With the government deciding to ignore not only the evidence of its own report, but also 99% of the input to its so-called ‘consultation‘ on fracking, and fracking companies now seeming to bribe landowners with billions of pounds, it seems a good time to step back and take stock of the situation.
Where have we come from, where are we now, and what is going to happen next?
Can we really win?
a. David Cameron has said that he wants to go “all out” for shale gas.
b. Ryedale sits on top of one of the biggest reserves of shale gas in the world: up to ten thousand feet thick in places (nearly two miles).
c. In other places where shale gas has been extracted, the USA, Australia, the consequences have been appalling: in terms of health of humans, livestock, crops, and wildlife, and the effects on people’s livelihoods and property prices.
d. From a climate change point of view (if you believe in climate change) fracked gas is worse than coal.
a. Shale gas extraction so far has been carried out in places with far lower population densities than here. In the USA, densities are typically 100th of the UK average. Even at eight pads per square mile not many people live close by.
b. As frackers have moved into areas with higher population densities, like New York state, so popular resistance has grown. In places like Dryden (New York) and Bentley (Australia), Romania, Northern Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, people have been able successfully to hold fracking back — at least for a while.
c. Meanwhile the price of solar electricity is falling rapidly, with banks like UBS and Citibank predicting that solar will achieve “grid parity (even in the UK)” by around 2020. And whether you believe in the worsening effects of climate change or not, the movements for fossil fuel divestment are growing.
3) What next?
a. So, despite all the evidence of harms, and the opinion of the vast majority of the British people, some people in government seem to be set on fracking.
b. And despite some some setbacks in the planning system, the fracking companies are continuing to press ahead.
c. But their approach is very much ‘softly softly’. Seismic surveys and planning applications are “not for fracking”… until they are. They seem to be trying to slip things through ‘under the radar’. And now they are trying to use money to change our opinions.
d. Why? Why are they behaving like this? If fracking is so good for us, why aren’t they showing us the facts (to contradict our facts)? And if the government is behind it, why aren’t the fracking companies simply charging forward full steam ahead?
e. The only thing that makes sense is because they know we can win. They know the harms, and they know we can win.
f. Across the UK there are now over 300 groups against fracking, up from zero just two years ago.
a. The fracking companies know we can win. It won’t be an easy fight, because billions of pounds are at stake. But we can and will win.
b. For them, that is ok. Because fracking is just a game. The Bowland shale is just another “play”. And their attitude to investors is the same as their attitude to the local people on the ground.
c. Fracking has been described as a ponzi scheme. (The first investors in make a lot of money. The last investors in lose everything.) The bankers don’t care about them, any more than they care about the people who live nearby.
d. The banks’ don’t risk their own money — they risk the money of other investors, and they take their cut. And once the ‘play’ is over, they move on to the next game.
e. This is why we shall win: because for the fracking companies it is just a play, but for the people on the ground fracking is about health, wealth, and quality of life.
f. It won’t be an easy win. But there are two ways to stop fracking:
— One is to remove the political will, by demonstrating how many people are against it.
— The other is to remove the financial will, by raising the costs of fracking, at the same time as the costs of other forms of energy are falling.