Friday 17 January 2014

Anti-Frackers: A Telling Snap-shot

Earlier this week I suggested that the UK anti-fracking 'movement' was a very broad front, with three potentially formidable bourgeois wings identifiable (the radical intellectuals, the well-informed 'technical' objectors and the county nimbies) amongst the swampies, renta-mobs and all-purpose left-wing trouble-makers.  This mix will presumably be found in varying proportions other nations' anti-fracking brigades, along with some entirely local mutations for which we have no precise equivalent here.

They've all assembled (doubtless via the magic of the interweb - GCHQ will know ...) to hatch a joint 'open letter' to "President Barroso; Commissioners from DG ENVI, ENER, CLIMA, ENTR, AGRI; European Council Members; national heads of state (Presidents, Prime Ministers); Ministers concerned; Members of the European Parliament."  (Not sure whether the various Euro-monarchs have been spared this diatribe under the 'heads of state' category, but I digress.)  You may find it interesting.  

Several points strike me as noteworthy:
  • it really is no mean feat of coordination to get quite so many organisations on board: one shouldn't take fright, but one shouldn't underestimate it either
  • look how many anti groups there are in countries (e.g. France, Spain, Germany, Romania) where fracking is more or less banned at present
  • as always, the primary thrust of the hard core is anti fossil fuels in toto.  Fracking is just a pretext. (Gasland is exactly the same: a few minutes on fracking to start with, then a diatribe against the US natural gas industry as a whole)  
And a splendid flash of light relief: one of the UK signatory-groups is Pagans United.  How they go down with the hard men of the French Left, we can only guess.  But Asterix would probably approve.

The UK's man on the drafting pen is the indefatigable and worthy Mike Hill, who comes under the well-informed technical objector banner.  He is omni-present on the web, promoting his views on what proper regulations would look like.  I can't imagine he subscribes to the 'anti everything' strand, but in a coalition as, *ahem*, broad as this one (not to say thick) he'll have to settle for some kind of messy compromise if he wants to join in at all.

Significantly, Hill's recent tweets seem to indicate he thinks the UK government has triumphed in the latest round of skirmishing in EC circles, by getting Barroso et al off the idea of EU-wide regulations.  Cameron, it seems, can be quite effective in Europe when he wants to be.  The anti-frackers will be getting increasingly desperate, and who knows how that will manifest itself.  At least some of those many signatories look like fairly hard nuts, and even in cosy England the violence seems to be escalating a bit.

The Barroso worm has turned on more than just fracking.  Several years ago we opined he was barking up the wrong tree on renewables, and that GDP concerns would eventually prevail over GHG.  He seems to have twigged - and it won't just be the anti-frackers who'll be tearing their brightly-dyed hair, it will be the entire green movement, and the subsidy-grasping renewables industries.  Boy, this is going to get noisy.



Mark Wadsworth said...

I'd also noticed that the anti-frackers are often self-interest groups normally at loggerheads, and that all logic is turned on its head (e.g. they oppose fracking because gas causes less emissions than coal THEREFORE there would be less need for 'renewables').

My post here. There are three or four more good Exhibits in the comments.

Anonymous said...

My opinion of the Thermageddonists hasn't changed. Shale is the game-changer as it reveals the carbon emission argument for the lie it has always been. Greens don't care a jot about co2, it has always been about capitalism.

We are at the 1969 stage of the counter culture. The hippy gloss is about to wear off and when they don't get what they want the thermos are going to go violent. We'll see the green Baader gang equiv within five years. It'll start with riots, thuggery and property damage first though.

Nick Drew said...

MW - good stuff. The EU thing is amusing: we all cherry-pick the bits we like, don't we ? The greenies aren't, I think, overly exercised about the 'no big drop in gas price' EU aspect - its the recent EU backing-down from the idea of EU-wide regulations on fracking

(BTW, take your man Antisthenes with a pinch of salt, he is wrong on several counts)

Kilgore Trout said...

Splitters! Here's hoping they all eat each other.

Russia is on the cusp of exploiting shale oil & gas in VERY big way. They are still trying to figure out the petrophysics at the moment, but once they do... some of those fields are gargantuan.

I expect people on here already know that, but I thought I would just drop it into the debate.

Sackerson said...

@Nick: At last I'm bourgeois! I thought teachers were irremediably below stairs people.

Still can't read the Guardian, though: all them hard words.

Blue Eyes said...

There's a weird soft-left viewpoint which I confess I do not understand. The other day I mentioned to a lefty that I welcomed the opening up of the labour market to the Bulgarians, Romanians and in fact anyone else who wanted to come here and work. My lefty friend (who I thought was generally pro-immigration) started bleating on about the green belt.

I think the UK government should set up an "Amish" enclosure for the greens and lefties to enjoy and leave the rest of us to get on with building a prosperous economy.

hovis said...

Nick, I've found some time to look at your earlier post and this one. I'll need to split this into several parts as it's rather long.

Couple of point re: the latest post:
(I) the fact that the EU is being lobbied is not news, (nor do I think anyone one would particularly trust the EU either, but as the corporates lobby, so do others.)
(ii) That a broad coalition of groups will require co-ordinating is unsurprising.
(iii) I'm also not sure why you think that there shouldn't be anti fracking groups in countries where you say “fracking is more or less banned at present” - the French decision was only relatively recent and there will always be backsliding by the political establishments. As to Romania, fracking is far from banned, the situation with with Chevron has been causing much bloody protest. Interestingly Romania is not the type of place that is not a natural home to bourgeois or 'hippy' opposition to fracking so I think this doesnt sit well with the Stratfor / Hill & Knowlton playbook.

Now onto the previous post which I didn’t have time to reply to before now:

Frack on you say ...I know you have been cheer-leading for Shale but I have not seen why, in a Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy type of way you believe it is a “Good Thing”.

As I mentioned in a previous post I had to allow myself a wry smile when you mentioned faith based arguments, as the Pro case has so many predicates that, it too is faith based, you simply don't like to acknowledge it.

I agree Round 1 of 'It's Knock Out Shale UK' has now ended and we are onto Round 2. The Government was to an extent been caught with its pants down having hoped to marginalise the opposition as Greeny/Crusty/Lefty/ EcoLoon, is trying again. It's interesting the sub-division of the opposition into component groups you have come up with, is similar to the stuff Stratfor has done previously.

However I utterly disagree with you that anti arguments are mendacious, indeed if that were the case then the pro lobby is doubly so. One example plucked out of thin air – Shale will bring major benefits to the UK – surely a major plank of why people might accept the major industrialisation of the country (remember approximately 60% is up for licence.) Now Cameron and his lackeys have been announcing the figure of 74,000 jobs – this was once again trailed in the media as he tries to buy acquiescence with promises of money to Councils. One little problem if as you suggest we should be convinced that 'the man in Whitehall knows best'. This figure was from the infamous IoD report sponsored by Cuadrilla (the author I believe has gone to work for them doing PR.) This was flatly contradicted by the independent AMEC report commissioned by the government itself, which indicated jobs would be far fewer and spread out over a longer time period reducing any benefit. So indeed the government is being 'ham fisted' and given their repeated lying there simply can be no trust.

hovis said...

Of course strategically on of the aims of the protests are to increase awareness and costs, including to the police. It is interesting than the majority if not all (I don't have all the figures to hand ) the arrests at Balcombe have been thrown out of court which suggest there was much political pressure on the police to force the issue at the time. The role of the police in this is very interesting, and with recent attempts have the criminalisation of 'nuisance' only recently just being defeated in the Lords, Shale becomes a much much wider issue than any questionable / non existent benefits. Are these the attempts to 'clear the way' you are referring to?

As to all political parties being on board, they are essentially trying the Janus approach, with party leaderships being supportive but individual MP's concerned at their seats. The interesting thing about this issue has motivated what you have described as a 'genteel' opposition but on many fronts, do not think it is only a soft Greenism or Nimbyism (btw yes house prices will fall) but more importantly cronyism, corruption, consent (and its removal), political representation, the role of the police, economy, and that is before we even get onto Shale and whether its has any positive economic benefits (which I see as a Chimera, a fairy story for those with normalcy bias - funded by cheap credit a temporary profit spike allowed by the socialisation of risk, and privatisation of profits – by people who will laughable call themselves capitalists.) or environmental negatives – larger and longer term than argued but we have no space here.) It may be that it is not a deal breaker for the election, but the Tories especially have to work very hard to get back parts of their traditional user base in areas affected. In my case I will never vote for them again given the air headed PR and lies I have received in correspondence with my local MP, who happens to be a Cabinet Minister.

The amount of money Total are investing is £30m I believe this is peanuts, a totem, I think it is flying a kite to see what the reaction will be and may even be used in PR push to open up France to Shale again. I don't think this is the arrival of the big players (yet).

Finally you have repeatedly called for regulation, in this post saying “genuine regulatory safeguard on the very real potential environmental aspects.” [is needed]. Remember the fig leaf of the Royal Society report which recommended the execrable fracking is safe if regulated line? It is now over 2 years old and not one recommendation has been implemented. The EA relies on drilling company self monitoring. At what point do yo recognise there will be no regulation Nick? There has been ample opportunity, to my knowledge there is no specific regulation for fracking in this country, it is not possible for market forces to enforce discipline environmentally in this case, so regulation it has to be. Do you really think Cameron or Osbourne know what they are talking about let alone doing? I understand the EA budget is being cut. Is this not really a form of Pascals Wager? My question to you is, if there is no regulation should Fracking go ahead on a large scale in this country ?

* Where the word fracking is used it is in relation to the process, not just the point of fracture as the industry would like to define it but all allied processes. The word Fracking has also become synonymous in the media with all forms of Unconventional Oil and Gas extraction.

Nick Drew said...

thanks, Hovis - I have replied to your main points in a new post

On your minor points (i), (ii) and (iii) - I was merely expressing interest.

As regards 'faith': if, as you'll find me saying in the new post, we let private enterprise do its thing without subsidy and with proper regs, I don't need any faith - I just sit back and watch !

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