Fracking, corruption and poison

Activists protesting against fracking at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester. (Photo via Left Unity Bolton)

Fracking will poison the water, corruption is behind government support, it won’t bring down gas prices, and it has banned in much of Europe. Cris Johnson makes the case against fracking in Kent – and for that matter across the UK. Originally published in Kent International Socialists Solidarity Bulletin.

David Cameron is railroading fracking, and most probably because his adviser, Lynton Crosby, has advised him this is “a good option for the country”. Crosby’s firm, Crosby Textor, represents the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association, a powerful group that campaigns for fracking.

This is an obvious vested interest and not one that concerns citizens, such as us living in Thanet, who will be directly affected with this environmental travesty on our very doorsteps.

This adviser to the Prime Minister has already seen the change to plain packaging for cigarette packets deferred – Crosby’s firm has also represented tobacco giant, Philip Morris. Corruption is possbile, as we are now seeing George Osborne unveil the “most generous tax breaks in the world” for shale gas producers. The Chancellor has said that fracking firms will benefit from a 30% tax rate whilst new North Sea oil operations are taxed at 62%.

Across Europe bans have been enforced against fracking. France had a moratorium on the practice of fracking whilst it was being further researched, due to the emerging fears of earthquakes being caused, as well as there being the potential for underground water supply aquifer pollution and air pollution and an overbearing general environmental impact. This was later followed by an outright ban which was challenged but upheld by the French Constitutional Council, making any further legal challenges impossible. Bulgaria, Germany and Ireland have also banned the practice and the Czech Republic is moving towards a ban.

An extensive study of fracking commissioned by the European Union revealed, “Risks of surface and ground water contamination, water resource depletion, air and noise emissions, land take, disturbance to biodiversity and impacts related to traffic are deemed to be high in the case of cumulative projects.” The 292-page study recommended that no fracking be allowed near areas where water is used for drinking.

David Cameron has promised huge reductions in the cost of gas in this country, similar to what has been seen in the United States. The impactof fracking has had an immediate effect on people in the UK already, just look at Balcombe in Sussex where the village saw a massive influx of heavy vehicles and reported cases of water pollution.

Cameron also faces increasing isolation within his own government over fracking. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is avoiding backing his claim that gas prices will fall as a result of shale gas development. Lord Browne, the former Chief Executive of BP and current CEO of Cuadrilla, one of the leading fracking companies in the UK, has added to the controversy by saying, “We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price.” We already know that the big six energy companies buy in gas at variable rates, and whilst it always goes up we never see our bills come down when their costs come down.

And we cannot forget the environmental impact of fracking. Locally we source our water from underground water aquifers. The fracking process requires to go through these, extracting the gases and highly toxic waste materials through concrete casements which could fail. Millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water have to be pumped into the ground, along with the toxic fracking materials. It is very difficult and costly to recycle this water, so much of it always runs off to waste.

In Thanet and the surrounding North East Kent area, we are living in an area with a high water demand. Even building new houses puts a pressure on our supply. Fracking will need water to extract the gas and in the event of water supply pollution we could potentially lose our water supply altogether. Livestock are known to be harmed by ingesting waste materials at surface. Air pollution happens as a matter of course. Prevailing south westerly winds will bring this right over Thanet from Woodnesborough, just outside Sandwich and neighbouring Cliffs End.

Your permission is no longer required for companies to frack, horizontally, under anyone’s property, not only causing a potential for property damage but it must also be understood that insurers will not insure properties affected by fracking or in areas near fracking sites. Property values will suffer.

Kent IS stands against fracking and we ask you do too, for your own benefit.

There are 3 comments

  1. Ian Allinson

    I think the even more fundamental issue is that it is another fossil fuel, producing greenhouse gasses and adding to man-made climate change. Even if it was completely safe I think we should oppose it because of climate change, and argue for investment in energy conservation, improved public transport, better housing, climate jobs and renewable energy instead.

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  2. Ewa Barker

    The first comment reveals that Comyn is someone who does not wish to engage in serious discussion, but is merely out to cause trouble. We can all commit factual errors from time to time and it is helpful to correct them if you have detailed technical knowledge. In the case of fracking there are so many lies peddled by the fossil fuel lobby that it can be quite difficult to separate fact from propaganda. Even our Tory government has flatly denied the experience of environmental and health damage in the USA , the truth of which is backed by serious academic research there. Comyn’s final sarcasm is puzzling until you realise he’s complaining about a typo in the first paragraph of the article.
    However, I agree with Ian that climate change is the most important argument against fracking. It is too often ignored by the very brave protectors who place their bodies in front of iGas lorries to frustrate and delay the drilling – often at great physical cost to themselves. (Several have been hospitalised after the attentions of the GMP.)
    Cameron has appointed a climate sceptic, Owen Paterson, as minister for the
    environment, should we laugh or weep? Tory support for fracking:-1)tax breaks for the frackers, 2) the open invitation of declaring that two thirds of the UK has shale deposits ripe for exploitation 3) the fact that each fracking well has a relatively short working life, all point to their ultimate goal of tens of thousands of wells covering the countryside of Britain. But the other side of this coin gives us some hope. Each drilling so far has generated protest so 10 thousand wells may well mean 10 thousand protest groups. People organising, learning resistance skills, finding ever more creative ways to block the frackers. This experience is bound to stand us in good stead for other battles to come.
    However, time is short. The destructiveness of climate change already experienced around the world:- super-typhoons in the Philippines and New York, off-scale heat waves in Australia, floods, homelessness and death – all these are the result of only 0.8 degrees rise in average global temperature. Climate change scientists have grave doubts whether a maximum of 2 degrees warming is now possible. The current measurements point to a trajectory towards 4 degrees. The possibility of feedback processes causing runaway, unstoppable climate change well beyond 4 degrees, is rising.
    The latest IPCC report now focuses on “adaptation” (learning to live with the change) The conclusions of the Stern report (prevention is much much cheaper than adaptation) have been cast aside. Adaptation for the 1% might be possible, but is meaningless for the 99%. Yet this is clearly the future Cameron has in mind for us. If ever there was an argument for getting rid of this system, this one tops them all.

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