Energy, Democracy and the Challenge of Fracking

Speakers:   Greg Barber MP, Tina Rothery, Boris Sandov

Key Insights:

In Australia and elsewhere, fracking is a battle between communities and corporations.

It is a question of risk. It is surprising that usually conservative populations and political systems, reluctant to accept new things, can accept such a risk as fracking.

Social movements are great but these die on the steps of parliament if there are no Greens inside the parliament.

In Australia – in Victoria state, fracking was overturned by bringing other parties on board, building a political alliance.

Renewable energies are strong, the energy market is in turbulence, fracking is not guaranteed to succeed on any level.

In such a context, we can see Conservative voters turn Green.

The UK is the last country in Europe proceeding with fracking.  It is a disease at the heart of society.

In the UK, the media bias is extreme, and a way of tackling this was to create the image of the “nanas”- ordinary people standing up to fracking. In the UK, the fight is not only against the frackers, but with the government.

The overturning of a decision by a locally elected council was a gift to the anti-fracking movement, showing that the problem of fracking was also linked to deep problems in our democracy.

The anti-fracking movement has brought communities of very different people together in a fight protect water land and air.

Suppliers are now targeted, and rewarded if they refuse to work with Cuadrilla – the main fracking company in Lancashire. Activists are impacting on the stock market and Cuadrilla is suffering.

In the UK “we are all we have now” – activists are the only hope. But these activists are amazing.  Australian activists have been a huge influence to campaigners in the UK. And they were successful there.

Fracking could save the world –if we stand up to it and win.

In Bulgaria, fracking has been completely banned by a successful social movement, campaign and intelligent lobbying and involvement in the legislative process which banned it. It was rejected in parliament by 133 to 6.

In 2011 people know nothing about fracking in Bulgaria, but researched what had happened in the US and France.

There had been a massive licensing across the country with no public knowledge. When it was discovered there was a massive uproar. Protests were organized in Bulgaria and in the Embassies through the diaspora.

The campaigners observed the industry – they saw how they work – booked press releases directly after the fracking industry ones. They also helped Romanian neighbours – sharing international experience.

It was clear that despite dependence on Russian oil, shale was not the answer. Renewables need to be the key area for investment.

How to Progress the Issue(s)?
A social movement needs to become a parliamentary coalition which then needs to result in legislation.

The wording of legislation is important to ensure that a ban is a real ban. (Exploration can be a cover for drilling, as is suspected to be the case in Canada.)

International exchange of experience and knowledge is vital. The UK is now the only country to be pursuing fracking in the region.

The media is very problematic. Activists are edited out. We need to use social media and local radio. But also improve our interaction on mainstream media – opting for live filming which cannot be edited.

80% pension funds are invested in fossil fuels so this is a powerful lobby. We need to support the divestment campaign.

The ironic association of anti-fracking campaigners with terrorists could be used to highlight the corruption of the industry and stamping out of protest. It was suggested that we all hand ourselves in to the local police station as ‘antifrackers’!

We need to campaign on all sides including tick box issues such as noise pollution to challenge the industry.

All political parties need to be mobilized to stand up to fracking. It is not good enough for the Labour leader in the UK to suggest he will end fracking once elected. All political parties need to actively stand up to fracking now.

This needs to be kept high on the agenda of all mayoral and by-elections – ask the question in the hustings!

More research into the economic and financial sustainability of the industry is needed to highlight the fact that it is not financially viable (as was the case in Algeria). Investment in renewables is the only solution. Shale gas is not a solution.

There are signs of hope which need to be communicated – in 2016 we stabilized CO2 emissions. Solar panel installations increased by 50% on the previous year.

The fight needs to be led in every area. From a pressure movement, needs to emerge a strong political movement.

Academia needs to be challenged to wake up  - research funded by the industry needs to be countenanced by people’s own moral compass. Academics must become activists.

We need to use creativity and art to frame the messages.

There needs to be a comprehensive energy policy, in the UK and elsewhere, which outlines the complete transition needed and how to achieve it.


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30 March - 2 April 2017

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