Today, David Cameron will announce that his government is ‘going all out for shale’ gas (also known as fracking), despite local opposition, environmental and health risks and leading voices from inside the fracking industry indicating that fracking will not bring down the bills.
Even Lord Browne, the former BP boss who is now chairman of Cuadrilla as well as a non-executive director inside the civil service, has said: “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.” There would need to be thousands of fracking rigs all over the country to produce that ‘gigantic’ amount of gas.
As a group deeply concerned with fuel poverty we are wondering why the government is focusing so much time and money on an energy ‘solution’ that will have no positive impact on the millions of households who can’t currently afford their bills and have to sit in the cold, dark and damp.
The ten of thousands of winter deaths announced in November made it abundantly clear that action and solutions to fuel poverty are needed NOW. Fracking is taking the government energy policy down a road which does not even concern itself with those in fuel poverty.
So, if fracking won’t bring down the bills, what will it bring us? Well, it will produce just a handful of jobs (http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/fracking-evidence-report) , and quite possibly serious health problems and water pollution, like that which has been seen in the US (‘Nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, invasive chemical smells, constant drilling, slumping property prices – welcome to Ponder, Texas, where fracking has overtaken the town.’http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/14/fracking-hell-live-next-shale-gas-well-texas-us)
We also know reliance on shale gas will worsen climate change and at a time just months after the IPCC (Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change) demonstrated scientific consensus on the huge contribution of man-made pollution to climate change, and asserted the urgent need to act and reduce carbon. This means there is no place in the UK that should be subject to a new extractive industry in fossil fuels.
David Cameron may never have to experience the effects of flooding or crop failure due to climate change, but millions of people do, and even more will be affected if we continue on this carbon-intensive road. And to imagine that countries lucky enough to escape the most catastrophic direct effects will not have to face alarming political consequences of increased competition for essential resources is to bury our heads in the sand.
Additionally, companies such as Shell are showing interest in fracking. If we want to know how companies such as Shell treat communities,we can look to Rossport in Ireland- where community members who have peacefully resisted Shell have found themselves in prison for months at a time- or to the communities of the Niger Delta in Nigeria; where oil spills, dirty water and dead crops define day to day life. Where oil companies have drilled and dug, pollution has followed and local communities who resist have been criminalised.
We need to seriously ask: if there were not serious risks and disturbances to the communities next to fracking rigs, why would they need to be paid off? The fact these pay-offs are needed indicates that communities next to rigs should expect a serious impact on their quality of life.
Fracking won’t bring down bills, it won’t provide plentiful jobs and it won’t bring us affordable and sustainable energy. Polls consistently show that people don’t want energy in the hands of the private sector, they want it public, they want it affordable and they want it to be clean. We need to move towards making this happen; fracking in the hands of the multinational corporations is going to take us further away from this than ever.
We need an energy system that works for people and planet, not for profit, and we need it now.