A Hole in the System

Published on ZNet (first on The Guardian), by George Monbiot, April 30, 2015.

Wrapped up in this story is everything that’s wrong with the way our economy works. Corporations ream the land with giant holes, extract a stack of money, then clear out, leaving other people with the costs. There’s a briefer description: legalised theft.  

This is an account, scarcely mentioned in the national media, of the massive unfunded liabilities emerging from coalfields throughout Britain that opencast mining companies have been allowed to walk away from. In terms of irresponsibility, it’s comparable to the nuclear industry’s failure to fund its decommissioning costs. And it offers a solid argument, even to those who continue to reject climate science, for keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

As I write, Neath-Port Talbot council in south Wales is considering a new application for an opencast coalmine. The mine is unpopular, but its proponents argue that it’s necessary. Why? Because only by digging a new pit, they say, can the money be made to fill in an old one. How could this be true, when millions of tonnes of coal have been extracted? Where did all the money go?

When British Coal was privatised by John Major’s government, in 1994, the company that took over in south Wales, Celtic Energy, was granted a 10-year exemption from paying a restoration bond in return for a slightly higher price for the assets. That higher price disappeared into national accounts, doubtless to fund one of Major’s tax cuts for the rich.

After 10 years, the exemption expired, and Celtic Energy had to start putting up a decommissioning fund. At East Pit, where the application for new mining is now being considered, the bond stands at around £4m, while the restoration is likely to cost about £115m. At another vast pit, Margam, near Bridgend, there is £5.7m in the kitty – against an estimated restoration cost of £56m … //

… Last week, lost in the election turmoil, the Welsh Senedd did something remarkable. It voted, by 30 votes to zero, for a moratorium on opencast coalmining. With the Welsh ban on fracking, this could have meant that Wales was the first nation on earth to keep its fossil fuels in the ground. But the Welsh government refused to accept the decision, using the restoration argument. Past crimes are used to justify new ones.

Fire and forget: that’s the psychopathic business model we confront, and the forgetting is assisted by the press and political leaders. To them, the victims are non-people, the ruined landscapes non-places. All that counts is the money.

(full text).


Witnessing A Fundamental Change In The Oil Sector, on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, April 30, 2015;

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Fears As Predator Returns To Europe, Interview with Italian biologist Luigi Boitani, on Spiegel Online International, by Julia Koch, April 30, 2015 (Photo Gallery): The wolf has returned to Germany and along with it, ages old fears. But these worries are unfounded, argues Italian biologist Luigi Boitani, who has studied the creature’s return across Europe …; wolves on Google Images-search;

New video of Nepal earthquake shows building collapsing on motorists, on Russia Today RT, April 30, 2015;

The Banksters War on Cash, on Dissident Voice, by James Hall, April 30, 2015;

Ukraine takes steps to replace Russian news channels with tasteful erotica, on Russia Today RT, April 30, 2015 (see also: Kiev orders crackdown on Ukrainian providers broadcasting Russian TV channels, on Russia Today RT, Aug 19, 2014);

We Made an SEC Private Equity Whistleblower Filing, on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, April 30, 2015;

India: Holding PF balance for 5 years won’t absolve tax implications, on live mint, by Parizad Sirwalla, April 30, 2015: merely holding the PF balance for more than five years will not absolve the tax implications;

May Day – Four Interrelated Meanings, on teleSUR, by Paul Street, April 29, 2015;

The Public Sector Is a Milk Cow for Private Enterprise, on Dissident Voice, by Paul Craig Roberts, April 29, 2015;

Top 5 Reasons Why TANF Is Not a Model for Other Income Assistance Programs, on American Progress.org/Poverty, by Rebecca Vallas & Melissa Boteach, April 29, 2015;

Temps libre, que faire ce jeudi à Lille et dans la métropole, dans La Voix du Nord, le 29 avril 2015;

Un Franc-Comtois de 19 ans veut être candidat à la présidentielle en 2017, dans Franche-Comté, le 29 avril 2015;

Profound Analysis of Yemen by Objective Harvard Professor? on Dissident Voice (first on NPR Watch (National Pablum Radio), by John V. Walsh, April 29, 2015;

Finland’s New Plurality Party Favors an Extra Income For All From Abundance, on Progress.org, by Jeffery J. Smith, April 27, 2015;

Panique – le passage forcé par le terrorisme, dans Politis.fr, par LeYéti, le 27 avril 2015;

India: Don’t misuse Forms 15G, 15H to avoid TDS, on The Times of India, by Chandralekha Mukerji, April 27, 2015;

India: 16.9 million deaths from conditions treatable with basic surgery, on The Asian Age, by Teena Thacker, April 27, 2015;

Personal Best: Salute to the volunteers, on Vernon Morning Star, by Pat Black, April 26, 2015;

Canada: United Church on P.E.I. wants political leaders aware of poverty issue, on The Guardian.pe.ca, April 26, 2015;

Nepal Earthquake Updates, Houses Being Color Tagged if Livable, on teleSUR, April 25, 2015;

Canada: no anti-poverty measures in 2015 budget, Minister Joe Oliver avoids any mention of poverty, on rabble.ca, by DENNIS GRUENDING, April 24, 2015;

US: Greene County Bancorp, Inc. Reports Record Net Income for the Nine Months Ended March 31, 2015 and Completes Expansion in Ulster County, on NASDAQ, April 24, 2015.

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