Capitalism has gone mad, and fracking for shale gas is only the tip of an environmentally catastrophic iceberg, which Britain and the rest of the World appear to be accelerating in the direction of, whether most ordinary folk like it or not. That’s what I learned yesterday at the first national anti-fracking gathering in Manchester.
Over a hundred activists attended the day long event, including from ‘Frack Off”, the Campaign Against Climate Change and around half a dozen local anti-fracking groups. It was agreed a loose national umbrella network be formed comprising of all those opposed to the expansion of fracking and other extreme forms of energy.
There were various workshops dealing with how to mount legal challenges to direct action, and how fracking works, etc. Also, how the greatest threat to the environment was not so much from the expansion of fracking for shale gas for which there are estimated UK Reserves of 150 bcm, but from the expansion of a similar drilling process for Coal Bed Methane (estimated 290 bcm reserves) and Underground Coal Gasification (estimated 1676 bcm reserves).
The latter uses a similar technology to fracking, but also involves injecting oxygen, and igniting and partially burning coal seams underground, in order to produce a synthetic gas.
COMING TO OUR AREA SOON
The expansion of these two latter forms of ‘extreme energy’ should be particularly worrying for those living in former deep mine coalfield areas like ours, as they will likely be those ones, Coal Bed Methane extraction and Coal Gasification will presumably be coming to at some point, if we don’t stop it.
JOB CREATION PROSPECTS
In the face of cutbacks in public services, benefits and public sector jobs, and in places like Wigan, widespread youth unemployment, not to mention growing unemployment and social deprivation generally, the huge number of jobs an expansion of this industry will no doubt be touted as creating, will likely be regarded as a positive thing by many.
To be able answer this argument successfully will require linking the fight against fracking and its environmental evils, with the fight for a better, pro-majority of the people alternative to this Capitalist madness in the shape of, in the first instance such proposals as the One Million Climate Jobs campaign are advocating, and many others which would help to create green, well paid, sustainable jobs, if they were implemented.
In addition to this, by linking the latter to the necessity of the working class and other ordinary people everywhere bringing their political power to bear in order to bring about an energy policy, which starts with the long term collective needs of everyone, i.e. favours both environmental and economic sustainability, rather than ‘Capitalist growth’, and the short term greed of the World’s oil, gas and energy giants, and their flunkey politicians.
For them these new forms of extreme energy are merely a means to generate new income streams as hydrocarbon depletion cuts into their conventional business activities. It’s not a sustainable energy solution: At best it’s a stop-gap measure from the standpoint of the global Capitalist system, for two or three decades, before global energy shortages precipitate a far greater crisis. At worst, it will not address the problems of energy supply and prices in the UK, but it will contaminate land, generate toxic waste streams and exacerbate air and noise pollution. It can also only help to accelerate the process of potentially irreversible and catastrophic climate change.
To stop that ultimately will require a system change. Part of our task, is to convince a majority of the necessity of that.