Some views of the “vast uninhabited desolate areas” from around County Durham, in the North East.
“Fracking should be carried out in the North East of England, where there are large, ‘desolate areas'”, a former energy secretary Lord Howell of Guildford has said. He argued there was “‘plenty of room’ for developments and less concern than was the case over ‘beautiful natural areas'”.
That comment reveals an utter thug, ignorant and blatantly prejudiced, as well as greedy and hell bent on environmental vandalism and ecological devastation, and all for nothing more than base greed and profit. The man has never seen County Durham, clearly, or Teesdale, with our spectacular Durham Dales and many other areas of exceptional beauty and remarkable, precious wildlife.
Oh ho! The Land of Prince Bishops, and indeed most of the North East is a long-standing haven of Labour Party voters, and the North/South schism is never more clear and manifest than when we have a Tory (or Tory-led) Government. Well the contempt is reciprocated. Now then, you braying, greedy wolf, go yelp at the moon. And no, there’s no shale gas up there, Mr Howl. Get thee gone, loutish man, and shut thy prattling, greedy, gawping, gormless gob. Or, perish t’ thought, I will go find t’ very angry northern whippets, and let them all loose on you.
Seriously, the Tories, along with their network of unholy business alliances, are selling England by the pound. And the rest of the UK.
Lord Howell is the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne, and was also the minister in the Foreign Office responsible for international energy policy between 2010 and 2013. George Osborne’s planned new shale gas allowance will more than halve the tax due on a proportion – which will be determined following consultation – of income from production in order to “encourage” exploration of the unconventional and controversial energy resource in the UK. Howell and his sponsors stand to gain substantially from this enormous tax break for the fracking industry.
Howell’s comments were so crass and churlish that a Government spokesman with a damage limitation mission piped up instantly that: “Lord Howell is not a minister and does not speak for the Government. He has not been a Government adviser since April 2013.” Howell may have “provoked gasps of shock” in the House of Lords when he said the gas production method could be safely carried out in the North East without environmental impact, but his attitude of prejudice towards “the North” is a commonly held one within the current Cabinet, and this was so within the Thatcher Cabinet: he was the energy secretary from 1979 to 1981. I’ve always known that Tories hold deeply bigoted and vulgar views of me and my friends in the North. Never mind, I’ll let you into a little secret: I’m not so keen on the Tories, either.
Natalie Bennett said of the crude comments Howl made: “His casual Nimbyism is breath-taking – and his view of the North East deeply disturbing.We know that governments have long neglected regional development policy, and allowed a greatly excessive concentration of the economy on the South East, and this is a demonstration of the attitudes behind that”. Environmental campaigners reacted to the Tory peer’s comments with fury.
North Eastern Labour MPs also expressed their shock at Lord Howell’s comments. Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, told the Huffington Post UK: “It is a revealing insight into the attitudes this Government of posh boys from the home counties try to hide – the north east is a long, long way away and not near where our kind of people live”. What a namby pamby NIMBY.
“Shale gas is a resource with huge potential to broaden the UK’s energy mix, we want to create the right conditions for industry to explore and unlock that potential in a way that allows communities to share in the benefits.
This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution – because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people”. George Osborne
So if fracking is such a great, risk-free deal that will create employment, keep our energy bills low, meet our demands for fuel for at least the next 25 years, and grace our communities as claimed, why would this “revolution” require the added incentive of a huge tax hand-out to the fracking industry, George?
Documented widespread groundwater contamination has occurred from seepage of the stored water, from fracking, from unlined surface ponds in America. Water companies in the UK have expressed concern that the fracking process could contaminate drinking water aquifers that lie above shale gas reserves. UK water companies have warned shale gas fracking should not be allowed to compromise public health as the Chancellor unveiled his plans for the generous handout of a tax relief regime for the industry. There has been a call for a large scale impact assessments from Water UK policy and business adviser Dr Jim Marshall.
Government “advisors”, however, have said that fracking is “safe”, despite the evidence to the contrary, and that it is “essential to making the UK more energy self-sufficient.” However, the British Geological Survey (BGS), which has played a key role in advising the UK Government, is partly funded by companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger. The BGS’s close financial ties to industry raises some serious concerns about the impartiality of the BGS report commissioned by the UK Government.
It ought to be of major concern that at least two other Conservative Peers, and two crossbenchers in the House of Lords have vested financial interests in fracking – Lord Browne, (the former chief executive of BP and director of Cuadrilla Resource Holdings Ltd, appointed by Frances Maude to the Cabinet Office in 2010) Lord Green (of the HSBC scandal), Lord Howell (of the handouts from the boys scandal) and Baroness Hogg, (a director at BG Group, who expects to earn nearly $300 million from fracking operations in the US this year.) – each have financial interests in the fracking industry, and each holds either ministerial or executive rank at some of Whitehall’s most powerful departments: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Treasury and the Cabinet Office.
David Cameron has already come under renewed pressure to sack his party’s elections adviser Lynton Crosby earlier this month, as environmental activists expressed serious concerns about his links to the fracking industry.
Mr Crosby’s lobbying firm, Crosby Textor, represents the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, an oil and gas lobby group campaigning aggressively for fracking. The association’s chief operating officer, Stedman Ellis, has made headlines in recent months for his outspoken criticism of anti-fracking campaigners, telling one Australian paper: “The opportunity provided by shale gas is too important to be jeopardised by political scare campaigns run by activist groups.” One has to wonder how many more of these transparent conflicts of interests is it going to take before Crosby has to step away from his role in Government?
And what a tangled web they weave…
With thanks to Paul Mobbs
Fracking – which is short for “hydraulic fracturing” – involves drilling deep under ground and involves the release of a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hundreds of chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside.
Widespread fracking has not started in the UK yet, but Cuadrilla began exploratory drilling in Lancashire in 2011 and many other possible sites have been identified. The exploratory drilling triggered earth tremors. The fracking process itself is a “mini-earthquake”, as it involves the breaking of rock strata deep inside of the earth to release gas. Many people, (myself included) are very legitimately opposed to fracking because of the potential for devastating environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, depletion of fresh water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flow-back, and the serious subsequent health effects of these. For these reasons hydraulic fracturing has come under international scrutiny, with some countries suspending or prohibiting it. However, some of those countries, including most notably the United Kingdom, have recently lifted their bans.
Substantial evidence from the States reveals that fracking is an extremely risky process that affects the water we drink, air we breathe, food we eat, our wildlife and climate – a significant air pollutant from fracking is methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 20 to 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide, and causes chaotic weather systems through the process of global warming. While some claim that the cost is worth the benefits if it means we can transition away from fossil fuels, it has been shown that the “footprint” of shale gas is actually 20 percent higher than coal. Studies reveal that fracking poses a grave risk to public health, researchers examined 353 out of 994 fracking chemicals identified in hydraulic fracking operation, including lethal radioactive contaminants. They found over 75% of the 353 chemicals affected the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, 52% affected the nervous system, 40% affected the immune system and kidney system, and 46% affected the cardiocascular system and blood. That’s a serious concern.
Then there is the established link between fracking and earthquakes.
It’s worth seeing the documentary Gasland by Josh Fox, which is about the devastating impact and ill effects of fracking. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Gasland also provides a wealth of evidence, and records the socio-economic and environmental destruction caused by fracking. Some of the most striking images in the documentary are the clips of people setting fire to their contaminated tap water. There are also some heartbreaking scenes of animals suffering, and of people’s livelihoods, well-being and health being destroyed by this undemocratically unregulated industry.
So, to Mr Howl, the greedy thug of a man who wants to make a buck from environmental vandalism and ecological devastation, and as ever with the Tories, a profit at the expense of wildlife and human well-being, I have this to say: It is patently clear to us that fracking plans in the UK are being steam-rolled out, on the back of vested interests in Government and lobbying from fossil fuel giants. First came the huge tax breaks for companies involved in shale gas exploration. Then the announcement of new planning guidance making it harder to protect the environment from drilling.
Fracking is being hailed by the Government as the solution to all of our energy needs, despite evidence to the contrary. We know that although it may well be good for your own bank account, fracking is very bad for people, ecology and the environment. Cuadrilla’s UK operation was put on hold after causing tremors (small earthquakes), but the report by the UK Government’s advisers published in April 2012 gave the green light to fracking, despite acknowledging the link between the process and the earthquakes in Lancashire in 2011. We know that the Government “advisory report” was funded in part by companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger, and that raises some serious concerns about the impartiality of the report commissioned by the UK Government. (See also Frackademic scandals)
We say NO to fracking here. Expect a bloody big fight from us.
Josh Fox’s Gasland documetary in full
Sussex Police arrested peaceful anti-fracking protesters in Balcombe using physical violence and restraint methods, designed to inflict pain and incapacitate people. Sussex Police claim on their website that the arrests were peaceful. There is significant photographic evidence that unnecessary force was used. This isn’t acceptable in a peaceful democracy.
(Take a look at the picture. The Dokko is a specific pressure point, located where the jaw and skull meet. In most people, this point is just under the outer ledge of the earlobe at the base of the ear. Pressure points are specific sensitive areas that may be exploited to cause excruciating pain, and the military and police are increasingly using this technique on peaceful protesters.)
This petition is a call for a formal investigation into the police behaviour and for disciplinary action to be taken against those who used violence against the people they arrested. We need an end to Police aggression when arresting peaceful protesters. Here is some video evidence.