Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Fruck Off - Nottinghamshire people say no to shell gas

The general agreement among the citizens of Nottinghamshire is that hydraulic fracturing/fracking is harmful to their community. Not only does fracking cause substantial harm to the environment and contaminates local water springs, but the so-called benefits of fracking are backed up by the shale gas companies IGas and Ineos’ deceptive rhetoric. I argue that the expansion of fracking links to the ongoing investments in the UK energy market as a means of competing with international energy markets. Moreover, I argue that as long as the investors have powerful political allies on their side, they will ignore all opposition despite the controversies surrounding fracking because they have the resources to do so. This blog post aims to capture and discuss some of the essential developments of the issue by addressing recent events happening in Nottinghamshire and beyond. 

Photo by Sheila
While fracking has been going on for a long time in countries like The USA and in more regional counties like Lancashire, it has just recently started expanding in Nottinghamshire. Blackpool was one of the first test-sites that first saw the harms of fracking unfold. The extraction came to a halt when they measured a tremor with a magnitude of 1.5 on the Richter scale. Similar, smaller tremors then started occurring in Nottinghamshire. 

There is therefore a great deal of uncertainty around when a potentially greater harm will hit. As such, protesters have taken it to the streets to attempt to stop the fracking companies from extracting shale gas. Two anti-fracking activists were imprisoned in November for civil disobedience causing a “public nuisance” (Pidd 2018). Civil disobedience in general is regarded as an offence against the law because it infringes a company’s right to exercise production within their legal rights. Protestors can only mitigate the extraction for a limited time, like when they locked themselves outside the Tinker Lane Site, preventing cars and drill equipment from entering.

However, the UK government seems disinterested in changing their energy policy regulations despite the recent developments. As such, it is difficult to oppose the current operations unless politicians raise the issue in a more powerful arena such as the House of Commons.

We understand the issue by observing the agents operating within a system of capitalism that dictates how the events unfold. For instance, local MPs hold the power to cancel the industry’s expansion; they hold the power of agency that may shape the current structure that enables fracking to persist. Since private investor companies hold legal rights to their share of the profits, they hold the right to oppose people who go against their interests. If local MPs recognised the detrimental effects of fracking, they would perhaps bring the business into question. North East Derbyshire conservative MP Lee Rowley recently proposed a bill to limit the earthquakes caused by fracking by preventing any changes to the current “traffic light system” that (Hayhurst 2019)

Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe recently shared his thoughts on the current regulations. Ratcliffe, who owns a large share of INEOS claims the industry is “stopped from moving forward” and that the limit at 0.5 on the Richter scale needs a revision. Sir Ratcliffe also threatened to abandon operation if his demands were not met (Gill 2019). This shows that the solution to the struggle is only a matter of a brushstroke that cancels operations instantaneously. However, this would be an unwise decision for Sir Ratcliffe as his business partners would lose their own share of the profits. It was rather an empty threat that he would never go through with because he knows his losses would not be worthwhile when the current regulations already give him so much. Instead, he appeals to politicians who believe in fracking’s “too good to be true” promises and gets them on board.

Hence, the problem of fracking is understood by observing how all the various actors relate to each other. While the actual resistance power of protesters is minimal, they regardless bring the attention of the media on their struggle. Fracking is an issue that may or may not disappear from the UK in the near future depending on whether it becomes a public issue that not only concerns the working class living out in the countryside but a national issue that shakes the public consciousness and politicians alike. It is only then that investors might give in to public pressure and withdraw their fracking interests.

Henrik Årby

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