Unsurprisingly, its carbon emissions are just as colossal. Most countries don’t emit as much CO2 as Drax's one site.
So, if anyone has a responsibility to get a grip on what’s going on, it’s Drax.
This week, the CEO of Drax, Dorothy Thompson, was asked about climate change. She replied
Well, I don't understand. I've read so much on it, but I still don't understand it.
Don’t understand it? It’s very clearly defined in general public perception. Walk down a street and throw a stone in the air, it’ll land on someone who can explain it to you pretty well.
I mean, if you look at the UK in the last five years, and our average temperatures, it's quite breathtaking. They've been very warm. But on the other hand, the Romans were growing grapes here and making wine.
Oh good grief. This is such a hackneyed and pathetic piece of denier's nonsense. Yes, there have always been natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperature. But that doesn’t mean we are not doing something to change it too.
Indeed, the deniers usually point out that volcanoes and whatnot give out loads of CO2. In doing so, they are accepting that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. In which case - unless they are suggesting that our CO2 emissions are a different kind of CO2 to volcanoes (the clue to that one is in the name 'CO2') - they are also accepting the anthropogenic element of climate change.
To say there have always been fluctuations therefore the current ones are nothing to do with us is like saying that because the temperature of your house varies from month to month it makes no difference to how hot it is if you turn the heating on full blast.
Oh, and the grapes thing? We still do grow grapes in Yorkshire.
But I sort of understand why she does this. George Marshall from COIN does an excellent blog, Climate Denial. It deals not with the direct politics or science of climate change, but with the psychology of denial.
People have a completely understandable urge to say 'it's not happening'. As that position becomes untenable, they move to either optimism or pessimism; 'I'm sure it won't be that bad, or we'll find a way to fix it in time', or 'it's too late now and there's nothing we can do'
Have you noticed how the very same people who were denying that climate change was happening are now readily accepting it but saying it's nothing to with us?
Jim Bliss noted this phenomenon about people who stick their fingers in their ears over peak oil,
Pessimism and optimism are not natural opposites. Rather they are both manifestations of a desire to deny reality.
In 1938 a realistic assessment of Europe would acknowledge the great likelihood of war in the near future, and it would not be pessimistic to recommend preparation. The pessimistic position is actually to argue that preparation is pointless because it is a foregone conclusion that fascism will triumph.
The optimistic position, in 1938, is that Hitler is going to be satisfied with what he's got up until now, and preparation for a conflict with fascism is completely unnecessary.
Both of these are denials of reality. And the realist is derided as a doom-monger by the optimist and as a wild-eyed loon by the pessimist. Both of whom wallow comfortably in their denial.
Really, if you were in charge of emitting more CO2 than anyone else in the UK, if this role was what you’d based your personal identity, security and circles of friends around, wouldn’t you find it difficult to face up to it?
Especially if, even if you did want to change it, you couldn’t?
Here we get to the central reason why our culture is so fucking insane. Technology isn’t made to help people. Food is not grown to feed people. Houses are not built to shelter people. Nothing is done to be sustainable, fair or wise. At least, not as the primary concern.
The first priority is to make money. Those other motivations, and any others, are secondary at best.
One of the few quotes so good - and so consistently in need of saying - that I have it memorised comes from Corporate Watch’s Corporate Law And Structures report. It has that Orwell-style blunt, straightforward intelligent language and harshness that feels like it should be exaggerating but is in fact just obliterating the bullshit and saying the plain truth.
For most people, economic values are secondary, and social and to a lesser extent environmental values come first: making money is good but only if it doesn’t conflict with believing it’s wrong to murder, steal or cut down virgin rainforest.
For the corporate ‘environmentalist’, profit is absolute, social and environmental values are relative: their first aim is to make as much money as possible, but given two ways to make that money they choose the one that requires the least murder, blatant theft or environmental destruction. Then they pat themselves on the back for being so responsible.
It always felt like a great piece of anti-capitalist writing. But check this, from Dorothy Thompson, CEO of a FTSE100 company;
There's a word we sometimes use: we see ourselves as responsible. If you're faced with two decisions, and one's going to make you a lot of money but give no environmental benefit, and one's going to make the same amount of money but result in an environmental benefit, it's very clear which one you go for.
Holy fucking moly! It's not just the same point, it's almost the same phrasing as Corporate Watch's hardline anti-capitalist polemic!
Being a good journalist, her interviewer asked the obvious next question. Would it be conceivable for Drax to take the eco-friendly decision if it meant a fall in profitability?
No, because my shareholders wouldn't support it. They invest in us for profit.
So there you have it. No equivocation, from the very top rank of the largest coal-fired power station, a facility whose sole activity is environmentally destructive. It couldn’t be more clear-cut and baldly put.
They will not and cannot ever act responsibly unless it is also profitable. Given that much in the way of responsibility involves a reduction in consumption, it cannot be profitable. Thus, the whole corporate-capitalist way of working cannot solve the crisis, and indeed is utterly suicidal.
The World Health Organisation conservatively estimates that, already, 150,000 people a year are dying from the effects of climate change and the number will drastically increase.
But, bound by the overriding need for profit rather than justice, sustainability or even survival, Dorothy Thompson thinks it's worth carrying on.
As the recently deceased and much mourned Kurt Vonnegut recommended, we should carve an epitaph in big letters in a wall of the Grand Canyon for the flying-saucer people to find; We could have saved it but we were too cheap.