THE KEYSTONE FOR SOCIETY IS DEMOCRATIC OWNERSHIP OF…
PRIVATISATION – PROFITS PRIORITISED
It is no accident that the asset stripping of public services was initiated by immorally gaining control of the basic needs of life; that is our need for water, for energy, and the means for our communication. This has allowed and encouraged abuse of the majority of the world’s population and has resulted in corruption such that there is now such imbalance of access to all resources that we face ultimate extinction as a species sooner than many people realise or contemplate.
Consider that suppliers of our energy control everything we do. For energy it is the spark which ignites the bonfire, the energy bound within the glucose which allows our hearts to beat, and indeed energy is exchanged in some way in every chemical reaction.
So then, it is no surprise that is was the foresight of a research chemist, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher who realised that privatisation , and hence control the supply of energy would allow ultimate control of societies, and so it has been proven, and has ensured massive profits for the Energy Companies.
Those who held ownership of the energy companies profited increasingly more as vast quantities of energy were consumed exponentially, seemingly providing justification for wars to be fought in pursuit of yet more oil, more oil-thirsty products which were so very quickly discarded.
This very act not only facilitated the massive acquisition of wealth for the very few, but instilled them with influence and power beyond reason. Where profit is the stimulus beyond efficiency, where it is pursued without consideration of the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change or without reference to sustainability, it is inevitable that chaos will result. Not only has this resulted in the greatest gap between rich and poor and widespread poverty, but it has added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere so resulting in Climate Change. We must reduce our carbon production, vastly reduce our energy consumption and use alternative energy sources which do not release carbon into the atmosphere. (Carbon Footprint) This is a direct consequence of Margaret Thatcher’s policies of privatisation, the free market and neo-liberalism. We need to redress the balance so that the interests of people and the planet are again the priorities.
We need to reprogram our thinking. These energy companies have power only because we allow it. If we can produce our own energy, or a large proportion of it, we gain control of our destiny. If we can employ people locally, we not only provide them with jobs we re-instil self respect. How preferable is this than soaring unemployment? We waste our most precious resource – ourselves. It is our labour, skills, and knowledge, which create the wealth, not mouse-clicks in some Tax Haven. That is what cannot be sustained. It is that which has no real meaning.
TIME TO PULL THE PLUG
The evidence is clear; the government’s policy of heavy dependence on nuclear energy is unaffordable, as Michael Meacher (MP) writes,
“ On the cost of new nuclear plants, all the available evidence shows that it is realistically 2-3 times the Government’s forecast.”
Real danger is yet to be faced resulting from entrusting basic human needs such as energy, water or indeed health (NHS) to privatised companies. If ever the companies feel there are no longer profits to be made, the companies can pull out, take their winnings to gamble elsewhere. We would then be left to provide those services having lost the assets we paid for.
“Now that the electricity sector is privatised and open to competition, any company whose power is too expensive will simply go out of business. This is precisely what happened in 2002 when the privatised nuclear generation company British Energy collapsed, and the Government had to rescue it at a cost to the taxpayers of more than £10bn. If that is the cost of nuclear energy, is it viable, and do we want it? ” Michael Meacher “The Government’s energy policy is in deep trouble.”
Despite, this the Big Six Energy Companies who sit on massive profits, increased tariffs further and pushed more and more people into fuel poverty, leaving us to question morality. ndeed, evidence from Which ( as reported in the Independent ) has recently come to light describing dubious sales techniques and mis-selling.
The Independent reports:
The Big Six energy firms are set to announce bumper profits of £15bn in the next few weeks.
The figures for 2011 will be £2bn higher than the previous year’s profits, according to forecasts from financial analysts. Meanwhile, with the Met Office predicting more freezing weather, Britain’s estimated 5.5 million households struggling in fuel poverty will be forced to decide whether they can afford to turn on their heating.
They may be unelected, but it seems The Big Six can influence policy nevertheless, ensuring that energy policy favours them, for example Michael Meacher expresses concern that the Big Six energy companies are free to influence the Department of Energy and Climate Change. (DECC)
“In the 18 months since the election there have been no less than 195 meetings between DECC ministers and the energy industry. Even more telling, over 50 personnel from oil, gas and nuclear companies such as EDF, npower and Centrica have been working on energy issues within government over the last 4 years. Companies only second their senior staff to government if they are likely to get a good return in terms of insider knowledge, preferential treatment and the general benefits of influence.”
“It is highly disturbing that at a time of sharply rising energy prices, steadily falling real incomes, and risks to the elderly from a lengthy cold freeze and hypothermia, it is the energy companies regularly reporting quarterly profits in billions which now increasingly have their finger on the DECC windpipe.
Is DECC, is the government indeed, the regulator of the big corporations or their facilitator?”
Cameron’s “most green government ever” claim would be laughable, were it not so deadly not only for those elderly people unable to meet this winter’s fuel costs while their pensions shrink, but for the planet as a whole, and the prospect of meeting the government targets for Zero Carbon Britain 2030 is wildly off target.
It is ominous that manipulation of the media ensures that the reality about Climate Change is not universally understood. There is no doubt that there are even measures to control the curriculum in UK schools
We have witnessed stubborn refusal for reconsideration of an expensive nuclear policy. Ed Miliband’s Feed–in-Tariffs was more far-sighted policy and should be extended. Green initiatives such as this provide employment, in addition to making some impact in carbon reduction. With unemployment figures rising yet again, we should be setting up more schemes such as this. However, there is no long- sightedness from this Coalition government, no serious concern for the prospect of Climate Change, and a despicable lack of concern for the welfare of the vulnerable in fuel poverty.
Margaret Thatcher’s policies were flawed. Quite clearly there is a conflict of interests. Privatised companies are motivated by profit; that is how markets work. It is a government’s responsibility to ensure their citizens are secure and that their basic needs are met, otherwise I can see no purpose having a government at all. It is not acceptable for the rich and powerful who have profited from neoliberism to hold governments and people to ransom, as they have, quite literally our life in their hands. Such inappropriate use of power leads to predatory governments which simply facilitate the parasitic activities of the global markets.
Margaret Thatcher’s experiment is over. It has failed.
An incoming Labour Government’s priority must be to ensure our Energy supply is democratically owned and controlled once again. Labour must begin to build again, a caring, sharing and sustainable society, something such as Richard Murphy describes in “The Courageous State.”
BUILDING THE NEW SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY
A national, coherent energy policy, which a future Labour/Left government must pursue, is outlined here:
1. Energy Jobs will be created from government supported green energy schemes e.g. (Feed-in-Tariffs )
2. Policies, which rejuvenate local manufacturing industries and trade must be encouraged, so providing local employment. ”Fair Trade” information should be displayed on every item – in addition to transparency providing information about the energy used to produce and to transport a product, as well as consideration of ethics and “clean planet’ guarantees.
3. Investment in energy must be redirected from fossil fuels and towards the production of energy by sustainable means, including solar, geothermal, biofuel, HEP, wind, wave and tidal power. This can be achieved and it is affordable without use of damaging, polluting, expensive-to-maintain nuclear power, or fossil fuels such as coal, which have a limited supply.
4. Public buildings should be energy-sustainable or near-sustainable, and solar and other renewable energy sources retrospectively installed into every public building.
5. Government policy should ensure that new homes are energy-efficient, purpose-built sustainable homes, using materials designed to capture energy, such as photovoltaic roof-tiles. They should be well insulated using high insulating materials and designed to consume as little energy as possible.
6. Products should display information not only about energy efficiency, but it is not acceptable that they are prematurely discarded. Users need information about how to repair them too. Companies should train technicians to repair items at affordable prices. It is unacceptable to be told that an item is cheaper to replace than repair. Companies must also take responsibility for recycling.
7. More investment in recycling for products, which are beyond repair, and the inclusion of materials, which are recyclable, should always be the aim.
8. It is not acceptable that we have a North/South geographical divide and that we waste energy in transporting people and products unnecessarily. A policy which prioritises and puts people first dictates that there should be investment for jobs where they are needed, not where it is convenient for profits or targeting cheap labour at the cost of lives.
9. Transport policy should aim to minimise travel as a priority, because much travel is unnecessary and undesirable. Furthermore, we should Invest in public transport and make it free at point of use. A transport policy must be introduced which addresses this, ensures energy efficiency, and use of non carbon producing sustainable fuels such as biofuels, and electricity.
10. Research is essential for real progress. It is no accident that fewer new initiatives and inventions come from the UK than in the past – when it becomes so costly to study. Investment in Scientific research, and encouragement and financial support for students providing free education is essential. Learning, like Health and Utilities should not be for profit.
11. Multinationals’ ownership of energy supplies must end. The owners’ true identity remains secretive, as does the whereabouts of this funds accrued without fair taxes having being paid. They profit from us but pay no tax to us. This is a one-way street. Transparency of world trade must be introduced internationally. Rather than allowing the profits of our labour to be siphoned off to multi-national companies, democratic ownership and control must be restored. Workers co-operatives could be set up for industries following the government’s green policy. Workers and local communities should reap benefits not predatory financiers.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said, “There’s no such thing as society.” One wonders what a lonely sad existence anyone must have had to believe that – perhaps she did. Her legacy is the impersonal world we now have, the everyone-out–for themselves world which began in the 80s and carried on shamefully by New Labour.
Society needs to be rebuilt – not Cameron’s Big Society but a real society, one where the welfare and well-being of people are the priority and not binary digits on some remote computer.
In the rebuilding of our new society, energy will be the keystone which will provide the foundation for further sustainable development. If we consider that the alternative is a society without hope, then we must recognise that the values of Mrs Thatcher and those who followed must be pushed aside, and rejected. For as neo-liberalism came, altruism left. Why do the young no longer aspire to teach, to learn Science, to nurse the sick or study medicine? Why are careers which put something back into society no longer respected as they should be? What message do we teach our children by bringing them into a society where a footballer is rewarded above a surgeon, an X-Factor contestant’s skills admired over a teacher’s, and more pleasure is derived from a computer game rather than observing Science or “making a difference to people’s lives? Why should we be surprised and critical if the younger generation appear to be apathetic or disillusioned about politics as they are resigned to the inevitable lack of influence or power of the ballot box? I think they deserve better.
It is their future. But first we all need to start to build again, together.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Ed Miliband Speech on The Economy : February 2012