Tuesday, 21 May 2013


We modern humans have always lived in pretty well connected world, so if you think that there is no direct or even indirect connection between a public meeting about the plan to build a gas fired power station in Wrecsam and the suppression of a teacher union in Bahrain, then think again. The plan to build an £800 million pound gas-fired power station in Wrecsam, which Wrexham Power have said could create up to 1,200 construction jobs and 50 permanent posts on the proposed site at Wrecsam Industrial Estate, has led to the creation of an action group Wrecsam Residents Against Power Scheme (Wraps) whose concerned members have "many reservations" about the proposals for the gas fired power station.

The plan to construct (yet) another gas fired power station (in Wales) adding to ones constructed earlier in Pembrokeshire and in Newport (Gwent) is part of yet another Conservative inspired ‘dash to gas’. Whether the thrown bone of jobs is enough of a distracter to allow to project to go through on the nod is a matter of conjecture. If nothing else the Con Dem Westminster Government is running greater risks by increasing the UK’s dependency upon imported gas from the chronically unstable Persian Gulf and Russia.

Successive Westminster Governments should have been working consistently to ensure our energy independence. Instead they have presided over our increasing dependence on imported energy supplies and left energy planning to the privatised energy companies who are only interested in generating more profits.  Much of the gas for the new generation of gas fired power stations comes from the Persian gulf and despite Mr Cameron’s best efforts to sell the Gulf elites more rubber and real bullets than they can use in a month of Sundays the region remains chronically unstable.

Bahrain has a reputation as being quite the repressive regime having cracked down on protests for democracy in 2011. Amongst those arrested in the crackdown were members of the Bahrain Teachers Association. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the release of the jailed president of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Mahdi Abu Dheeb. He was convicted by a military court of plotting to overthrow the government during unrest that swept Bahrain in 2011, receiving a 10 year sentence, reduced to five on appeal.

Mr Abu Dheeb and his vice-president Jalila al-Salman have made allegations that they were tortured in detention after calling for a strike by teachers in March 2011 to support pro-democracy activists who had occupied the Pearl Roundabout, in Manama (the capital city). The Bahrain Teachers Association was subsequently dissolved by the government after its leaders were arrested. Ms Salman was originally sentenced to three years in jail but that was reduced to six months on appeal. In March this year she was sacked from her teaching job after criticising Bahrain's human rights record at a conference in Washington DC.  All these people did was call a strike as trade union leaders.

This is where energy policy, political repression and Human Rights all meet up. On a very basic level, to have an energy strategy that is to all intents and purposes dependent on imported gas from a politically unstable region is questionable to say the least. Surely if nothing else the events of the Arab spring should have taught the West one thing at least, in that at some point even the most heavily tooled up repressive regime can fall if enough people are willing to challenge it. At which point when the lights begin to flicker where exactly will we be left standing?

No comments:

Post a Comment