To 'Camp Frack', and beyond!
mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Fri May 24 23:26:18 BST 2013
To 'Camp Frack', and beyond!
Paul Mobbs reflects on the national extreme energy gathering, and the
challenges for our campaigns during the coming year
Red Pepper, 24th May 2013
Attending 'Camp Frack' in Lancashire recently was heartening. After all
our efforts over the last few years, things are starting to take off.
There is a real buzz in the movement as people get informed, network
with other groups around Britain and beyond, and pressure the government
and the energy lobbyists to justify the wild claims being made about
The weekend saw a gathering of 'unconventional gas' activists from
across the globe. Despite the rain and gales we set up in a field near
Southport for a weekend of speeches, workshops and fun. Organised by the
Manchester Trades Council and the Campaign Against Climate Change, it
was also significant because environmentalists were working closely with
trades unionists to promote the alternatives to the government's
Over the last three years, the movement has developed a strong case
against the unconventional gas industry. The presentations and speeches
over the weekend directly challenged the claims made by the industry's
supporters in the government and business lobby. This confidence in our
case has also brought a much clearer focus to the work of the movement.
For example, rather like nuclear power, unconventional gas looked set to
split the environmental movement. With natural gas being 'cleaner than
coal', some supported unconventional gas, believing it could reduce coal
burning. Such assumptions expose the reliance of this debate upon a
heavily lobbied and partisan media for their information – and is
something that, with the wealth of information available, we can
demonstrate is factually wrong.
Camp Frack was also attended by activists from Australia, where these
processes have been operating for a decade now. They shared their
valuable knowledge and experience with us. Not only are Australian
activists further along in developing a response to the harm these
developments create, the Australian media have also done a far more
responsible job in investigating and highlighting the damage caused by
these processes. As a result, the Australian unconventional gas industry
has been on the retreat following recent grassroots protests – such as
the 'Lock The Gate' campaign.
Today, from the USA to Canada and Australia, there is plenty of official
and objective information on the impacts of unconventional gas
extraction. Unfortunately, the work of scientists and expert groups
which contradict the political and industrial lobby's statements on
unconventional gas are rarely explored in Britain. In contrast to what
we see in the media here, the public are very surprised when they see
what the rest of the world knows about these processes. For example, in
2012 the United Nations Environment Programme concluded: 'Hydrologic
fracking may result in unavoidable environmental impacts even if
[unconventional gas] is extracted properly, and more so if done
inadequately. Even if risk can be reduced theoretically, in practise
many accidents from leaky or malfunctioning equipment as well as from
bad practises are regularly occurring.'
This contradicts the UK government, which has been hiding behind the
statements of the Royal Society and others, that shale gas and fracking
are safe if 'operational best practices [are] implemented and enforced
through strong regulation'.
Again, sharing information with Australian activists has produced great
benefits on the 'regulation' issue. Dart Energy recently closed its
Australian facilities in response to highly effective local protests,
publicly stating that it is coming to Britain because our liberalised
regulatory process is more favourable to their operations. For example,
at Dart's operations in Scotland the Scottish Environmental Protection
Agency allow them to monitor their own plant. It's also from one of
Dart's sites near Canonbie that we've received the first reports in
Britain about methane leaking into local water supplies. So how can we
ensure that there will be no problems here if there are already problems
in Australia where the regulations are more strict?
The challenge for the movement now is to use the evidence we've gathered
to publicly expose the corporate-sponsored spin and misinformation which
has hijacked Britain's energy debate. And to that end we've got some
testing times ahead. Scotland, Sussex and the Lancashire-Cheshire area
are likely to see extraction sites developed soon. Lord Browne,
government minister and chairman of Lancashire driller Cuadrilla, has
said they will invest 'whatever it takes' to develop unconventional gas
here. And David Cameron has just replaced his pro-gas energy and climate
advisor with a UKIP-supporting climate change denier.
However, the unconventional gas companies have described the coming year
as 'make or break' for the industry in Britain – so there's everything
to play for. Perhaps that's also why we see pro-industry figures, such
as former Tory minister Peter Lilley, launching attacks on
environmentalists over unconventional gas developments, trying to poison
the public's perception of the arguments against current energy policy.
After Camp Frack, I'm looking forward to challenging the unconventional
gas industry and their political supporters. It's not just that we can
prove they are factually wrong on so many points. For me, Camp Frack
demonstrates that we have the capability to take these people on and, as
the Australian experience shows, win the public debate.
For a fully referenced version of this article see Paul Mobbs' website
"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')
Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at gn.apc.org
website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey_public_key-2013.asc
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