By Hannah Martin and Graham Thompson from No Dash For Gas
This week in Sussex, we’ve been reclaiming the power. At our six-day camp, we’ve shared skills, discussed complex environmental and social issues and crucially, taken direct action by shutting down the Cuadrilla shale oil drilling site in Balcombe. Part of our campaign involved skilling up campaigners who will carry on the movement for change long after the Reclaim the Power camp has moved on from Balcombe.
Many of us are climate activists concerned by the high emissions from fracking. Due to leaks in the extraction process shale gas could be worse for the climate than coal. Furthermore, the government’s enthusiasm for gas extends beyond exploration and extraction to building a new generation of gas-fired power stations. This would lock us into high-carbon energy for decades to come and make the legally binding emissions targets in the climate bill impossible to achieve.
Another big concern, particularly for people living in the local area, is water. The trickle of scientific studies from the US show that contamination with methane and various toxic chemicals, brought about by the fracking process, may be a risk. The small earthquakes created at some fracking sites may not threaten the structural integrity of your house, but have already damaged the structural integrity of the first fracked well in the UK, adding to that contamination risk. There are also serious local concerns about noise, traffic, and flaring.
Then of course we have the problem of fuel poverty, being exacerbated by the constantly rising price of gas on the international market. The more we rely on gas, the greater this problem becomes – even Cuadrilla have admitted that fracking won’t significantly reduce energy bills.
We don’t need fracking. There’s already plenty of research showing that renewables and sensible energy use can fulfil our needs now and in the future. The only obstacles of realising renewable energy in this country are political and need to be removed now while we still have the opportunity.
However, instead of paying attention, the UK government are pursuing this route with a doggedness which suggests pro-fracking influence. Energy companies are employing high-scale, polished PR companies like Bell Pottinger to convince the general public and even the Church of England of the potential shale gas has to, (according to the Cuadrilla press release), solve the fuel crisis, economic crisis, heating crisis and generally save the world. The spin being propagated by a pro-fracking PR offensive often plays into the hands of a right-wing obsession with anti-fossil fuel exploration spearheaded by a couple of hippies with fire-sticks dancing around fusion. This could not be further from the truth.
The two opinion polls conducted in Balcombe have shown 82%, and more recently 85% of the local population are opposed to Cuadrilla’s plans. But this has no bearing on what will actually happen. Because, as the Daily Mail thunders, British democracy will not countenance “mob rule”. And so the right-wing press swings into action to defend our democracy from that threat, portraying pensioners, children and the disabled, who took leading roles in many of our protests, as violent thugs. Unprovoked acts of shocking violence from the police, directed against people posing no threat and offering no resistance, are described as ‘clashes’, as Murdoch and the Mail struggle, against a mountain of evidence, to blame the victims.
We’ve made it very clear in the national media that wherever fracking is planned, there will be significant and sustained resistance by a broad and diverse coalition with equally diverse tactics.
In one of the emails inviting people to the camp, participants were encouraged to bring with them ‘a desire to change the world.’ The world as it stands is controlled by hand-shakes, gentleman’s agreements and a virtually incomprehensible lobbying system where PR firms can spin their ‘utter fucking bullshit’ ad infinitum. We are committed to reclaiming the power from these corners and returning it to the hands of the electorate.