Thursday, 21 June 2018

Unions' disputed call to make coal cleaner

Big Issue North article from September 2017 

Claim that carbon tech could renew industry 
Environmentalists say focus on renewables 
Trade unionists have urged the government to fund carbon capture technology that would make coal a cleaner fuel, insisting it will also help protect local jobs. But environmental campaigners say it would be a distraction from an urgent need to end the use of fossil fuels completely. 
Human activity is annually generating billions of tonnes of waste carbon dioxide (CO2), which is helping to warm the climate. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a process that aims to collect the CO2 from power stations and factories before burying it securely underground. 
No government interest 
Although the technology has existed for decades, there are few examples in the world of large-scale CCS plants. The National Coal Board led the way in CCS research until the 1990s, when most of Britain’s remaining mines were closed. 
Bill Adams, secretary of Yorkshire and the Humber Trades Union Congress (TUC), said the government should respond positively to a report earlier this year by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on CCS. 
The report criticised David Cameron’s government for withdrawing in 2015 £1bn
of funding to develop the technology, and said CCS “had the potential to help the UK achieve its ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions, if it is used in the power and industrial sectors”. 
Adams said: “Government is being very shortsighted. Across Europe, trade unions and governments are combining in a partnership model on CCS. But when we approached the then energy secretary Amber Rudd she showed no interest. 
“I recently attended a House of Lords reception at which the chief executive of Gassnove, the state-run Norwegian company, was telling everyone they would welcome possible projects being sent to them for funding. 
“They see this as an opportunity to decarbonise. Our government is saying let’s leave it to the market and that is not having it. In comparison our governnment are spending billions on Hinckley Point nuclear power station, which seems a lot for a project that also won’t do too much to ensure we have a secure energy supply in the future.” 
“Devastating for region” 
According to Adams around 28,000 jobs in Yorkshire and Humber could be affected by the 2016 Paris Agreement to restrict global temperatures by limiting the amount of CO2 generated by human activity. They include jobs in ceramics, cement, glass, food and beer, all of which use coal. 
“Losing so many jobs would be devastating for the region. It would be like the pit closure programme again of the last century. 
“The TUC welcomes any moves towards a green economy. We are encouraging trade unionists to discuss with their employers technological changes to reduce CO2 but solar and wind are not yet ready to supply all our energy needs. They won’t be for a few decades and so CCS needs developing now and quickly.” 
In 2012, 2Co Energy proposed a large clean coal CCS power station at Hatfield Colliery in South Yorkshire. This would have involved constructing a large underground pipeline to transport CO2 out into the North Sea. Despite the promise of considerable EU match funding, the UK government refused to back the £1bn project, which had the potential to create an estimated 7,000 new jobs in the Doncaster area. 
In late 2015, the government withdrew promised funding for two CCS projects. One was at Peterhead and the other in North Yorkshire at Drax, the UK’s largest power plant, which currently relies on coal and biomass to generate electricity. 
Cost must come down 
The decision broke a pledge in the Conservative party’s 2015 election manifesto and the move was criticised by Shell, the CCS Association (CCSA) and the TUC, which argued that it would make it difficult for the UK to meet its carbon cuts target and to create a diverse energy mix. 
The PAC report is also critical of the 2015 decision to withdraw the funding, saying: “Many potential stakeholders now think the government should bear more risks, particularly over stored C02.” 
Adams said that if Labour won the next general election and carried out its commitment to set up a new national investment bank, the TUC’s first request would be for funds towards a major CCS project. 
He stressed that the TUC is not expecting the development of CCS to lead to the opening of coal mines here. But Dave Douglass, former National Union of Mineworkers branch secretary at Hatfield Main Colliery, wants to see CCS developed for just such an eventuality. “Government backing for CCS projects would mean coal can be used for energy generation. We are importing coal that is being mined in locations where workers are being badly exploited. 
“We have thousands of years of coal underneath us and it should be used, especially as renewables are not reliable and they have resulted in higher energy bills. 
“Coal fired power stations are still being built everywhere and 41 per cent of electricity worldwide
is germinated by coal. By cleaning coal through CCS then it should be burnt. This can help create 70,000 new jobs at 70 mines across Britain. This will help revive parts of Yorkshire where unemployment levels are far too high, especially amongst the young.” 
Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth’s renewables campaigner, disputes this view. “CCS may be a useful technology for some industrial applications that are hard to switch to electricity or which have CO2 byproducts, such as steel manufacture or cement production,” he said. “But it is unlikely to play a major role in electricity generation. 
“Renewables can keep the lights on and have jumped from 7 to 26 per cent of our electricity supply in the last few years. The government’s projections show the figure will be 40-50 per cent by 2030. With the right investment it could be 75 per cent. 
“And to avoid catastrophic climate change we need to largely decarbonise our electricity system by 2030. Renewables are the most reliable way of doing this. 
“The direction of travel is clear and the age of fossil fuels is simply coming to an end. Even in India and China they are reducing their reliance on coal. India has this year cancelled coal power plants in favour of solar.” 
Asked about when it might respond to the PAC report a Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Department spokesperson said: “The UK is the third best country in the world for tackling climate change, but we have been clear that the costs of CCS must come down if it is to play a role in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. 
“We are considering options for CCS in the UK and intend to set out our approach in due course.” 

Mining for the past: Durham Mining Museum, Spennymoor, Co Durham

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

SIDS Charity 'Ignored Decades of Research'

The Lullaby Trust finds pollution link to SIDS 
Father says warnings were long ignored 

A man whose studies found that infant mortality rates were higher close to incinerators has accused a leading children’s charity of “being asleep for decades” after it released the findings of a delayed study on the role of air particles in unexpected infant deaths. 
In 2012 the Lullaby Trust, which aims to prevent sudden infant deaths, funded research led by Dr Ian Litchfield, at Birmingham University.
The final report, now published in the British Medical Journal, has concluded: “Ambient air pollutants... may show an association with increased sudden infant deaths or SIDS.” 
Such deaths are the leading causes of death among healthy infants between one month and a year old. Around 300 cases occur annually in the UK. 
Pollution exposure 
The report, based on 200 SIDS cases over a 10-year period in the West Midlands, recommends further studies “on the role of air pollution on SIDS and... how we might reduce pollution exposure among infants”. 
Michael Ryan’s research about air pollution was sparked after he lost two children, one at 14 weeks, and considered their deaths may be related to pollution caused by living downwind of an incinerator. He has found that, whether incinerators are sited in affluent or poorer areas, infant mortality rates nearby are above average. 
He cites other scientists who challenge the norm that deprivation, poor parenting and cultural practices are the only reasons for infant mortality. A number of MPs have used his work to ask Parliamentary questions. 
In 2015 the Lullaby Trust promised to “get our scientific advisors to review [Ryan’s] research... as we do for all potential risk factors.” Now a Lullaby spokesperson has admitted this has not happened because it only makes recommendations “based on consideration of peer-reviewed research studies in academic journals”. 
The spokesperson added: “We are not aware of any research that Ryan has published of this quality.” 
Ryan, whose self-financed research has been reported extensively in Big Issue North, has been key to forcing Public Health England (PHE) to conduct a study on the impact of waste incinerators on infant mortality levels. First promised in 2003 this began at Imperial College London seven years ago. 
“Wasted time” 
Preliminary results were expected in March 2014. PHE has said it expects to submit its findings to peer-reviewed journals by the end of this month. The organisation continues to affirm its belief that incinerators are not damaging to the health of infants. 
A retired local government officer from Shrewsbury, Ryan said: “I didn’t believe the Lullaby Trust would examine my research. Yet now they are suggesting an association between air pollution and SIDS. They could have just read a 1985 book, SID: Patterns, Puzzles and Problems. This was co-authored by their now vice- President Sylvia Lush, the Countess of Limerick.” 
Ryan said the book examined a peer-reviewed study implicating air pollution in sudden infant death. 
“This study was, like mine, ignored in the Lullaby Trust report,” he said. “This has deeply upset me as the Los Angeles study was in 1981, before my children died. 

“Lullaby is well named as it has been sleeping for decades. They have wasted time and money.” 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889 by Martin Westby is a great book


Review by Mark Metcalf, co-author of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE, of the book A HISTORY OF SHEFFIELD FOOTBALL 1857-1889 by Martin Westby 

This is one of the best ever football books. Its author and publisher Martin Westby , who runs a British football magazines store called Soccerbilia, should be heartily congratulated for his considerable efforts and the accuracy he has achieved. 
Westby bases his investigations around Sheffield, where the first, Sheffield FC, and second, Hallam FC, clubs were formed and organised club football originated in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Between 1857 & 1889, 95 Sheffield clubs existed. 
Delving into the newspaper archives of the time, Westby meticulously analyses why, by whom — there’s some remarkable characters in the book — and with what purposes a series of long since departed clubs such as Attercliffe FC & Dronfield FC began.  
Such examinations of the clubs & their personnel are combined throughout with an explanation of how the rules of football were changed & developed. Some of these changes were covered in our Flying Over an Olive Grove book on Fred Spiksley & the approval that we received from readers clearly indicated that football fans are hungry for such detailed analysis on changes to the laws of the game. Westby’s work is thus to be welcomed.
What will prove especially interesting for football fans is the author’s attempt, essential to his desire to create a chronological history of football clubs, to compose a set of rules that can be applied right across all clubs, past and ongoing, in order to try and ensure the claimed foundation dates can be measured against each other. 
So, for example, with the rules evolving between 1857 until 1871 - when the Rugby Football Union was formed, thus creating a clear distinction between Football and Rugby - then a club that began by playing Rugby before turning to Association Football is included and its foundation date is when the club was originally formed. This will please followers of Bradford teams. 
If a club claims an earlier date than any of the evidence assembled suggests then it must appear in the press of the time to confirm that earlier existence. As is now accepted as fact, Stoke did not exist before 1868 and were not formed in 1863 as it currently states on the Stoke City badge and website. 
Westby dates the formation of WBA as 1874 and not 1878 and he shows how Reverend Tiverton Preddy, the man credited with setting up Barnsley, did not actually get involved with the Tykes until the Easter of 1888 and not in September 1887 when the South Yorkshire club were formed. 

This is a great football book and well worth buying at £15.95.  Purchase it at
Further information: 07979 794391


Listen up - speaking on Unite reps courses in May 2018

It is always a great pleasure to be able to speak on Unite reps courses and here are one or two photos from engagements in May 2018. 
Liverpool, workplace reps stage 3 course 

Leeds, stage 3 reps course 

Salford, stage 2 reps course

Sheffield, stage 2 reps course 

Salford, stage 3 reps course 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Manchester support for Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala held after a failed coup 
Prominent Umist alumni speak out 
Big Issue North 28 May - 3 June 
Two prominent students from the former University of Manchester (UM) are supporting a colleague who has been jailed in Turkey’s crackdown following a failed coup. 
Osman Kavala, who was imprisoned last October but has yet to be charged of any offences, studied economics at UM in the 1970s. He has been accused of “attempting to prevent the government from fulfilling its duties” and of being connected with foreign persons and terrorist organisations, and is being held in the high-security Silivri prison in Istanbul. 
But John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who was one of Kavala’s friends in Manchester, instead praised Kavala for “promoting an open and democratic Turkey”. 
Philanthropic acts 
Mann has used early day motions and questions in Parliament to request the British government to “take steps to seek the release of Kavala from prison”. 
In 1982, Kavala’s father died and he took over the running of the family-owned business. Among his philanthropic acts were the donation of a coal mine to its workers and investment in a new children’s hospital in Istanbul. He also opened cultural centres in Turkey’s less developed regions. 
In July 2016, an attempted coup in Turkey against state institutions and President Erdogan by a faction within the armed forces was defeated by forces loyal to the state. Coup leaders were accused
of being linked to the Gulen movement – which is led by the US-based Turkish businessman Fethullah Gulen – and is designated by Turkey as a terrorist organisation. 
Mass arrests followed and over 300 people were killed. Some 50,000 people have been arrested and more than 150,000 dismissed from their jobs after being accused of Gulen connections. Some countries such as Germany have expressed doubts that the organisation was behind the coup. But the UK government has designated the Gulen movement as terrorist and Theresa May recently met President Erdogan on an official visit to Britain. 
Since Kavala’s arrest in October, family and friends have been campaigning. 
“Importance of tolerance” 
“UM was full of interesting characters when I studied economics there from 1977 to 1980 and I became firm friends with Osman,” said civil rights activist and senior law lecturer at the University of Manchester Graham Smith. 
“Osman is one of those like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who just see good in people. I visited him in Istanbul in 1981. He was attempting to get the Turkish state to acknowledge its debt to the Kurds and Armenians. He was stressing the importance of tolerance and multiculturalism. 
“Osman uses art and culture to bring together different communities, including minorities.” 
Kavala’s friends from Manchester included the late Zafir Yab Ahmed, who fled Pakistan in the late 1990s after the government filed sedition charges against him for shining the spotlight
for children working in the carpet industry. A personal intervention by Bill Clinton allowed Ahmed to live in the US until his death in 2005. 
Kavala was also associated with Indian environmental and human rights campaigner Mohit Ray and the late social anthropologist David Webster, a UM lecturer at the time. 
Webster was assassinated outside his Johannesburg home by the South African apartheid regime in 1989. The subsequent black-led demonstration that accompanied his coffin into the cemetery at St Mary’s Cathedral is regarded as marking a revival in the fortunes of the African National Congress, paving the way for the fall of apartheid. 
Detained without charge 
In March, Kavala was allowed to receive mail. 
“I have written and requested him to invite me to visit the prison,” said Smith, who is also a consultant on human rights to the Council of Europe. “His lawyers can only see him when there is a guard listening next to them. 
“Relatives can visit for one hour a week and must talk using a phone with glass in between. This contravenes article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on family life. 
“Keeping someone detained for so long without charging them appears to be a form
of punishment. He should either be charged soon or be released.” 
In response to Mann, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan told the House of Commons that
his department preferred to “encourage Turkey to work towards the full protection of human rights, particularly on freedom of expression... but has not taken action directly relating to Osman Kavala’s case.” 
The Turkish Embassy did not respond to Big Issue North’s request for comment. 

What future for food, farming and farmworkers after Brexit?