This piece was written earlier than the information of the draconian jail sentences handed on these opposing fracking in Preston, Lancashire … however that bitter ruling doesn’t destroy the truth that shortly earlier than that call we celebrated a Victory! The Information of an Superb Victory! We wrote of it as follows …
The permission to proceed work at the Bury Hill Wooden fracking website at Leith Hill close to Dorking has been refused to Europa Oil & Fuel! A ten-year epic wrestle to stop drilling on this Space of Excellent Pure Magnificence within the Surrey Hills has been gained! That is an unimaginable achievement by an unimaginable marketing campaign to defend these hills and the springs of the Black Brook that feeds the River Mole which flows on into the Thames. The information was celebrated on Saturday eighth September by Dorking being one of the myriad places the place 350.org’s Rise for Local weather befell all over the world.
The victory is testomony to the Protectors that maintained the Save Leith Hill camp for 16 months by way of a harsh winter, eviction and intense aggression from the personal safety forces employed by the fracking corporations. It’s testomony to Leith Hill Motion Group, Voice for Leith Hill, some native councillors, Pals of the Earth, the Inexperienced Social gathering and most of all of the hundreds of others who blockaded the drill website, lobbied politicians regionally and nationally, petitioned the businesses and constructed networks of solidarity throughout Britain and internationally. We’re impressed by our long run Platform associates, Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey who reside in Dorking and have given a lot time and creativeness to this struggle, making it half of their ever frightening paintings. We salute you!
The victory at Leith Hill, which got here with an announcement from the Minister for Surroundings, Michael Gove, that Europa Oil & Fuel wouldn’t have a lease enabling drilling on Forestry Fee land renewed, is galvanizing not solely in Surrey but in addition throughout the UK. Europa’s challenge was a three way partnership with Egdon Assets, Angus Power, Union Jack Oil and UK Oil & Fuel, and this partnership will contemplate drilling the Holmwood Oil Prospect from one other location, however this does look like the top for the challenge. Patrick Nolan of Leith Hill Motion Group wrote to members:
“Over the last ten years, we at the Leith Hill Action Group have been told by many people in many circumstances that we were just fighting the inevitable. It has been put to me in radio interviews that it was pointless to keep going and that we should just let Europa get on with it. We have faced attitudes from public officials that we were just delaying the unavoidable. However, today’s announcement shows the value of continuing the fight.”
While Lucy Barford, of Voice for Leith Hill, stated:
“There will be other battles ahead, oil drilling is still planned for other sites across the Weald, but for now we will be celebrating the fantastic news that there will be no oil drilling at Leith Hill.”
She is right of course, for the battle towards fracking continues to rage throughout the nation, with iconic fights at Balcombe in Sussex, Rydale in North Yorkshire and, most infamously, at Preston New Street in Lancashire.
The Leith Hill victory got here in the identical week that Platform, in collaboration with Associates of the Earth, Pals of the Earth Scotland and 350.org, revealed a strong new report – ‘Divest Fracking – How UK councils are banking on dirty gas’
These two key occasions permit an opportunity to evaluate the state of affairs for fracking in Britain and ask some primary questions together with: Why is the oil & fuel business doing this? And why now? Who’s driving this?
In 1964 the Tory authorities of Sir Alec Douglas-House started to license areas of the UK North Sea for oil and fuel exploration. Initially curiosity from the oil business was half-hearted, however when fuel was found at West Sole in September 1965 the tempo picked up, and when oil was discovered at the Forties Subject in October 1970, the gold rush was on. The UK sector of the North Sea turned, alongside the Norwegian sector, a ‘site of speculation’, a spot the place cash might be made, the place capital could possibly be invested and revenue generated. The UK North Sea turned a ‘profit centre’ for the western oil firms and stays so at present. To make this potential a brand new infrastructure needed to be created.
To ensure that oil to be extracted from 11,000 ft beneath the seabed and transported via tons of of miles of pipeline, as within the case of the Forties Subject, the bodily infrastructure needed to be constructed. To ensure that this to occur the monetary infrastructure needed to be constructed, with authorities financing of every little thing from ports to air-sea rescue groups, with the world’s lowest oil taxes topped up with tax breaks, and with grants for a myriad of manufacturing processes. To ensure that the oil rigs and Treasury guidelines to turn out to be ‘common sense’ a political infrastructure was essential, the lively help for North Sea oil got here from each nook of the Home of Commons and the engine of Whitehall was put to work. Lastly, there needed to be the infrastructure of tradition, a way within the common inhabitants of the UK that ‘developing’ North Sea oil was a ‘good thing’ and that this useful resource would miraculously ‘save Britain from economic ruin’ within the 1970s. I’ve been looking for any proof of British civil society opposition to exploiting the oil & fuel in its opening many years, and till the 1980s there seems to have been none.
The intention of the fracking corporations presently at work throughout England, akin to Europa and Union Jack Oil in Surrey, Cuadrilla in Lancaster, UK Oil & Fuel in Sussex or INEOS in South Yorkshire, is that these fields and woods, these villages and hills, ought to turn into ‘sites of speculation.’ All of these corporations have an interest solely in a single factor, creating wealth. This isn’t about carbon that is about money.
The PR departments of these corporations spout the road that fracking will make the UK safe in power, that the UK’s ‘energy security’ turns into evermore necessary with Brexit and the unreliability of Russia as a supply of fuel. They level to the ‘fracking revolution’ within the US, which has apparently reversed the inevitable decline in American oil & fuel manufacturing and altered the geopolitical map of the world. Regardless of some nationwide politicians mouthing this rhetoric, the concept fracking might do what it has accomplished within the US is blatant nonsense. About as nonsensical because the argument that fuel from fracking will ‘help the UK address climate change.’
Fracking within the UK isn’t about ‘keeping the lights on’ or ‘saving the planet’, relatively the bogeymen of ‘energy insecurity’ and the ‘environment’ are utilized by the oil corporations to assist create the political and monetary circumstances that make it attainable to remake the UK onshore as a ‘site of speculation’.
However there’s something totally different in the best way that the UK North Sea was exploited within the 1960s and 1970s and the best way the business is making an attempt the exploit onshore Britain within the 2000s and 2010s. Fifty years in the past the cost into offshore drilling was led by large firms – BP, Shell, Esso (todays ExxonMobil), RTZ, Texaco and some smaller US corporations comparable to Amarada, Hamilton Oil and Occidental. Right now the large corporations are nowhere to be seen within the UK.
Famously Bob Dudley CEO of BP stated in 2014, when requested why the corporate was not pursuing fracking in Britain, “We think we would attract the wrong kind of attention.” Nevertheless he did promote the business by saying “It does look like there is shale in the UK … It would seem right for the country to see whether there is shale gas.” In the meantime BP will get ever deeper into fracking for each oil and fuel around the globe, in Argentina, in Oman, in Canada, in China and Russia, because the ‘Divest Fracking’ report elaborates.
It is very important keep in mind that when BP finds it worthwhile to pursue fracking fuel in Oman, or Shell does equally in Argentina, this isn’t as a result of these nations have booming markets in fuel consumption, for the fuel exploited in these lands is just not largely for home use however for export. Because the LNG ships that traverse the oceans bear testomony, there’s a world marketplace for fuel. In principle, fuel fracked within the UK is identical as fuel in Oman or Argentina, and it might be completely potential for it compete on the worldwide market with these merchandise.
Why is that this not potential? Why does Bob Dudley say BP is just not drilling as a result of it will “attract the wrong kind of attention”? In fact he’s making an attempt to keep away from hostile publicity, but when BP actually needed to frack within the UK it might set about determinedly making an attempt to take action, regardless of the dangerous press. Dudley doesn’t need BP to frack in Britain as a result of the price of manufacturing continues to be a lot larger within the UK than elsewhere. And it’s because of the opposition to fracking and the truth that the business has did not construct the infrastructure of speculation – the bodily, political, monetary and cultural infrastructure. This isn’t the 1960s and 70s, the development of the infrastructure is proving far more durable, for resistance is robust.
As ‘Divest Fracking’ explains, within the UK public help for fracking is low, solely 18% of the inhabitants say they achieve this. This stands in stark distinction to the general public’s help for renewables which is robust at 85%. A Scottish Authorities session on fracking final yr attracted greater than 65,000 responses, of which 99% of respondents opposed fracking. The cultural infrastructure needed for fracking to work isn’t being simply constructed in Britain.
The oil business privately admits that finishing up a ‘fracking revolution’ within the UK equal to the US is more likely to be unimaginable. This isn’t as a result of the geology is unfavourable, however quite the human geography is difficult. As many say ‘this is a small and crowded country, this is not Texas or North Dakota’. Fracking within the US has depended upon the power of drillers to quickly transfer rigs and help amenities, however there’s merely not the identical community of roads nor the identical huge blocks of single landholding within the UK. In tight nation lanes and with a patchwork of myriad landowners, mixed with lack of help within the wider tradition, the fracking course of might be always obstructed because the historical past of Leith Hill exhibits.
Political help shouldn’t be unequivocally behind fracking. The UK authorities helps it and Whitehall machine assists it. (Though the choice by Gove and Defra might point out a change of tack in some sections of the Tory Get together?) Nevertheless, the Scottish Authorities has instituted a moratorium, and comparable halts are in place in Wales and Northern Eire. The Inexperienced Celebration, the Liberal Democrats and Labour are largely opposed or at greatest ambivalent. If so at the nationwide degree, then it’s much more so at the native degree. The battle over Leith Hill was powerfully assisted by Liberal Democrat native councillor Hazel Watson, for Dorking Hills ward of Surrey County Council.
The monetary infrastructure of fracking is complicated. A lot of the cash behind the likes of Europa, INEOS and Cuadrilla is from personal fairness funds who see fracking as a high-risk funding, in which there’s an excellent probability that corporations and tasks will fold however the risk of excessive returns in the event that they succeed. Nevertheless the safety for personal buyers is decreased if institutional buyers go chilly on fracking. That is half of the significance of the marketing campaign to make native authorities divest their pension funds from corporations that conduct fracking.
This marketing campaign took a serious step ahead with the discharge of the ‘Divest Fracking’ report and the highly effective media response that coated it. BP and Shell is probably not fracking within the UK but when native authorities divest themselves of shares in these corporations as a result of of fracking, then it sends a strong sign to the capital markets that the danger of investing in UK fracking grows larger as opposition grows. Divestment additionally undermines the political help for fracking.
Because the report factors out, Surrey County Council Pension Fund has £256,604,881 invested in fossil fuels and four.29% of its portfolio is held in corporations that frack. There’s a robust marketing campaign led by Divest Surrey to push the council to divest its pension funds. The sustained strain is making progress however there’s additional to go. Nevertheless that is the council that oversees elements of the planning course of for tasks comparable to Europa’s Holmwood Oil Prospect. If the council divests this helps undermine the political help for oil exploration tasks within the county.
Why then does the strain to frack proceed? Partly it’s a manifestation of the fragmentation of the oil business within the UK. The presence of the oil majors within the Britain’s industrial financial system has been in speedy decline. BP and Shell have closed down or bought on all their petrochemicals crops, their refineries, their lubricants factories, all however a fraction of their petrol stations and most of their offshore fields. Largely these oil firms which have dominated swathes of British society for a century are ‘leaving Britain behind’. Regardless of this seismic shift they continue to be among the many largest corporations by capitalisation on the London Inventory Trade and so have a considerable presence within the UK’s finance sector.
Of their wake come a myriad of small corporations to run the offshore fields, the oil & fuel terminals, the refineries, the street tanker fleets, the pipelines, the service stations and the fracking tasks. Many of these small corporations are privately owned, or not listed on the London Inventory Trade, or are registered for tax overseas. All of this regardless of having patriotic names like Union Jack Oil or UK Oil & Fuel and utilizing slogans on their web site house pages comparable to ‘Energy for Britain’ or ‘Meeting the Energy Demands of the United Kingdom’. INEOS is a fantastic instance, led by Jim Ratcliffe who has simply shifted his base to Monaco, it’s also an ardent Brexit supporter.
These smaller corporations are hooked on danger, for the personal fairness funds that finance them want high-risk high-return investments so as to add spice and attraction to their portfolios. Whereas rates of interest stay traditionally low, there’s a lot of personal fairness all over the world that may be lured by the surface probability that cash is perhaps constructed from drilling in Surrey or Lancashire.
For the businesses, this isn’t about carbon, it’s about money. So the battle towards fracking is a struggle towards a mannequin of finance – a mannequin that fuels different ‘sites of speculation’ similar to housing in London – which continuously seeks out locations of danger. It does so cocooned from the world – insulated with its personal revenue, its personal schooling, its personal healthcare, its homes and villas, its jet journey – wilfully ignoring the larger danger that speculating on fossil fuels poses to the Earth’s local weather and the myriad of different species and peoples of the world.
Midas is blind.
However the resistance to Midas is robust, rising stronger.
(Many because of Heather Ackroyd & Dan Harvey, and Sakina Sheikh)