The message has gone out to corporations everywhere: Britain is open for fracking. In response, campaign groups now exist the length and breadth of Britain in opposition to the plans to industrialise the countryside with tens of thousands of drilling sites. They are taking legal action, lobbying their representatives and protesting and occupying sites at considerable risk of police brutality.
But this grass roots movement is up against formidable adversaries.
Corporations have the backing of the state and a public relations campaign led by the government is promoting the lie that fracking is safe and will lead to cheaper energy. Yet public support for shale gas extraction continues to fall while backing for renewables grows. Government claims about jobs and lower gas prices are exposed for the grand deceptions they are. None of this will deter the Cameron government, however, which has thrown the weight of the state behind the frackers.
Substantial tax concessions for companies that take the plunge have been matched by a substantial revision of the planning system so that it is now heavily weighted in favour of the drilling firms. Early in 2014 local authorities were informed they could keep 100% of all business rates generated by fracking activity in their area, which is double the usual amount. Despite austerity and severe cuts in vital services, the government said it would make up the difference. When it comes to fracking, money is no object for a government whose energy policy is in total disarray.
That was demonstrated when massive state subsidies were provided for Chinese and French corporations to entice them into building new nuclear power stations. No surprise then when the France-based energy giant Total announced a major investment in UK fracking. Thwarted by a government relatively hostile to fracking at home, Total understands that the British government will not stand in its way. On the contrary, ministers spent the end of 2013 lobbying hard in Brussels as the European Union prepared to issue fairly tough regulations covering fracking. It paid off.
In January 2014, the EU issued “recommendations” rather than regulations and glasses were raised in Whitehall.
The unholy alliance between the corporations and the state is openly acknowledged: As Dart Energy chief executive John McGoldrick admitted, “wehave tremendous government support”. Chapter 4 Trapped by the corporatestate web, reveals how the connections between lobbyists, former BP chief Lord Browne, government departments and ministers have produced results – for the industry. Browne, the chairman of fracking firm Cuadrilla, wants more. He believes extracting shale gas is a “national imperative” and bemoaned the fact that achieving planning permission still takes time.
He is kicking at an open door. Cameron told a news conference in late 2013: “On fracking, we do need to take action across the board to help enable this technology to go ahead. There is a worry people are going to have to go through so many different permits in order to start fracking that they simply won’t bother, so we need a simplified system.” What this implies is that the government could use its reserve powers to have planning applications for shale taken at ministerial level. This would cut out troublesome and slowmoving local authorities. Cameron is lobbying hard for fracking in the EU, and claims all it will take is to get a few wells up and running and all the opposition will disappear.
This unholy corporate-state alliance to impose fracking on communities has devastating consequences for the environment at local level and contributes to climate change, as we set out in Chapter 5 The road to ecocidal suicide. Fracking Capitalism shows how these considerations are secondary for an economic system driven primarily by profit and maximising shareholder value. The most recent (March, 2014) IPCC report on the impacts of climate change lists hunger, mass migration and extreme economic and social disruption as some of the outcomes of climate change that are imminent but governments ignore this evidence. That is why Chapter 7, Frack capitalism to build a sustainable future, argues: “Slowing, then halting, global warming requires an immediate reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels burned.
The major question facing humanity is: can we rely on the existing governing structures to make this happen? The evidence against this is clear enough.” We set out a comprehensive plan of action to tackle what is in reality an eco-social crisis, where the political-state system is in cahoots with the corporations to frack us all. Going beyond building resistance to fracking to creating a movement that puts power firmly in the hands of presently powerless communities is what is proposed. A World to Win invites you to join with us in carrying this project through to success.
A World to Win