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No Dash For Gas back in action as West Burton activists sentenced

protesters outside the arena
The protesters accused EDF of ‘silencing science’ Photos by activists

‘I’d love to be a fly on the wall at EDF’s head office today’, laughed a student activist as the news broke that No Dash for Gas are back in action. This was not so much a vindictive comment, but a sign that the climate movement cannot be stopped by the bullying tactics of corporate bodies directed at people who get in the way of their profits.

On Thursday 6 June 2013, university students from Oxford, Reading and Bristol UWE staged a guerilla protest on the stage of the packed out EDF Energy Arena at the Cheltenham Science Festival. They held a large banner which read, ‘EDF Silencing Science Since 1946’.

The action coincided with solidarity events in London and Nottingham as 21 activists were sentenced to conditional discharges and community service for climbing and shutting down EDF’s West Burton power station for a week in 2012 to highlight the British government’s dangerous dash for gas.

In Cheltenham, one protester took to the stage posing as an EDF executive with a dunce cap, and regaled the audience with all the reasons why his company loved corporate science but hated climate science.

‘I’ve been reading about this whole “global warming” thing on the internet – it turns out we have absolutely nothing to worry about. There are a number of blogs with profit-producing proof, proving that we can burn all the gas we like,’ said Dominic O’Donnell acting as ‘chief executive’ of EDF.

man dressed as dunce
One person dressed as an ‘EDF executive’ for the stunt Photos by activists

But what connects energy giant EDF, climate science and the No Dash For Gas activists who staged Britain’s longest power station occupation last winter? EDF have been part of the Treasury’s grand plan to build 40 new gas-fired power stations in the UK, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that fossil fuel use needs to be dramatically reduced and the targets the government has made to reduce our carbon emissions by 2050.

Britain is developing an economy based on gas and increasing our reliance on it will push millions into fuel poverty, putting us at risk of reaching global temperatures that humanity has never experienced. There are an overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed scientific papers taking a position on global warming saying that human activity, mainly fossil fuel extraction and consumption is what’s causing this.

‘A toxic greenwash is under way, EDF’s sponsorship of the Cheltenham Science Festival is misleading people into thinking they support science whilst they work hard at silencing the main body of climate science,’ said student activist Ben Powrie as the group assembled on top of the stage.

‘The global scientific community has repeatedly warned us that the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to dangerous changes in the earth’s climate system, but EDF prefers to keep its head in the sand.

In early 2013, more than 64,000 people signed a petition in support of the West Burton protesters after EDF launched a £5 million ($7.7 million) damages claim against them. This was dropped after they accepted an injunction preventing them from entering multiple EDF Energy sites.

It had been feared that they would go to prison but sentences ranged from 18 months conditional discharges to community service. The judge said the group’s ‘motives were genuine,’ and said the group were ‘industrious committed individuals who wok and volunteer in your communities.’

Supporters of No Dash For Gas have said they will return to West Burton power station in August 2013 for a four day action camp.

On 6 June, the audience cheered as the activists left the Cheltnham arena. Large greenwashing corporate bodies, such as EDF, who spend millions on sponsoring events like the Cheltenham Science Festival, are on the back foot. No Dash for Gas is back to reclaim the power.

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  1. #1 Jane 24 Jul 13

    Where do all these protestors think all our electricity is going to come from then? They want coal fired power stations closed, despite the fact that China is building new coal fired power stations every week, they don't want biomass and they don't want gas. Do they really think the needs of this country will be met through solar power and wind farms alone. What will the protestors do should this country have power cuts? Throughout history we have had warmer periods and then colder periods and long before the industrial revolution, or man come to that.

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Tara Clarke a New Internationalist contributor

Tara Clarke blogs on science and the environment at Tara’s Eco Science Blog.

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