Fracking was always doomed to fail


Greenpeace peaceful protest against fracking.

The fracking industry was doomed to fail from the start and now activists are putting the final nail in its coffin.

"The more the public learn about fracking, the more they oppose it."

The end is nigh for fracking in the UK, not that it ever particularly got started.

Regulators at the government's Department of Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) recently denied fracking pioneer Cuadrilla's request to raise earthquake limits.

This is a hammer blow to the company's prospects of profitably extracting shale gas at their Preston New Road (PNR) site in Lancashire.

There is little more that Cuadrilla could do to portray itself as the arch-villain of the climate movement as they demand the Government allow them to induce more earthquakes at their site between Blackpool and Preston. All to make a quick profit.

Their demand comes after fracking just 5% of the well at PNR since beginning horizontal drilling on 15 October 2018. They have induced 57 earth tremors between then an February 2019.

BEIS state that while they support fracking, they have set existing regulations in consultation with the industry.

You can't help but expect that even this callous Tory government have woken up to the deep unpopularity of fracking. By limiting Cuadrilla's expansion at this stage, time is being run down until a Labour government ban it all together. It may even come with a new Tory leader in an attempt to appear 'green'.

No support

Polling in a BEIS report in December 2018 showed that only 13 percent of the public support fracking in the UK. A peak of now 35 percent oppose.

The gap has only widened since 2014. There is nothing about fracking that cultivates popular support. The more the public learn about fracking, the more they oppose it.

The industry often argues for its existence under the guise of energy independence from big, bad, scary Russia. In reality, less than one percent of the UK's gas comes from Russia.

The truth is that there is no under-supply of gas in Europe. The only demand for a new gas industry comes from investors and fossil capitalists who stand to make money from exacerbating climate breakdown.

"The more the public learn about fracking, the more they oppose it."

Why would the public support a disruptive mode of extraction that just unnecessarily pumps unwanted gas into the energy supply?

Every proposed fracking site radicalises a new wave of organisers willing to put everything on the line to stop the industry imposing itself on their community.

In Lancashire, local nanas went from dipping their toes in activism by objecting to Cuadrilla's plans to leading a movement and blockading the site themselves.

Where the fracking industry goes, local residents will be confronted by its terrible realities for climate, geologies, house prices and beyond.

Local struggles

These local communities get highly organised quickly.

They're also supported by national networks like Reclaim the Power (RTP) and Friends of the Earth (FOE). As locals bring the energy and drive to defend their land from fracking, the networks have brought the experience, skills and capacity to amplify local struggles and throw national weight behind local struggles against a government-backed industry.

As mass demos and audacious blockades continue to the chorus of “until we win!”, you can only believe that these activists are committed to the fight until the bitter end.

Indeed, their organising has brought about the end for fracking. By using every trick in the book to frustrate Cuadrilla's attempt to kick-start fracking in Lancashire, they have played a massive part in the industry's failure.

Had they not put up a fight over many years, the government would have found it easy to relax regulations and wave through a dangerous new industry. Instead, there just isn't the mood for that level of disregard for people and planet.

While UK fracking knocks at death's door, we must remember that the struggle to kill it off is not over. Later in February, Reclaim the Power are organising “two days of resistance and direct action to disrupt the fracking supply chain and new gas infrastructure”.

The fracking industry needs kicking while they're down. As the anti-fracking movement puts the nail in fracking's coffin, there's no better time to join the movement. Fracking was never going to succeed in the UK, but its down to us to make sure that INEOS, Third Energy and their fellow travellers meet the same fate as Cuadrilla.

This author

Chris Saltmarsh is co-director of climate change campaigns at People & Planet and member of Reclaim the Power in Oxford. He tweets at @chris_saltmarsh.

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