No Dash for Gas vs progress and the open society

Recently a group called No Dash for Gas (henceforth NDFG) have been protesting near a site where EDF energy are doing shale gas fracking. I think that when you look closely at what NDFG say and do it becomes clear that they are thugs, wannabe tyrants and an impediment to progress.

In one of their “protests” involved NDFG broke into West Burton power station and camped there on some of the power stations chimneys for a week. NDFG pled guilty to the criminal offence of aggravated trespass. This “protest” cost EDF energy £340,000 in labour and £5 million in delays to finishing the site. Note that this protest doesn’t involve discussing ideas or anything like that. After all, if NDFG wanted a discussion they could have written articles or blog posts instead of committing a criminal offence. Rather, the objective was to deprive EDF of the use of their property, just as a mugger tries to deprive you of the use of your wallet.

NDFG do have a website but looking down the list of what they say about gas they seem a lot fonder of dogmatic assertion than actual argument. They appear to have no interest in understanding their opponents’ position and addressing their problems. For example, they say that gas is bad because burning gas causes carbon dioxide emissions which cause global warming and so we shouldn’t burn gas. They don’t address the argument that the warming might have good effects or that we could adapt to it, or that we could do geo-engineering to stop the warming if it is bad. Even if all of these alternatives are wrong, anybody who thinks they are okay will not be convinced otherwise by NDFG.

NDFG also claim that the price of gas will rise. In and of itself this alleged fact, for which we are given no arguments, doesn’t imply anything about whether EDF should frack for gas or make more gas power stations. More expensive gas may be better than no gas. And I’m not surprised that there are no arguments because the future is not predictable. What we will do in the future depends on the knowledge we have in the future. We don’t know what knowledge we will have in the future and so we don’t know what the price of gas will be in the future.

There is something very odd about NDFG’s actions. Let’s suppose they know of a better alternative to gas. Good for them. They should go out and build a power station. So why haven’t they done this? If they build a power station and provide plentiful, cheap energy then people will buy from NDFG rather than EDF. And if they don’t know how to do that, then why are they protesting? They have nothing better to offer so the protest will achieve nothing.

Then we have EDF’s actions. I don’t know why EDF didn’t throw NDFG out on the first day. They even allowed the protesters to have ropes between the chimneys. EDF then tried to sue NDFG for £5 million in damages, then dropped that suit and got an injunction against NDFG to stop further trespass. Perhaps EDF were hamstrung by bad laws. But that doesn’t quite account for them offering NDFG a dialogue. EDF should not be appeasing NDFG in this way. NDFG are criminals. Nobody should be negotiating with NDFG unless they renounce the use of illegal means of pursuing their agenda. And even then it’s a bit of a puzzle how anybody could have a discussion with people who don’t seem to understand that to change another person’s position you actually have to address the substance of that position.

NDFG’s reply to EDF reveals more about their bad ideas. First, there is this astonishing statement:

Objectors like ourselves have gone to great lengths to point out some crucial facts to EDF: for example, that the CO2 from EDF’s UK coal and gas plants cause £5 million of climate change damage every day; that EDF’s attempts to get a guaranteed price for its nuclear electricity represents a massive multi-billion rip-off public subsidy that could be better spent on energy efficiency and renewables or that EDF’s decision to use its huge wealth and power to lobby against Government renewables targets and in favour of more nuclear power and fossil fuels is anti-democratic and completely disgraceful.

EDF should not be allowed to lobby the government? EDF are a group of people. Anything that is legitimate for people to do is also legitimate for EDF. NDFG don’t have any objection to asking the government for stuff per se because they want the government to give lots of money to people doing stuff with renewables. So what they want is for everybody who disagrees with them to shut up and stop trying to influence the government. So NDFG are opposed to freedom of speech and the existence of an open society.

NDFG also say stuff about £5 million in damage per day caused by fossil fuels but no source or argument is given for this alleged fact. By contrast fossil fuels supplied something like 88% (see p. 12) of the energy consumed in the UK. Since electricity is required for cleaning running water, medicine, food production and just about everything else, it is doing a vast amount of good. If we get rid of 88% of our current energy supply and have nothing to replace it, then we’re fucked. People will die in very large numbers. If NDFG have something to replace it they should start building instead of messing about with protesting. And if they don’t then they’re irresponsible.

NDFG also say that:

The best way for EDF to “ameliorate concerns” and reduce the likelihood of future protest is to take all the above points into account, reduce its prices to a level that people can afford, set a timetable for the closure of all its fossil and nuclear power stations, and release its lobbying stranglehold on Government so that energy efficiency and renewables can be expanded to take their place.

Now I’m puzzled. I thought NDFG were opposed to carbon dioxide emissions, which nuclear power plants don’t produce. So why do they oppose nuclear power?

NDFG might try to excuse their actions by saying that it is urgent that we do something. If that is so, then it is urgent for them to get people on their side, in which case they should be interested in getting good at argument. They should also be trying to build power stations rather than committing criminal acts if they’re serious. Groups like NDFG are a useless impediment to progress.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

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