Fracking will poison the water, corruption is behind government support, it won’t bring down gas prices, and it has been 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.