Archive for the ‘Gas’ Category

‘I’ Article on Companies Developing Technology to Cleanse Air of CO2

December 1, 2020

This is interesting. It might be another corporate puffpiece, but if it’s genuine then it does seem that some of the technology in SF novels about combating climate change might be coming true.

In its edition for Saturday, 28th Novewmber 2020, the newspaper ran this story ‘Conjuring a climate solution out of thin air’ by Maeleine Cuff, subtitled ‘Giant machines that can suck CO2 out of the atmosphere? This is no sci-fi’. It said

Scientists agree that global climate targets are slipping out of reach. To keep warming below 1.5 C – the “safe” climate threshold – the world will have to work out a way to remove 100 to 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere this century.

Enter direct air capture (DAC). It is an offshoot of carbon capture and storage, whereby pollution from factories and power plants is trapped and stored underground. DAC takes that one step further, focusing on pulling the gas directly from the air. That is a tougher ask, because CO2 in our air is at much lower concentrations than in the flue gases of a power plant. But DAC technology can scale, it could give humankind the power to control global pollution levels.

This month the Government pledged £1bn to the creation of four industrial carbon capture clusters, which will trap emissions from industry and pipe them out to sea for storage.

There are signs a breakthrough might be close. Swiss firm Climeworks has built a handful of DAC plants across Europe. Orca, under construction in Iceland, will be the world’s biggest facility when it opens next year, capable of removing four million tons of CO2 every year. Canadian rival Carbon Engineering, meanwhile, is building a plant that could suck away a mikllion tons a year.

Both use chemical reactions to bind CO2 molecules, drawing them away from the other gases that make up our air. The CO2 can then be pumped underground for storage or used with hydrogen to make low-carbon fuels.

In the UK, the captured CO2 is most likely to be pumped into spent oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea. There is little need to worry about it escaping once it has been stored, says Professor Stuart Haszeldine, an expert in carbon capture technologies at the University of Edinburgh. “We know how to do this,” he says. “We know what the engineering is. And most importantly we know how to behave and and remediate this if something does go a bit wrong.

Climeworks is partnering with Icelandic start-up Carbfix to store its CO2 safely in basalt rock, “Even if you have an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, it cannot come out again,” says Christoph Beuttler from Climeworks.

It is still early stages for DAC – there are only 15 plants in North America and Europe – and the tech remains very expensive.

Costs should come down, however, as efficiency improves. Climeworks thinks it can reduce the cost of extracting a ton of carbon dioxide from $1,000 to $100 within a decade. But DAC is never going to be a cheap option. “The fact is, it is going to be easier to decarbonise a lot industrial processes than it is to build an entire sector from a standing start,” says Dr Mark Workman, a carbon storage expert at Imperial College London.

There is also a fierce debate over who will pay for it. Most experts think governments will have to force the creation of a new market. That could be in the form of subsidy regime, or with legislation to force fossil-fuel producers to arrange for storage.

A hike in VAT to pay for the polution caused by goods and services has also been mooted, placing the cost on a public who, Dr Workman argues, are not prepared for the scale of such a challenge. “We are going to remove an invisible gas and store it in invisible storage sites. And we are going to be talking vast quantities of money – tens, if not hundreds of billions of pounds,” he says. “There is does need to be a much broader social dialogue about this.”

There was also a boxed article on the same page, ‘DAC in the UK’, which ran

In St Fergus on the east coast of Scotland, Pale Blue Dot Energy wants to build not only a carbon storage hub for Scotland but also the UK’s first direct air capture (DAC) system. It has teamed up with Canadian firm Carbon Engineering to get a DAC site up and running by 2026.

It faces a race to be the UK’s first DAC plant. Climeworks tells I the Government’s funding announcement means it is now looking at expanding into the UK too.

Stephen Baxter predicted this kind of technology in one of his ‘Xelee’ novels. Set centuries in the future, Earth is tackling the problem of global warming by freezing the Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere and turning them into giant balls of dry ice. The planet’s waste heat is also dumped into space by beams of giant lasers.

No-one’s talking about giant lasers just yet, the use of technology to scrub the atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide does seem to be close. It’s just that at the moment it’s too massively expensive to be practical on a large scale. Perhaps a new technological breakthrough will be needed before it becomes really affordable.

‘I’: British Government Considering Solar Power Satellites

November 17, 2020

A bit more space technology news now. The weekend edition of the I, for Saturday 14th November 2020 carried a piece by Tom Bawden, ‘The final frontier for energy’ with the subtitle ‘Revealed: the UK is supporting a plan to create a giant solar power station in space’. The article ran

Millions of British homes could be powered by a giant solar power station 24,000 miles up in space within three decades, under proposals being considered by the government.

Under the plan, a system of five huge satellites – each more than a mile wide, covered in solar panels and weighing several thousand tons – would deliver laser beams of energy down to Earth.

These would provide up to 15 per cent of the country’s electricity supply by 2050, enough to power four million households – with the first space energy expected to be delivered by 2040. Each satellite would be made from tens of thousands of small modules, propelled into space through 200 separate rocket launches, and then assembled by robots.

The satellites would use thousands of mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on to the solar panels, which would be converted into high frequency radio waves. These would be beamed to a receiving antenna on the Earth, converted into electricity and delivered to our homes.

While the prospect of a solar space station beaming energy into our homes might seem outlandish, advocates are hopeful it can be done. The Government and the UK Space Agency are taking the technology extremely seriously, believing it could play a crucial role in helping the country to fulfil its promise of becoming carbon neutral – or net zero – by 2050, while keeping the lights on.

They have appointed the engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash to look into the technical and economic feasibility and it will report back next year.

“Solar space stations may sound like science fiction, but they could be a game-changing new source of energy for the UK and the rest of the world,” the science minister, Amanda Solloway, said.

“This pioneering study will help shine a light on the possibilities for a space-based solar power system which, if successful, could play an important role in reducing our emissions and meeting the UK’s ambitious climate-change targets,” she said.

Martin Soltau, of Frazer-Nash, who is leading the feasibility study, said: “This technology is really exciting and could be a real force for good. It has the potential to transform the energy market and make the net-zero target achievable – and from an engineering perspective it looks feasible.”

Previous analysis by other researchers on economic viability suggests space solar could be “competitive” with existing methods of electricity generation but that will need to be independently assessed, Mr Soltau said.

If the UK is to become net zero it needs to find a green source of energy that is totally dependable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun definitely doesn’t always shine.

This is where solar space comes in, with its panels sufficiently much closer to the sun that they are not blighted by clouds and darkness.

“This would provide a baseload of energy 24/7 and 365 days a year – and has a fuel supply for the next five billion years,” said Mr Soltau, referring to the predicted date of the sun’s eventual demise.

Until recently, this project really would have been a pipe dream – but two developments mean it is now a realistic prospect, Mr Soltau says.

The first is the new generation of reusable rockets, such as the Falcon 9 launcher from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which mean satellites can be sent into space far more cheaply.

The cost of launching objects into low Earth orbit has gone from about $20,000 (£15,000) a kilogram in the early 2000s to less $3,000 now – and looks to fall below $1,000 in the coming years, he says.

At the same time, solar panels are much cheaper and more than three times as efficient as they were in the 1990s, meaning far fewer need to be sent into orbit to produce the same amount of energy.

Mr Soltau is hopeful, although by no means certain, that his study will find the technology to be feasible in economic and engineering terms – with the technology looking like it’s on track.

The five satellite solar power station system envisaged by the Government will probably cost more than £10bn – and potentially quite a lot more – more than the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which would produce roughly similar amounts of electricity, is expected to cost about £30bn, including decommissioning, Mr Soltau points out.

When all is said and done, there’s no getting away from the fact that building a satellite of that size and complexity in orbit is a mindboggling task. But it could well be feasible.

The article was accompanied by this diagram.

The captions read

  1. Solar reflectors: Orientation of satellite with respect to the Sun controlled to constantly reflect sunlight onto the solar power array below.
  2. Solar panels and transmitters: Approximately 60,000 layers of solar panels that collect the sunlight from the reflectors, and convert this to transmit high frequency radio waves.
  3. Power transmission: High frequency radio wave transmission from satellite to receiver on ground.
  4. Ground station: approximately 5k in diameter rectenna (a special type of receiving antenna that is used for converting electromagnetic energy into direct current (DC) electricity), generating 2 gigawatts of power enough for 2 million people at peak demand.

The solar reflectors are the objects which look rather like DVDs/CDs. The box at the top of the diagram gives the heights of a few other objects for comparison.

The ISS – 110m

The London Shard – 310m

The Burj Khalifa – 830m

The Cassiopeia solar satellite 1,700m.

The use of solar power satellites as a source of cheap, green energy was proposed decades ago, way back when I was at school in the 1970s. I first read about it in the Usborne Book of the Future. I don’t doubt that everything in the article is correct, and that the construction of such satellites would be comparable in price, or even possibly cheaper, than conventional terrestrial engineering projects. I went to a symposium on the popular commercialisation space at the headquarters of the British Interplanetary Society way back at the beginning of this century. One of the speakers was an engineer, who stated that the construction of space stations, including space hotels, was actually comparable in cost to building a tower block here on Earth. There was just a difference in attitude. Although comparable in cost, such space stations were viewed as prohibitively expensive compared to similar terrestrial structures.

Apart from the expense involved, the other problem solar power satellites have is the method of transmission. All the previous systems I’ve seen beamed the power back to Earth as microwaves, which means that there is a possible danger from cancer. The use of laser beams might be a way round that, but I still wonder what the health and environmental impact would be, especially if the receiving station is around 5 km long.

I also wonder if the project would ever be able to overcome the opposition of vested interests, such as the nuclear and fossil fuel industries. One of the reasons the Trump government has been so keen to repeal environmental legislation and put in place measures to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job, is because the Republican party receives very generous funding from the oil industry, and particularly the Koch brothers. And there are plenty of Tory MPs who also possess links to big oil.

At the moment this looks like a piece of industry PR material. It’s an interesting idea, and I’ve no doubt that it’s factually correct, but given the resistance of the British establishment to new ideas, and especially those which might involve government expenditure, I have grave doubts about whether it will actually ever become a reality. Fossil fuels might be destroying the planet, but there are enough people on the right who don’t believe that’s happening and who get a very tidy profit from it, that I can see the oil industry being promoted against such projects for decades to come.

William Blum on the Real Reason for the Invasion of Afghanistan: Oil

November 16, 2020

The late William Blum, an inveterate and bitter critic of American foreign policy and imperialism also attacked the invasion of Afghanistan. In his view, it was, like the Iraq invasion a few years later, absolutely nothing to do with the terrible events of 9/11 but another attempt to assert American control over a country for the benefit of the American-Saudi oil industry. Blum, and other critics of the Iraq invasion, made it very clear that America invaded Iraq in order to gain control of its oil industry and its vast reserves. In the case of Afghanistan, the invasion was carried out because of the country’s strategic location for oil pipelines. These would allow oil to be supplied to south Asian avoiding the two countries currently outside American control, Russian and Iran. The Taliban’s connection to al-Qaeda was really only a cynical pretext for the invasion. Blum lays out his argument on pages 79-81 of his 2014 book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He writes

With the US war in Iraq supposedly having reached a good conclusion (or halfway decent… or better than nothing… or let’s get the hell out of here while some of us are still in one piece and there are some Iraqis we haven’t yet killed), the best and the brightest in our government and media turn their thoughts to what to do about Afghanistan. It appears that no one seems to remember, if they ever knew, that Afghanistan was not really about 9/11 or fighting terrorists (except the many the US has created by its invasion and occupation), but was about pipelines.

President Obama declared in August 2009:

But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9-11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.

Never mind that out of the tens of thousands of people the United States and its NATO front have killed in Afghanistan not one has been identified as having had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001.

Never mind that the ‘plotting to attack America’ in 2001 was carried out in Germany and Spain and the United States more than in Afghanistan. Why hasn’t the United States attacked these countries?

Indeed, what actually was needed to plot to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? A room with some chairs? What does ‘an even larger safe haven’ mean? A larger room with more chairs? Perhaps a blackboard? Terrorists intent upon attacking the United States can meet almost anywhere.

The only ‘necessity’ that drew the United States to Afghanistan was the desire to establish a military presence in this land that is next door to the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia – which reportedly contains the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world – and build oil and gas pipelines from that region running through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is well situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of South Asia, pipelines that can bypass those not-yet Washington clients Iran and Russia. If only the Taliban would not attack the lines. Here’s Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in 2007: ‘One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so taht energy can flow to the south’.

Since the 1980s all kinds of pipelines have been planned for the area, only to be delayed or canceled by one military, financial or political problem or another. For example, the so-called TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) had strong support from Washington, which was eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. TAPI goes back to the 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with the California-based oil company Unocal Corporation. These talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and were undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society. Taliban officials even made trips to the United States for discussions. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on February 12, 1998, Unocal representative John Maresca discussed the importance of the pipeline project and the increasing difficulties in dealing with the Taliban:

The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels… From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, leaders, and our company.

When those talks stalled in July, 2001 the Bush administration threatened the Taliban with military reprisals if the government did not go along with American demands. The talks finally broke down for good the following month, a month before 9/11.

The United States has been serious indeed about the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf oil and gas areas. Through one war of another beginning with the Gulf War of 1990-91, the US has managed to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

The war against the Taliban can’t be ‘won’ short of killing everyone in Afghanistan. The United States may well try again to negotiate some from of pipeline security with the Taliban, then get out, and declare ‘victory’. Barack Obama can surely deliver an eloquent victory speech from his teleprompter. It might include the words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, but certainly not ‘pipeline’.

This was obviously written before the electoral victory of Hamid Karzai and his government, but the point remains the same. The Taliban are still active and fighting against the supposedly democratic government, which also remains, as far as I know, dependent on western aid.

But the heart of the matter is that this wasn’t a war to save humanity from the threat of global terrorism, nor is it about freeing the Afghan people from a bloodthirsty and murderously repressive Islamist regime. The Americans were quite happy to tolerate that and indeed do business with it. It was only when the Taliban started to become awkward that the Americans started threatening them with military action. And this was before 9/11. Which strongly supports Blum’s argument that the terrible attack on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the White House were and are being cynically used as the justification for the invasion. 17 out of the 19 conspirators were Saudis, and the events point to involvement by the Saudi state with responsibility going right to the top of the Saudi regime. But America and NATO never launched an attack on them, despite the fact that the Saudis have been funding global Islamist terrorism, including Daesh. That is before ISIS attacked them.

It was Remembrance Day last Wednesday. The day when Britain honours the squaddies who fell in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. One of those talking about the importance of the day and its ceremonies on Points West, the Beeb’s local news programme for the Bristol area, was a former squaddie. He was a veteran of Afghanistan, and said it was particularly important to him because he had a mate who was killed out there. He felt we had to remember victims of combat, like his friend because if we didn’t ‘what’s the point?’.

Unfortunately, if Blum’s right – and I believe very strongly that he is – then there’s no point. Our governments have wasted the lives, limbs and minds of courageous, patriotic men and women for no good reason. Not to defend our countries from a ruthless ideology which massacres civilians in order to establish its oppressive rule over the globe. Not to defend our freedoms and way of life, nor to extend those freedoms and their benefits to the Afghan people. But simply so that America can gain geopolitical control of that region and maintain its dominance of the oil industry, while enriching the oil companies still further.

Starmer Throwing Out Corbyn’s Policies to Gain Support of Business

November 6, 2020

Mike and many other left-wing bloggers have put up a number of articles showing that, despite his promises at the Labour leadership elections, Starmer is getting rid of Corbyn’s policies which were included in the party’s manifesto. Starmer’s a Blairite, and so it was to be expected that he’d try to remove Corbyn’s policies, just as he is doing his best to purge or push out members of the Labour left from the shadow cabinet and the party generally. He’s taking the party back towards Thatcherism, replacing traditional Labour policies of a strong welfare state and trade unions, workers’ rights, a fully nationalised NHS and mixed economy, with the welfare state’s dismantlement, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the further destruction of employment rights designed to make workers easy and cheap to hire and fire. This is all being done to win over Tory swing voters and the right-wing political and media establishment.

A few weeks ago Starmer showed exactly where his priorities lay when he announced that Labour was now perfectly willing to accept donations and funding from industry. This was a sharp break with Corbyn, who had restored the party’s finances through subscriptions from the party’s membership. A membership that had expanded massively because, after Blair, Brown and Ed Miliband, there was a Labour leader at last who genuinely wished to do something for the working class and represented and promoted traditional Labour values and policies.

Starmer’s turn instead to corporate funding is a return to Blair’s policies, in which the Labour leader sought support from business. Under Blair, the party lost members despite its electoral success. The only reason it won elections was because the Tories were far less popular. And in return for corporate donations, Blair gave the chairmen and senior management of big companies places in government, and passed legislation that would benefit them, but very definitely not Britain’s working people nor the self-employed and small businesspeople.

Further proof that Starmer’s going down this path was provided a few days ago on Tuesday. According to an article in that day’s I by Hugo Gye, ‘Starmer courts business leaders’, for the edition of 3rd November 2020, Starmer announced at a meeting of the CBI that he was going to drop some of Corbyn’s policies to make the party more acceptable to industry. The article runs

Sir Keir Starmer has distanced himself from the Jeremy Corbyn era, suggesting he will drop some of his predecessor’s most radical policies as he positions Labour as the party of business.

Speaking to the annual conference of the CBI business group, Sir Keir said he wanted to lead “an active, pro-business government”. He added: “When a business is failing it is often because the management is failing. The Labour party is now under new management. We recognise that businesses with high standards are the only way to create a good economy.” Asked if he would keep left-wing policies Sir Keir replied: “In 2019 we suffered a devastating loss in the election.

“It’s important you don’t look at the electorate and ask: ‘What on earth were you doing?’ you ask: ‘What on earth were we doing?”‘ He has previously said he would seek to return to the 2017 manifesto rather than the more radical offering at last year’s general election. He also took aim at Rishi Sunak. He said: “The impact on business and jobs will be severe. The Chancellor’s name is all over this.”

This is twaddle. Labour’s policies weren’t unpopular. Indeed, quite the opposite. That’s one of the reasons the Labour right, the Tories and the media spent so many years and so much energy trying to smear Corbyn as a Communist and then anti-Semite. And the pro-business policies Starmer wants to replace Corbyn’s with won’t do anything for the country. It’s been said many times that business actually does better under Labour than under the Tories. And economists like Ha-Joon Chang have pointed out that privatisation hasn’t worked. It hasn’t provided the necessary and expected investment in the utilities. A traditional, social democratic mixed economy would therefore be far better. Thatcherism is, in the words of an Australian economist, Zombie economics. It’s dead, but still stumbling about.

As for asking what Labour did wrong, the answer is that Starmer himself was partly responsible for Labour’s defeat. He and the Labour right demanded that Labour should commit itself to a second referendum on Brexit, when the majority of the public – admittedly a slim majority – were all in favour of it. Corbyn’s initial position of respecting the Brexit vote, and only going back to hold a second referendum if they were unable to get an acceptable deal from Europe, was actually popular. But this popularity began to evaporate when Starmer and his colleagues demanded this should be changed.

Starmer’s leadership of the Labour party so far has been disastrous. He’s been using the anti-Semitism smears to purge the party of left-wingers and supporters of Corbyn, the party is losing Black membership and support thanks to his refusal to take BLM seriously, and many members generally are leaving the party because of return to Blair’s hoary, Tory policies, to paraphrase an old ’80s song.

Starmer isn’t leading the party to victory, but defeat. HIs policies won’t benefit working people, but as they are intended to enrich big business leaders, the British political establishment, of which he’s a part, aren’t going to be worried about that.

‘I’ Newspaper: Wales Getting Ready to Nationalise Railways

October 23, 2020

Today’s I for 23rd October 2020 has an article by Adam Hale, ‘Railways set to be nationalised’, reporting that the Welsh government is about to nationalise the railways in the principality because of falling passenger numbers due to the Coronavirus crisis. The article runs

The Welsh Government has decided to nationalise its railways following a significant drop in passenger numbers because of coronavirus.

The country’s transport minister Ken Skates said bringing day-to-day rail services for its Wales and Borders franchise under public control would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs.

Private firm KeolisAmey has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales.

Mr Skates added that: “The Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.”

It’s excellent that this is being done. The railways should never have been nationalised. Indeed, in Britain, sections of the rail network have had to be handed back to the state to manage almost as regularly as clockwork. Unfortunately, they’ve always then been given to another private operator because of the dogma that private enterprise is always better and more efficient than the state. Even when it glaringly isn’t, as the past four decades of dismal failure by the privatised utilities companies has abundantly shown.

There is a very strong movement for the railways across Britain to be renationalised, as shown by previous press reports about criticisms of private railway companies and the franchising system. So far, however, many of the recommendations for the system’s reform simply demand alterations to the franchising system. It’ high time this was all stopped, and the rail companies renationalised across Britain.

I’ve no doubt that the Welsh renationalisation will be successful, but it will be uncomfortable for the Tories and New Labour because of their insistence on the absolute primacy of private enterprise. If it is successful, then you can expect articles by some Tories across the border here in England recommending their nationalisation. I think Lady Olga Maitland wrote one for the Tory papers the other year. But there will also be attempts by the Tories to rubbish it, and the Welsh ministers responsible in order to put the voting public off it over here.

Because if the railways are successfully nationalised, who knows where it would stop! The state could start taking over electricity, water, gas and even healthcare. Shocking!

They also might consider it better to feed hungry schoolchildren rather than send them to school starving while wasting money on fat contracts for firms run by Tory ministers and their friends.

Gogglebox Clip Shows Starmer’s Uselessness as Opposition Leader

September 27, 2020

Mike’s mentioned this in his piece about Starmer now trying to win back donors to the Labour party when its haemorrhaging ordinary members thanks to his return to Blairism. One of the shows the peeps on Channel 4’s Gogglebox watched on Friday was an interview by Andrew Marr of Keir Starmer. And unfortunately, if the clip can be believed, Starmer was completely trounced by Marr.

The Labour leader was repeatedly asked what he would do about the Covid crisis. Starmer’s reply was a refrain of ‘We support the government’. Marr remarked that Starmer had done so much condemning past Tory policies in retrospect that Johnson had called him ‘Dr. Hindsight’. This is biting, but it appears from the clip that Starmer has earned. He was presented as having nothing to say against Johnson and his policies, which are wrecking this country, and impoverishing and destroying the lives and livelihoods of its people.

Starmer’s performance at PMQ’s has shown that when he does care to attack Johnson, he can land devastating blows. And it shouldn’t be hard. Johnson’s administration is one long catalogue of abject failures and U-turns. So much so, in fact, that Zelo Street has presented some very persuasive posts arguing that the Tories are considering easing him out and replacing him with someone else, like Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak or Priti Patel. But Starmer seems determined to put up only the weakest, most ineffectual opposition.

This is almost certainly because Starmer’s a Blairite. Blair’s policy was to take over those of the Conservatives and try win over their voters and their press and media. He was a neoliberal, whom Margaret Thatcher regarded as her greatest achievement. Much of New Labour campaigning was based on the claim that they could implement these policies better and more efficiently than the Tories themselves. They also made a feeble effort to retain their traditional working class support by presenting themselves as being less extreme and harsh in their welfare reforms than the Tories. But as one of the Blairite women MPs – I think it may have been Rachel Reeves – announced that Labour would be harder on the unemployed than the Tories, this claim is extremely dubious. Blair, Brown and their cronies also expected to retain working class support because they didn’t think they had anywhere else to go.

That argument doesn’t work. Some members of the working class simply stopped voting Labour. Others, a minority, moved to the right and started supporting UKIP and then the Fuhrage’s Brexit party. And many in the traditional Labour heartlands of the north and midlands were won over at the last general election by the Tories’ promise ‘to get Brexit done’. Starmer and the Labour leadership shouldn’t be so complacent about working class support.

But Starmer has shown that he has little idea or even interest in winning back traditional Labour supporters. Despite the vicious hostility the Tories and their complicit media succeeded in whipping up against Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s policies – nationalised utilities, a properly funded, state owned NHS that provides treatment to everyone, free at the point of service, strong trade unions and restored worker’s rights, and a proper welfare state that gives people what they really need and deserve to live on, instead of forcing them to rely on food banks and charity. But this conflicts with Blairite neoliberalism, and so Starmer has shown that he’s determined to move away from them and the working class in order to present Labour yet again as a pale imitation of the Conservatives.

It seems very much to me that Starmer and his supporters were never primarily against the Tories. They were just anti-Corbyn. Especially considering the allegations about the Blairite plotters and how they actively conspired to have the party lose the 2017 and 2019 elections. Through the past years they called on Tory and Lib Dem supporters to help them in their campaign against the Labour leader. Alistair Campbell even went as far as campaigning for the Lib Dems.

The result is Starmer’s appallingly feeble performance in the clip shown on Gogglebox. Starmer’s determined to hang on to Blairite policies, but Mike has argued that they won’t work this time. The Tories are destroying this country, and what is needed is a complete change of policies, not just a change of parties.

Starmer and his Blairite policies are wrecking the Labour Party. He should go, and make way for someone better able to attack and defeat the Tories.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/27/starmer-runs-out-of-credibility-and-cash-and-runs-to-the-rich-as-labour-supporters-run-away/

Posted Copies of Book ‘For A Workers’ Chamber’ to Labour Party

September 18, 2020

This afternoon I posted two copies of my self-published book, For A Workers’ Chamber, off to the Labour Party with appropriate covering letters. As I’ve explained in previous posts, the book argues that as parliament is now dominated by the millionaire heads and senior executives of big business, the working class has been excluded. It therefore needs a separate parliamentary chamber, composed of working people, elected by working people, to represent them.

I’ve also explained in the covering letters that it draws on arguments for such working class assemblies going as far back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trades Union, the Chartists’ parliament of trades and the Guild Socialist strand within the early Labour party. I also state that it also draws on the post-war corporatist system in Britain, in which economic and industrial affairs were decided through negotiations and organisations that brought together government, industry and trade unionists. It also discusses too the producers’ chambers, which formed part of the governmental system of Tito’s Yugoslavia under the workers’ self-management system.

I have also said in the letter that the domination of parliament by employers supports the Marxist argument that the state is the instrument of class rule. Sidney and Beatrice Webb also felt that the parliamentary system could not cope with the demands of the expansion of parliamentary business into the social and economic spheres, and so recommended the establishment of a social parliament as well as a political parliament in their 1920 book, A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain. Another Fabian, Herman Finer, also recommended that Britain should copy the industrial chamber the Germans had set up, which contained representatives of industry and the trade unions to decide questions of industry.

We already have part of that through parliament’s domination by industrialists. We just need to include the working class. Of course, this could also be corrected if the Labour party turns away from the disastrous policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which have done so much to ruin our country and impoverish its people. We need a Labour party that properly supports its traditional policies – a strong welfare state and unions able to defend working people, a properly funded and nationalised NHS and public utilities, run for the benefit of the community and not private profit, and a mixed economy. But there is a real danger that the Labour party is returning to the failed policies of Thatcherism. If that is the case, then the working class needs its own parliamentary chamber to defend its interests.

The Labour Party is holding a national policy review and has asked for suggestions by email. So I’ve sent them my book and its suggestions instead to the party’s National Policy Commission. I’ve also sent a copy to Richard Burgon in appreciation of his great efforts on behalf of the Labour left and the Labour Grassroots Alliance in supporting traditional Labour party policies and working people.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a reply. Given the rabidly right-wing politics of the Blairite Labour party bureaucracy I have wondered if I might find myself smeared and accused of being a Trotskyite or Communist infiltrator or other slur after sending a copy of my book to the National Policy Commission. After all, they suspended and smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier simply because he had the temerity to send them a document defending Ken Livingstone against the charges of anti-Semitism they had leveled against him. I hope nothing like that happens to me, but I’m still left wondering.

Hooray! Copies of My Book Demanding Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber Have Arrived!

September 16, 2020

I got the two copies of my self-published book For A Workers’ Chamber, published with the print on demand service Lulu through the post today. I wrote the book way back in 2018. It argues that as parliament is dominated by millionaire company directors and senior management, working people have been effectively excluded. Blairite Labour is no help, as it has enthusiastically embraced this policy. I therefore argue that what is needed to correct this is a parliamentary chamber composed of working people, elected by working people, following ideas and demands going back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union and the Chartist’s assembly of a parliament of trades in the 19th century. The book’s blurb runs

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that a special representative chamber of composed of representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries.

It traces the idea of worker’s special legislative assemblies from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, anarchism, syndicalism, Guild Socialism, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils in Revolutionary Russia, Germany and Austria, the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon and the Corporativism of Fascist Italy. It also discusses the liberal forms of corporativism which emerged in Britain during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the system of workers’ control and producer’s chambers in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

It argues that parliamentary democracy should not be abandoned, but needs to be expanded in include a worker’s chamber to make it more representative.

I ordered two copies of my book as I want to send one to the Labour Party. It’s now holding a policy review, and they’ve been asking members to send in suggestions for a policy. I really this idea is quite extreme and Utopian, but I want to send a copy of it to them to remind them just who they were set up to represent and where their priorities should lie. And they definitely do not lie with chasing Tory votes, taking over Thatcher’s policies and dismantling the welfare state, privatising the NHS and enrolling rich businessmen in parliament.

I’d like to send the second copy to any Labour MP or senior figure in the movement, who might be interested in it. Ken Livingstone would be the obvious choice, as he was a strong supporter of workers’ rights and industrial democracy when he was head of the GLC. Unfortunately, he has been forced out of the party due to being smeared as an anti-Semite, simply because he correctly pointed out that Hitler initially supported Zionism and sending Jews to Israel. The German Zionists signed a pact with him, the Ha’avara Agreement, which is documented on the website of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

I’m also thinking of sending it Richard Burgon, who is now one of the leading figures in left-wing Labour politics. I realise that it is probably too extreme for him, as he’s traditional centrist Labour, wanting the return of nationalisation for the NHS and utilities and a state managed but mixed economy. You know, the standard post-war social democratic consensus until Thatcher’s election in 1979. But I’m also worried about sending it to him in case his enemies in the party use it to smear him as a Commie or Trotskyite, just as they did with Corbyn.

The book is only one of a number of pamphlets and books I’ve self-published. I tried sending copies of them to the press, but didn’t get any interest. If you have any suggestions for any senior Labour figure, or simply ordinary MP or official, who would enjoy reading a copy, please let me know.

Lobster Review of Book on the Real Reasons for Trump’s Hostility to China

September 5, 2020

The conspiracy/parapolitics magazine Lobster has put up a fascinating piece by Scott Newton, ‘The USA, China and a New Cold War?’ reviewing Jude Woodward’s The US vs China: Asia’s New Cold War?, published in 2017 by Manchester University Press. Woodward’s book is an examination of how Western attitudes towards China fell from being extremely positive in the first decade of this century to the current state of tension and suspicion. The chief causes for this, according to the pronouncements of our politicos and the media, are concern over massive human rights abuses in Sinjiang, Hong Kong and elsewhere, Chinese territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea, which threaten western strategic interests and the other neighbouring countries, and the threat to national security posed by Chinese companies, particularly in telecommunications and social media. Woodward’s book turns these assumptions upside down. She recognises that there are real concerns about Chinese human rights abuses and the persecution of the Uighurs, but argues that this situation is far more complicated. And the real reason for America’s change of attitude to China is due, not to Chinese authoritarianism, but because China represents an emerging threat to America’s status as the world’s dominant superpower and their attitude towards capitalism is very different from American neoliberalism.

Relations between China and the West were initially positive and very good because the new, capitalist China had helped prop up the global economy after the financial crash of 2008. The development of the country’s infrastructure created a huge demand for raw materials, which benefited other countries around the world, including the west. The introduction of capitalism is also transforming China. It’s gone from a largely agricultural nation to an industrial and commercial superpower. In 2013 it passed America as the world’s largest trading nation. later on this century it is expected to surpass America as the world’s most prosperous nation both as a country and in terms of per capita GDP.

China’s build up of military forces in the South China Sea is seen by Woodward as a defensive posture against the Americans. They’ve assembled a large naval force in the area, which poses a threat to Chinese access to the Straits of Malacca. 80 per cent of the oil imported by China and much of its merchant shipping pass through the Straits, hence Chinese determination to defend them. Woodward believes that China believes in a multipolar world, and has neither the economic power nor the will to establish itself as the world’s ruling nation.

Nor is China pursuing its economic and commercial interests at the expense of everyone else, as has also been alleged. Woodward argues that while western capitalism views trade as a competition between two parties, in which one party must beat and impoverish the other, the Chinese instead really do see it instead as benefiting both parties.

The oppression of the Uighurs and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong by the Chinese government are real and matters of serious concern, but the West is also covertly attempting to interfere in China’s control of these regions. This is through the National Endowment for Democracy, the non-state outfit to which the American state has given the task of regime change after it was taken away from the CIA in Hong Kong, and through sponsorship and funding of various extreme nationalist and Islamist groups in Sinjiang. Newton writes

But the picture is not clear cut. The Chinese government has
complained about unhelpful ‘foreign interference’ in Hong Kong and there
is evidence to support this. Senior US politicians such as Vice-President Mike Pence have met leading members of the opposition in Hong Kong,
and civil society organizations there have received significant financial
support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA spinoff established in 1983 to promote what later became known as ‘regime
change’. This has, of course, always been change to one committed to a
political economy characterised by neoliberalism, in other words by free
market capitalism. In Hong Kong the NED has been financing groups
since 1994. A China Daily article from 2019 stated that the NED has been
financing groups in Hong Kong since 1994 and that the Hong Kong Human
Rights Monitor received $1.9 million between 1995 and 2013. A search
of the NED’s grants database further reveals that, between 2016 and
2019, the (US-based) Solidarity Center received more than $600,000 and
the (US-based) National Democratic Institute $825,000.

As far as Xinjiang is concerned, the real story is complex. This area is
rich in oil, gas and ‘other natural resources and profoundly important to
China’s national security’. The region borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. At times of invasion and civil
war in Chinese history it has tended to fall under foreign influence: for
much of the twentieth century until the mid-1980s the Soviet Union
played a powerful role in the province’s politics, backing separatist
groups. This role has now been taken by the USA, which is funding a set
of far-right and fundamentalist Islamic organisations such as the Victims
of Communism Memorial Foundation in a bid to promote instability in
Xinjiang and perhaps even its detachment from China itself.

The efforts of these shadowy parapolitical outfits have been
supported by another NED-financed group, the World Uyghur
Congress(WUC), which is keen to promote the creation of a separate
Turkic State out of Xinjiang. WUC is linked to the extreme Right in Turkey,
notably to the Fascist Grey Wolves organization. Finally there is the East
Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) whose objective is also the
establishment of an independent state carved from Xinjiang, known as
East Turkestan. The EU, UN Security Council and indeed the US
government have all identified ETIM as a terrorist organization linked to
Al-Qaida. In addition to its activities in the Middle East, during the last
twenty years ETIM has carried out terrorist attacks in China, including in
Xinjiang. Given Xinjiang’s strategic importance to China’s security and
territorial integrity and given the nature of the externally-trained and
funded agencies at work in Xinjiang, the attitude of the Chinese State to
dissidents there cannot be called surprising, even if the taking of a
repressive line has exacerbated problems in the region. It has also
provoked increasing global disquiet and has contributed to international
tension, though it cannot be said to be the root cause of this, which stems
from changing geopolitical conditions.

Woodward also argues that current American hostility to China comes from the conviction that America really is divinely ordained to be the world’s governing nation with a particular mission to promote free market capitalism. America demands trade at the expense of privatisation, the suppression of organised labour, and the free movement of capital. The Chinese have no interest in promoting any of this. They’re solely interested in trade, not in the economic and political transformation of their partners. Newton writes

It may not seem rational for the US to pursue a confrontation here but two quotations explain the reality from Washington’s perspective. The first is the comment of former French Foreign Minister Hugo Vedrine that ‘most great American leaders have never doubted . . . that the United States was chosen by Providence as the “indispensable nation” and that it must remain dominant for the sake of humankind’. The second is a comment by Perry Anderson that the US state acts ‘not primarily as a projection of the concerns of US capital, but as a guardian of the general interest of all capitals, sacrificing – where necessary and for as long as needed – national gain for international advantage in the confidence of the ultimate pay-off’.

In other words, the US both writes and polices the rules of the game
and the rise of China represents a de facto challenge to this hegemony.
On the surface this seems a strange observation. China has engaged very
successfully and indeed supportively (shown by its reaction to the 2008-9
Crash) with global capitalism. But it does so in a qualified way, or, to
paraphrase Xi Jinping, ‘with Chinese characteristics’. Not only does the 33
Chinese economy continue to operate a large state-owned sector but its
financial system is closely regulated, with controls over the currency and
over capital movements. China does not possess the conviction that
private economic activity trumps public enterprise, that government
should be small, organised labour suppressed, trade free and
international capital flows unhindered. Its assistance for developing
nations is not accompanied by requirements that states cut spending,
privatise public industries and services and liberalise the foreign trade
sector. In short China has never, in practice, endorsed the neoliberal
norms of the ‘Washington consensus’ established during the 1980s and
there is a real prospect that, if it does become the world’s largest
economy, it will seek to re-write the rules of the game in a way that is not
compatible with free market capitalism. This is what the US fears and its
strategy is therefore directed to forcing China to accept Washington’s
leadership and ‘enter the world family of nations’ on US terms or it would
face the likelihood of pre-emptive diplomatic, economic and, if necessary,
military action to halt its rise. As Woodward points out, this approach is
designed to ensure not only protection of the interests of global capital
but to secure ‘a longer-term pay-off’ for US domestic industry and finance
‘by preventing China reaching the point of competing at US levels of productivity and technology’.

It’s very doubtful if this new policy towards China will succeed. Many of the surrounding Asian countries have embraced China as a new market for their goods, while much of the American commercial hostility comes from firms and industries threatened by Chinese competition. Newton concludes that other countries may choose not to follow America’s lead but there will be considerable pressure on Britain to do so following Brexit. He writes

There is clearly a strong push within the British establishment, coming mostly from within the Tory Party and its friends in the City and the armed
services, in favour of military deployment in support of US forces in the
Far East, even if few other nations are willing to join. This might make
sense for the complex of defence industries, banks, hedge funds and
private equity firms at the core of modern British Conservatism but it is
hard to see what benefit there is for the rest of us in the UK from
confrontation with a nation which appears to harbour no aggressive
intentions to foreign countries and seems destined to become within a
short time the world’s largest economy.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster80/lob80-usa-china-cold-war.pdf

In short, the new strained relations between China and America are a result, not so much of Chinese aggression, but due to Trump’s America trying to maintain itself as the world’s dominant nation economically and militarily. In this America is determined to promote its own very predatory form of capitalism, which is challenged by the less extreme form embraced by China. And it’s a situation that may benefit the military-industrial complex and financial sector that supports to the Tories, but won’t provide it to anyone else.

Private Eye Shows Blatant Pro-Starmer Bias in Review of Ernest Bevin Biography

July 30, 2020

I’ve blogged many times about the vicious anti-Corbyn bias Private Eye shares with the rest of the media. Like the rest of the country’s corrupt and mendacious press and broadcasting establishment, Private Eye has consistently pushed the smears and lies against the former Labour leader. It has vilified him as an anti-Semite and, some kind of Commie or Trotskyite infiltrator. Even now that Corbyn is no longer head of the party, the attacks continue. This fortnight’s edition, for 31st July – 13th August 2020 contains an article rejoicing over the threats to sue Corbyn and the party by the Blairite intriguers and anti-Semitism smear merchants for libel. The anti-Semitism smears always were politically motivated. They were mobilised by the Zionist Jewish establishment – the chief rabbinate, Board of Deputies of British Jews and the various Friends of Israel parliamentary organisations in order to rebut criticism of the Israeli state’s 70 + years of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The wider British political establishment used them in order to protect Israel as an outpost of British and western power in the Middle East. And the Blairites used them from a mixture of political expediency and genuine political conviction. Blair, Mandelson and the rest were strong supporters of Israel anyway, and Blair had obtained his financial independence from the unions he despised through donations from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen through Lord Levy. And the anti-Semitism allegations were another way of discrediting Corbyn after he and the traditional Labour moderates gained control of the party.

Well, Starmer is now head of the party, and is continuing the campaign to maintain Blairite control through purging the party Left, all under the pretext that he is just clearing out the anti-Semites. This is while real, anti-Black racists are allowed to thrive and fester in the party as many of them appear to be the Blairite intriguers, who conspired to undermine the party’s election campaign.

But there is also an ideological as well as a tactical campaign being fought by the Blairites in their attempts to win control. According to Private Eye’s literary column, this includes a new biography of Ernest Bevin by New Labour’s Andrew Adonis, Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill. This is reviewed in the magazine’s recent issue as ‘Ernest toil’.

Bevin is a major figures in Bristol and Somerset labour history. He was a Somerset agricultural worker, who was instrumental in forming the union for this part of the rural workforce. He then moved to Bristol, where he became a major figure in trade union and Labour party politics, helping to found the Transport and General Workers’ Union. During World War II he served Churchill as Minister of Labour, and then under Clement Attlee as Commonwealth Minister.

The Eye’s review of Adonis’ biography is deeply critical. It notes that there are already several excellent works on the great man, on whom Adonis’ own work is very strongly based. Adonis has conducted no deeper research into Bevin – the book draws very heavily on the previous biographies. Adonis doesn’t bring any fresh insight to his subject either, and the book is stylistically marred by the use of contemporary management-speak and 21st century jargon. So why has it been written?

For the Eye, the answer is that Adonis is attempting to use Bevin as an ideological bolster for the Starmerite faction in the Labour party. Adonis is impressed by Bevin’s embrace of Keynsian economics and proclaims that the stood for a ‘liberal socialism’ apart from nationalisation and the unregulated free market. This is the position of Starmer and his faction, whom the Eye gives absolutely no doubt should have the leadership of the party. Their anonymous reviewer writes

So what is Adonis up to? Well, like the Imperialist burghers of late-Victorian Bristol busily erecting statues to Edward Colston a century after his death, Gordon Brown’s former transport secretary is keen to harness the past to the somewhat shaky equipage of the present. According to this assessment, Bevin is worth reading about now not only for the startling achievements of his ascent through life – he was an orphan boy from the West Country sent out to work in the fields at the age of 11 – but for what he has to tell us about the politics of 2020.

Item one on Adonis’ list is Bevin’s friendship with John Maynard Keynes and his enthusiasm for the latter’s plan to borrow money to fund better public services. Item two is the touting of something called “liberal socialism”, in which, quoting Keynes, “the solution lies neither with nationalisation nor with unregulated private competition; it lies in a variety of experiments, of attempts to get the best of both worlds.” Item three, naturally, is Bevin’s lifelong quarrel with the Left, exemplified by his wiping th floor with the Labour party’s pacifist leader George Lansbury at the party conference of 1935.

Bevin, you see, was not only a visionary politician (although this being 2020, Adonis has to take up several paragraphs apologising for his unreconstructed ideas about “Empire”), he was also an old-style Labour bruiser able to stitch up the right-wing trade union vote in the service of the parliamentary front bench. Clearly, what we need right now is a sensible, moderate Labour party with a raft of policies that will encourage social justice without scaring off big business and the middle classes while doing to the Jeremy Corbyn’s o this world what Bevin did to Lansbury.

“Britain needed Bevin once,” Adonis signs off. “Now we need his kind again.” If this isn’t a piece of semaphoring in the direction of Sir Keir Starmer, I don’t know what is. Will Lord Adonis play a part in making sense of our post-coronavirus world an emergency by the way, “of a kind Bevin relished”). We can only hope and pray. (My emphasis)

I’ve got a biography of Ernest Bevin on one of the bookshelves here, because of his importance to national history and that of Bristol’s working class. But the policies Starmer supports and wishes to impose seem just to be standard ‘Third Way’ Blairism. It’s just more Thatcherism and neoliberalism. We’ve seen again and again that the privatisation of the public services, the utilities and the NHS, have been an absolute failure. They haven’t improved performance. Far from it – they’ve made it worse. And thanks to the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS pushed through by Blair and Brown as well as the Tories, there is a real danger that this country will get a private healthcare system as disastrous and malign as America’s, and run by much the same firms. We desperately need to renationalise gas, electricity, water and the NHS. While the Tories, Blairites and the media succeeded in turning the public against Corbyn, these policies were still immensely popular with the public. My guess is that they still are, and would put Starmer and the party in an excellent place for power if he bothered to promote them. But Starmer won’t, because as a Blairite he believes absolutely in the primacy and success of private industry, even when its failure is obvious to anybody else.

Contrary to the rubbish put out by the right-wing political establishment, Corbyn really was never a radical. His programme for the renationalisation of the NHS and the utilities is simply a return of the old social democratic consensus that gave Britain growth and prosperity from 1948 to Thatcher’s miserable election victory in 1979. By traditional Labour standards, Corbyn’s actually a centrist. But after 40 years of free market Thatcherism, even this moderate position is viewed as dangerously radical by the self-appointed guardians of political orthodoxy.

And that orthodoxy is shared uncritically by Private Eye, even though the magazine has consistently revealed its failure, particularly in the Private Finance Initiative. But it’s the ideology adopted by what passes as the left-wing media set. It’s been pushed by the Groaniad, for example, whose hacks are now in a screaming rage that the left-wingers they’ve been sneering at and gaslighting all these years are abandoning their wretched rag. Sales of the Groan are disastrous and massive job cuts on the way. And the magazine has only itself to blame.

My guess is that Private Eye shares some of the same assumptions as the hacks at the Groan, or at least the left-wing members of the magazine’s staff. Britain’s newspaper hacks, with certain exceptions, seem to come from the same class and my guess is that much of Private Eye may also come from the same journos in the rest of the press, published anonymously.

And so we have the spectacle of the Eye openly revealing its own partisan bias in support of Starmer. Which confirms just how fake the anti-Semitism smears were. The real issue was always the Blairite’s fear of a genuine socialist Labour party that would genuinely empower the working class. The Eye’s anonymous reviewer, through their hopes and prayers for Starmer’s leadership, as just made that very clear.