Posted by: notsomuchatreehugger | 28 July 2009

Larry on Ed’s case

Ed Miliband, or Ed Miliband’s PR team, writes in its generic response to letters they receive about Vestas (of which there must have been up to a thousand by now) that “making sure the transition happens as quickly as possible will need government action, it will need dynamic companies, and it will also need us to win arguments around the country that renewable power should have a bigger role in the country’s future.” (see the full letter below)

It’s funny that Mr Miliband should talk about “action” whilst simultaneously acting for all the world as though his hands are tied on this on. Nationalising the plant, he said yesterday in Oxford, would not encourage Mitsubishi and Siemens to come and invest in the British market. (Nationalising RBS is not so much of a problem, I suppose?)

Good as all this sounds, “winning arguments across the country” over wind power is NOT in fact a big part of the issue at hand; the argument is largely already won. As Mr Miliband must know, NIMBY campaigns can easily be brushed aside when the proposed development is something with big business and big capital behind it (a coal fire power station by E.on, or a runway, perhaps). Nevertheless a small but vocal number of NIMBYs, when it comes to wind power, again and again manage to trounce our political leaders and block planning permissions for the 7000 wind turbines we’re supposed to have up and running by 2020. Are they really asking us to believe that (poor things) there’s simply nothing they can do about Vestas? If this is the case, then all the more reason to take over the factory under democratic workers’ control…

Anyway. We just wanted to post up a potent response from Larry Lohmann to Miliband’s slimy letter.

Dear Minister,

This is an inadequate response.

Your job is finding ways of laying the groundwork for a non-fossil fuel society, not finding excuses in what Vestas management might have said about global competitiveness. This is a concrete opportunity to do that job.

Your job is to ensure that a basis of green skills is built and maintained in the UK, and listening to the people who have those skills, not in just talking about blade size. This is a concrete opportunity to do that job.

Your job is to show leadership and help create the conditions for public discussion about climate change, not to blame the public for their ignorance. This is a concrete opportunity to do that job.

If such concrete opportunities are not taken when they present themselves, the rest of policy runs the risk of being seen as — and indeed being — pointless.

Larry Lohmann


Larry Lohmann is a scholar and activist who works with the Corner House, a research and solidarity NGO in the UK that supports democratic and community movements for environmental and social justice.
Lots of his articles (about the “ignorance production” facilitated by carbon trading; about privatisation and power…) can be found here:

Miliband, Ed (DECC) wrote:

> Thank you for your email about the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight.
> I am very sorry for the people who are losing their jobs. When I met the Vestas management a few months ago, to see how we could help, and when I have spoken to them since then, I have wanted to do all I can to try to find a solution that could help the workforce.
> Vestas have repeatedly told us that offers of government subsidy were not the issue for them. The factory makes a different sized blade to the ones used in Britain, so each one it makes is shipped to the US. They wanted to have their production in America to cut some of that journey.
> As part of global reductions in their workforce, they are not at the current time converting the Isle of Wight site to make turbines for the British market.
> Their biggest difficulty is with planning objections to onshore wind turbines, which have slowed down the growth in the UK market. That is why we are reforming the planning rules and are arguing strongly that people need to see climate change as a bigger threat to the countryside than the wind turbine.
> Vestas are keeping a prototype facility at the factory on the Isle of Wight and we are currently considering an application from them for support of an offshore blade testing and development facility, which will employ 150 people initially, and is expected to grow in the future.
> Government policy is having a positive effect. Next year alone, the renewable electricity industry will get £1 billion of support because of government action, and the amount of power from onshore wind grew by a third last year, and the amount of offshore wind power grew by 67% – so Britain now has more offshore wind power than any other country in the world.
> It is to enhance the prospects for green jobs that we have made available 120 million pounds for offshore wind manufacture in the UK and 60 million pounds for marine development. Last week I visited a factory in Wales that employs 800 people and exports solar panels across Europe. The week before I saw a factory that is producing buses that produce fewer emissions, helping climate change and local air quality. Research suggest there could be half a million jobs in renewable energy by 2020.
> I believe that to be ready to pursue these opportunities, we must invest in the skills, research, and the infrastructure to help clean energy companies grow – and we are making those investments.
> There is government action for different industries and areas of the country, which you can read about at
> In the end, making sure the transition happens as quickly as possible will need government action, it will need dynamic companies, and it will also need us to win arguments around the country that renewable power should have a bigger role in the country’s future.
> Thank you again for writing to me.
> Ed Miliband


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