generation of dirty energy that we can't afford. We can't let Ineos and their mates here at Mediazoo spin a web of lies around fracking - you can't polish a turd."

Seven protestors at Mediazoo are reported to have been arrested.

Greenwashing nuclear - but not today!

Meanwhile a dozen activists struck Soho based PR company Camargue, and turned it into a nuclear contamination zone - an action aimed at the firm's client Horizon Nuclear Power.

Boiler suit clad activists cordoned off Camargue's building with hazard tape in protest against the company's business dealings with nuclear energy companies.

Horizon, wholly owned by Hitachi since 2012, intends to build up to three 1.35GW nuclear reactors on each of its two existing nuclear sites at Wylfa on Anglesey, Wales, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

"The public has a right to be informed about the real dangers of nuclear - from cancer to contamination to climate change", said protestor Clare Jones from Reclaim the Power. "For the cost of building one nuclear power station you could build over 1000 offshore wind turbines."

RWE NPower - fossil-fuelled fuel poverty

Meanwhile in Swindon, two protestors accessed the roof of RWE Npower's offices and draped a banner down the building's facade, while others remained at the front entrance.

RWE NPower is one of the 'Big Six' energy companies who control the UK's energy supply, owned by Germany's RWE, one of the EU's biggest fossil fuel polluters, owning a huge open cast coal mines in Germany. The profit of the 6 biggest UK energy companies has increased tenfold between 2007 and 2013.

Joline, a protester in Swindon said: "I am doing this in solidarity with our friends in Germany, occupying and defending the last precious corner of the 5,500 hectares of the Hanbacher forest from the open cast mine owned by RWE."

Another ten protestors struck at RWE Npower offices outside Leeds, which administers the company's prepayment meters and debt collection divisions - systematically discriminating against the poorest consumers by making them pay the highest tariffs for their energy use.

Carrying a banner reading "Fight the Npower", the group locked themselves across the entrance to the offices. These offices are  RWE Npower were targeted for their role in escalating fuel poverty, while receiving massive government subsidies.

Keith, a protester from Hebden Bridge, said: "We're here today to highlight the hypocrisy of big energy companies profiting from a continued investment in destructive fossil fuels. RWE npower pay no corporation tax, while forcing the most vulnerable people deeper into fuel poverty through the use of prepayment meters, standing charges and debt collection."

In the last three years RWE Npower made nearly £800 million pounds in profit but paid no corporation tax. Up to 15,000 people are estimated to die each year in the UK as a result of fuel poverty. Meanwhile households' annual gas bills are expected to rise by £250 a year for the next five years.

Maisie Bell, a Care assistant from Bradford, added: "RWE Npower are the biggest CO2 emitter in Europe. They are committing us to untold damage from climate change, while taking none of the responsibility. We're here today to highlight the hypocrisy of big energy companies profiting from a continued investment in destructive fossil fuels."

We accuse you, David Cameron!

And later this morning activists held a 'love in' in an impromtu bed outside Prime Minister David Cameron's offices in his Witney constituency. "Despite Cameron's professed support for renewable energy, the new Tory government are in bed with the fossil fuel industry", said Reclaim the Power's Ms Stacey.

"This continued cosying up with the 'Big Six' energy companies has got to stop. Corporations are raking in the profits from dirty energy, whilst Britain's most vulnerable citizens are dying from fuel poverty, unable to heat and power their homes.

Video: Cameron 'sleep in' outside his Witney office by Zoe Broughton.

"Cameron claims to be a supporter of clean energy but his actions speak otherwise. If his government continue their support of the Big Six, they are putting the world on a fast track for destructive and irreversible climate change. People all over the world are building community-led renewable solutions to replace fossil fuels and its about time we got with the programme."

Reclaim the Power, a direct action network that aims to draw the dots between the fossil fuel industry, climate change, and corporate power, have previously held protest camps in Balcombe and Blackpool, targeting fracking firm Cuadrilla and its associates.

Today's unprecedented suite of actions was timed to coincide with the opening of UN climate negotiations in Bonn, a critical stage in the lead up the the main COP21 climate talks in Paris this December.

 


 

More information: Reclaim the Power.

Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.

 

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