The first license to drill for shalegas in Britain will be issued soon after the ban on the practice in 2019 following a 2.9-Richter earthquake at a fracking well near Blackpool, Lancashire.
Overturning Britain’s ban on fracking was one of the first initiatives announced this month by the incoming government under Tory leader Liz Truss. It is part of a set of demand-and supply interventions designed to address the high gas price.
The message from Downing Street is clear: This government will not seek to lessen the hold of fossil fuel corporations over citizens’ lives by transitioning from hydrocarbons through efficiency measures (such as building insulation), rapidly ramping up renewables, and a further windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. Instead, it will pay the full market price for gas to energy companies while subsidizing consumer bills and business bills, especially for wealthy, energy-proficient households. The estimated cost of the project is £150 billionIt will be transferred to future taxpayers as well as energy consumers. It is the largest single act U.K. state intervention in non-wartime.
Given Truss’s market-fundamentalist instincts, this cannot have been easy. She has combined it with a laissez faire thrust on the supply side: to remove red tape and issue drilling licenses. She believes that the market will solve its problems because new supply brings down prices.
While the main focus is on North Sea oil, fracking is also part of the program. Fracking offers the incoming government the opportunity to serve red meat to Tory Party Members and the right-wing. Daily Mail tabloid. To reactionaries, Truss’s move signals that her government intends to bash the tree-huggers, goad them into setting up camps at fracking sites where the security forces will persecute and ultimately defeat them, much as Lady Thatcher did to the feminists who peace-camped at Greenham Common.
The government’s rationale for fracking, then, has an economic and a political edge. Will either side succeed?
The economic prospects are so appealing that Union Jack Oil shares have soared. Its very name is enough to set Tory hearts aflutter. Some pundits predict a great British gas rush. Shale extraction, claims Daily Mail may begin slowly, but by 2037 could “eclipse” fossil gas output from North Sea wells. There are wild predictions that Britain will benefit from a U.S.-style Shale revolution, which will lower global prices and secure huge profits for fossil fuel sector.
The sober truth is that estimates of the fossil gas trapped beneath Britain’s moors and available for profitable extraction are uncertain. They can vary greatly. According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), Bowland-Hodder may contain as high as 2,285 trillion cubic meters according to a 2013 report. You can read more recent BGS analysisThe figure is lowered to 200 trillion cubic feet. The Daily Mail’sThis projection is based in one of four scenarios that were published by the National Grid; it casually neglects to mention the other three — all of which envisage fracking as supplying less than one-tenth of Britain’s gas consumption by mid-century.
Political action is required regardless of the amount of fossil gas. However, it will be profitable to extract it. Fracking companies lobby the Truss government for changes to regulations on planning and earthquakes (in particular, the requirement that operations be halted when they cause a tremor greater than 0.5-Richter) and rules that require consent from local communities. According to one consultancy, “amounts to a moratorium for delivery.”
We can expect to see regulations go by the wayside on account of the fracking lobby’s efforts. Truss’s cabinet is based around the “drill baby drill” faction of the Tory Party. Its strategy is to fabricate a “Ukraine War moment” in order to advance fossil-fuel agendas and take an axe to environmental regulations. Ranil Jayawardena is the environment secretary. consistentlyVoted against measures to combat climate changes and against government support for projects using renewable energy.
Home Secretary Suella (“Cruella”) Braverman, meanwhile, has called for Britain’s net zero emissions target to be suspended. Jacob Rees Mogg was given the business and energy portfolio. This is crucial. climate denierInvestor in fossil fuel industries who champions continued burning of coal and yearns to stamp out “the environmentalist obsession,” evident in his lust to squeeze “every last cubic inch of gas” from beneath the North Sea. Shale gas, viewed through Rees-Mogg’s monocle, is “very clean.”
Liz Truss, the new premier, was a Shell commercial manager. Her Tory leadership campaign was partially funded by beneficiaries of The Benefits Fund. political funding programBP is another British-based oil major. In 2014-16, she was environment secretary and reduced subsidies for solar farms. a blight on the landscape. She has pledged to suspend the so-called “green levies” on energy bills (earmarked for investment in renewables), and she hired an aide whose previous position was at the Cato Institute, a U.S. “climate denial front group.”
Truss was chief secretary of the Treasury on her U.S. Tour four years ago. metKoch-funded think tanks and lobby organizations, including the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Foundation, have a history of denial of climate science.
The U.S., for Britain’s frackers, is the shining light, both in the profitability of its shale gas industry and in the Trumpian mode of flatly refusing obvious truths. Jim Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men and the owner of the chemical giant INEOS, the country’s largest privately owned company, defends fracking by pointing to “America” where they have “drilled a million wells and it’s been very successful, they’re not polluting things.” His spokespeople promise — fingers crossed behind their backs — that INEOS would frack “safely and without harm to the environment.”
Fracking would in fact be an environmental disaster, not just locally through vehicle traffic at drilling locations. water contamination, and so on, but also globally through the CO2 emissions from its combustion and also from the direct escape of methane — an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
Reports about methane leakage from Permian gas and oil wells in Texas and New Mexico, New Scientist, will accelerate global heating “by almost as much as the carbon dioxide released by all homes in the US annually.” The idea pushed out by the gas giants’ PR departments, and parroted by Truss and by Joe Biden too, that methane is a “transition” or “bridge” fuel — a stepping stone from a carbon-black past to a green-energy future — is risible.
The “bridge fuel” myth has a political purpose beyond simply sanitizing a greenhouse gas. The fracker faction that sets the tone in Truss’s cabinet must work alongside ambivalent or skeptical colleagues, such as the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and the junior minister for climate change, Graham Stuart. They must also try to convince a skeptical public of which half are not convinced. oppose fracking (against a quarter in favor).
Painting shale gas as “clean” is important for bridging these divides, and is ideologically central to their broader cause. Politically central will be the bribery and intimidation of residents of fracking communities with the goal to turn them against their antifracking neighbors. The ambiguous statement was made by INEOS director. promise “to invest the first 6 per cent of the value of the gas back into the local communities.” Also under discussion Is A proposal to subsidise 25 percent of the energy bills of residents living near fracking locations, for an unspecified duration. Tina Rothery, a Tina Rothery spokesperson, said that it is a foolish move to try to grab the carrot at a time when energy bills are prohibitively expensive in a town like Blackpool. Frack Free Nanas — a singing, dancing protest group of mums and grandmothers.
What will the anti-fracking movement do? Rothery speaks out on behalf of campaigners in Lancashire Truthout, are preparing to “pull out all the stops” and “getting straight back into gear. We’re rebuilding our networks right now, and this week we’ll be gathering at the gates. We’re going to use every tool available — protest camps, blockades, demonstrations and legal action — to stop them going ahead. We’re going to set up the camp again; we’ll be everywhere.”
The advantage campaigners have, Rothery says, is that they’re not building a movement from scratch but reviving an earlier successful one. “We were huge in the mid-2010s, with around 400 groups. We protested here for 1,000 days, until fracking became illegal. This direct action was the impetus behind Extinction Rebellion. We were helped along by friends abroad, especially in the U.S. — we learned from one another and we’ll need that solidarity again.”
Clara Paillard from the Public and Commercial Services union is another difference between today and 2011. Frack Free Lancashire, is that “now the biggest union, UNITE, has an anti-fracking policy. Plus, there are lots of new social movements on environmental questions, such as Extinction Rebellion, the Youth Strikes for Climate and Just Stop Oil, and on the energy-costs crisis, such as Enough Is Enough and Don’t Pay.”
In addition, this summer saw a revival of labor militancy. “So there’s the potential for bringing together a coalition of community groups, climate groups, trade unions and others,” Paillard tells Truthout. “In this the anti-fracking groups can play a key role, as we don’t include only the direct-action people who can get arrested, we’re also the local residents and community groups.”
However, Paillard warns, “the threat greater than fracking is North Sea oil and gas drilling. Anti-fracking must be part of the bigger campaign, not a distraction.”
Rothery and Paillard and the fracktivists believe they’ll win. Their confidence is partly based on the challenges facing the government. The new prime minister idolizes Margaret Thatcher but her party is fractured and her government may fail.
During a decade with semi-successful GDP Growth, Thatcher introduced reforms that could be strengthened by their alignment with a emerging global accumulation regime. Her party was united around the neoliberal agenda that included energy privatization. opposition parties later acceded.
Under Truss’s premiership, by contrast, no new growth model is in view. Brexit has been a lame duck, and not a gold goose. An unpopular leader, she gained the votes of fewer than a third of her party’s members of parliament (MPs) and less than half its membership — in a two-horse race. On fracking, she’ll find some support among Tory MPs and voters, but she’ll find griping and grumbling, too. Tories of a are not fond on sweeping up planning regulations. NIMBY persuasion.
If the fractivists win this battle, it’ll be a minor skirmish in a planet-defining war. Exploration and expansion are two of the major goals of oil and gas firms. The U.S. government began in summer 2021This has led to a U-turn in the auctioning of oil leases for public lands. The Biden-Manchin climate bill is a starting gun for a new route of drilling and fracking, as if to gaslight environmentalists. In view of Washington’s hegemonic position and London’s role as current president of the Conference of the Parties on climate, these policy shifts lend legitimacy to fossil fuel expansion worldwide.
The U-turns made in Washington and London on fracking show that capitalist thinking is not sustainable. Economic trends will not save Earth. Many hoped that the fracking business would disappear after the 2015 drop in oil and natural gas prices. The new belief was that this would speed up the energy transition as renewables became cheaper (relatively speaking) each day. Capital does not follow this logic. Chartist – Capital can make adequate returns even if it doesn’t. Thomas Dunning wrote in 1860, capital can be “very bold,” but when profits are high it will be prepared to “trample on all human laws,” including the mass enslavement of human beings in his day, and environmental ruination in ours.
Renewed investments in oil and gas will make a target even of “net zero” — let alone absolute zero — even harder to reach. The current fracking and drilling fever is attracting new capital. This includes wells that can produce shale for 10 to 20 years, and LNG terminals that can take decades for their investors to repay. Their owners will fight tooth and nail for their assets.
As global demand shrinks over the next year or so, and as more production comes on line, gas and oil will become scarcer. will likely become affordable againBut that’s only for the next price rise, and the cycle goes on. Some of the trillions of dollars that are gushing into the oil-industrial coffers will be used to wage the ideas war against environmentalalism. purchasing politiciansFor influencing policies. This cycle will continue the dangerous trajectory we are on, unless and except rebellions break out.