We had a great day at the Extreme Energy Gathering In Leeds on 4th June. It was a day of learning about coal, fracking and bio-energy and of reflection, discussion and campaign planning.
The day featured a session on campaigning by Frack Free Dee, a presentation by Vladimir Slivyak, a Russian activist with Ecodefense about the Siberian people resisting opencast coal mining, a performance of a one-woman show about Columbian coal and planning for future Drax and fracking campaigns.
We were pleased to be present, because of both our Keep Them in the Ground campaign and our ECO-nomy campaigns. We ran a stall promoting the One Million Climate Jobs campaign. We feel that pushing for positive alternatives is essential when opposing the fossil fuel economy, both to show that a low carbon society is achievable and to counter the arguments of corporations that clean energy means losing jobs, losing energy security and costing consumers.
The day was jointly organised by the Coal Action Network and Biofuelwatch. Both organisations are campaigning against Drax power station’s burning of coal and mainly imported wood. We learned about the UK’s use of coal and industrial biomass burning for electricity as well as the environmental and human impacts of both of these.
At the event, we learned a lot about the UK’s use of coal, about Drax power station’s use of coal and about Drax’s use of biomass. In 2015, 24% of the electricity produced in the UK came from coal fired power stations. 31% of the coal burned in UK power stations comes from Russia (with most of the remainder coming from Columbia, the US and UK opencast sites). Russian coal forms 8% of the UK’s total energy mix. There’s in-depth analysis on UK coal and its impacts around the world in the Coal Action Network’s ‘Ditch Coal’report http://coalaction.org.uk/ditchcoal/
Vladimir Slivyak the Russian Ecodefense activist who joined the event provides further insight in his blog, written a few days earlier, ‘From Russia with Blood’ https://newint.org/blog/2016/05/31/russian-coal-exports-britain/
As well as using coal, Drax burns 12 million tonnes of fresh wood each year, mostly imported from USA and Canada. This is classed as renewable energy , for which Drax receives over £1.2 million per day in subsidies. Here is information from Biofuelwatch on Drax http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/axedrax-2016-pr/ Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the RSPB analysed the impacts of biomass for power generation in their report, ‘Dirtier than Coal?’ https://www.foe.co.uk/news/burning_trees_38058 In April of this year, campaigners collected 8,000 signatures for a petition calling for an end to subsidies for biomass.
It’s possible that one of the outcomes from the day will be the beginning of an anti- Drax campaign- opposing both its use of coal and its use of biomass. We hope to support this campaign.