Climate campaigners win a major victory, leaving Boris Johnson even weaker

Anti-fracking protestors and Boris Johnson
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With flagship fracking company Cuadrilla packing its bags, climate campaigners have won a major victory. And they’ve left Boris Johnson, who has long championed fracking, even weaker.

‘Fracking is dead’

After reportedly triggering several earthquakes, Cuadrilla has begun removing its equipment from the only currently operational fracking site in Lancashire. Friends of the Earth campaigner Jamie Peters said:

Fracking in the UK is now dead. Cuadrilla’s test drilling at Preston New Road was the flagship scheme — and it’s gone badly.

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To get this industry off the ground, regulations would need to be relaxed, and that’s just not going to happen after those August quakes and the growing environmental concerns around fossil fuels.

The shutdown is a blow for Johnson who has called fracking an “answer to the nation’s prayers”.

People powered victory

It looks like grassroots direct action and local organising has killed fracking.

The victory comes off the back of Lancashire’s seven-year-long anti-fracking movement. This has included “a fortnight of action disrupting companies across the UK supplying services and materials to the fracking industry” in June 2018. In response to direct action, the Conservative government oversaw a brutal crackdown on some of the protesters.

Three of Lancashire’s anti-fracking campaigners were jailed in September 2018 for allegedly causing a public nuisance. That’s despite the fact they were peacefully protesting against chemical shale gas extraction, which is strongly linked to earthquakes, polluted drinking water and only adds more to spiralling greenhouse gas emissions. Police and private security firms also stood accused of “unprecedented use of force”.

“Green industrial revolution”

In July 2019, Jeremy Corbyn visited the Preston New Road fracking site. He said:

I want to see a green industrial revolution in Britain.

I want to see sustainability. We cannot go on with this level of CO2 emissions and global warming, otherwise we are all damaged if not doomed.

A green industrial revolution will create around 400,000 jobs, high-skilled, good quality, well paid jobs, all around the country.

That is a future for our children.

We have a short window, as a people, to reduce CO2 emissions, to prevent global warming beyond 1.5C, in order to protect the planet.

I want to say well done everyone in Lancashire that opposed fracking here, as in Derbyshire and other places, in Sussex, and the way in which you have made sure the issue is kept alive.

It looks like a radical solution to the oncoming climate catastrophe is on the cards. At the September 2019 Labour conference, the party voted to adopt a Green New Deal that would incorporate:

public ownership of energy, creating an integrated, democratic system;

public ownership of the Big Six;

large-scale investment in renewables and low-carbon energy.

The death of fracking is a cause for celebration, and the protesters in Lancashire are our heroines and heroes. And Cuadrilla packing away its drills represents another blow for the Johnson government.

Featured image via ReclainThe Power/Flickr and screengrab

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    1. Considerable credit is owing to local campaigners and others joining them from further afield to assist. Yet, there is another factor to consider: well organised Internet-based campaigns promoting petitions, making it easy for people to send emails to their constituency MP, and raising funds for newspaper advertisement.

      Easy access to information and near instant communication enabled by the Internet are rewriting rules of political engagement. Ministers are under more detailed public scrutiny than ever; wrong information, misinformation, downright lies, unexplained inconsistency with previous positions, and dubious financial interests are soon exposed. Additionally, the UK’s dead hand of libel law (far less liberal than than that of the USA) is readily avoided by anonymously posting material beyond jurisdiction; verifiable damning information and argument may be assessed on their own merit without need of knowing from whom it arose.

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      As with many other benefits from technological advance this level of popular engagement in political matters has a considerable downside too. Every Tom, Dick, Harry, and ‘Tommy Robinson’ can put in their pennyworth of misinformation, lies, and tub-thumping, alongside rational and, generally more polite, discourse. A simple fact known to all would-be manipulators of opinion (encompassing politicians, marketing strategists, public relations wallahs, cultists, and assorted axe-grinders) is that emotion can generally be used to trump reason. This holds for many matters political with a small ‘p’ and for almost all when a large ‘P’ is used.

      Currently cascading engagement may also limit ministers, and to lesser extent MPs, in performing tasks lying properly within their remit. Instant feedback on every utterance with perception of need to respond could reduce people in political office to babbling brooks of inanity. Given the calibre of person attracted into politics it could be said they already are adept at babbling. On the bright side, these empty, yet noisy, vessels will be so immersed in what passes in social media as ‘debate’ that civil servants and other professionals will be left alone to efficiently govern.

      Mankind, at least in ‘advanced’ economies, faces severe challenge in isolating serious, evidence based, discourse from a cacophony of extraneous noise.

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      That the execrable Johnson is reported an ardent supporter of fracking comes as no surprise. It looks consistent with his generally shallow and amoral outlook which centres upon his personal well-being and that of cronies.

      Fracking for oil and gas is literally (no exaggeration) a Ponzi scheme. In the USA the fracking industry at best breaks even on immediate extraction costs and is highly susceptible to international fluctuations in the spot price of oil and gas. Taking its development costs (each well has extremely limited useful life) together with its liabilities for externalities, the industry cannot turn profit for investors. Its day by day existence depends upon continually issuing junk bonds.

      As with Ponzi’s original scheme early adopters have walked away with profit. These arise from herd mentality in markets which led to grossly overvalued fracking stocks and bonds. Even Wall Street, that avid pursuer of the ‘no questions asked’ buck, is showing signs of apprehension. Brokers and derivative packagers have done nicely from transaction fees. It was worth extolling fracking. Now they perceive that they and their favoured clients must avoid having any personal skin in the fracking game.

      The beauty of a Ponzi scheme lies with income being extracted by those running it. Fracking-well operators take substantial salaries and bonuses from bond issue produced cash flow. When it all collapses, senior management can walk off with ill-gotten gains; undertakings to repair environmental damage fall by the wayside. This particular Ponzi scheme has added advantage of no risk of being recognised as criminal; that because its structure and proceedings don’t qualitatively differ from routine practice in banking and financial industries.

      It’s easy to grasp why Johnson has a soft spot for fracking.

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      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license (sic).

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