Why the words ‘ban fracking’ will define the next election as environmentalists mobilise in Yorkshire – Steve Mason

BAN Fracking. These are the words that should be on the lips of every environmental activist, campaigner and politician in the UK. If fracking gets a foothold, our commitment to a fossil fuel-dependent economy will be sealed for decades. If that happens, the UK can kiss all climate change targets goodbye.

Fracking protesters at Kirby misperton as the controversial policy returns to the political agenda.
Fracking protesters at Kirby misperton as the controversial policy returns to the political agenda.

It is now crystal clear – and generally accepted – that developing any unconventional oil and gas industry in the UK will result in unacceptable negative impacts on the environment, local communities and democracy, energy security, health and existing economies, especially at a time when the Government should, instead, be urgently developing policies and infrastructure to provide a clean and sustainable carbon- free vision for Britain that is so desperately needed.

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Over the past few years, the campaign against fracking has continually rebuffed industry claims and projections in every arena possible. It has systematically taken apart the Government policy piece by piece, but the fossil fuel lobby will never give up until we have secured a ban in the UK.

An aerial picture of the Kirby Misperton fracking site.

The latest ‘‘hard sell’’ from the industry is in response to the growing awareness of the climate emergency. This new level of focus on climate change has given the frackers a headache as it is fast becoming obvious that society must keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Their answer to this headache is to greenwash fossil fuels, with a narrative that fracking is needed to tackle climate change and to help the UK reach net zero, I kid you not!

A typical roadside sign in Ryedale.

In the current climate emergency, fracked gas has no place as a bridging fuel in the country’s much-needed transition to a low-carbon economy and the industry is far from ever going to meet the tests set out by the Committee for Climate Change. These points must be raised at every level, especially now as the Government’s own national planning policy on this issue has now been found to be unlawful.

It is evident that promoting fracking over cleaner, cheaper means of energy production is already causing harm to many affected communities up and down the country, as well as draining financial resources that would be better spent elsewhere. The UK will need to continue ensuring emissions keep falling to arrive at net zero, whatever direction that the current disjointed national policy takes us.

The shale gas industry is not in any position to significantly contribute to the UK’s energy mix in either the near or medium term, simply because there is no actual industry to speak of.

Its development, irrespective of how optimistic the industry projections are, just isn’t viable without aggressive lobbying, favourable policy and regulation changes. The record to date in the UK does not bode well. Aggressive actions include taking out an injunction against any protests and threatening to pass costs to local residents, sidestepping local decision-makers and threatening legal action against landowners who refuse to allow access to their land.

Ryedale residents lobby North Yorkshire County Council.

Stating their intention to frack in or under some of the most protected areas of England, such as the North Yorks Moors National Park, and position multi-well sites as close as possible around the perimeter 
of such areas, is a clear indicator of the disregard and intention 
of the companies to frack wherever they want.

Local communities up and down the UK will never be persuaded to welcome fracking in their area, despite repeated efforts to entice them with ‘‘shale gas dividends’’ and promised pay-outs from speculative industry profits. Not a single community threated by this industry has come out in favour of having fracking on their doorstep. On the contrary, wherever fracking is proposed, local people mobilise to do whatever they can to stop this industry in its tracks. Government attempts to fast-track fracking by subverting the democratic planning process through permitted development has created a huge backlash, alienating residents, communities, councils and Conservative MPs alike.

If we are to be serious about tackling climate change, then it is imperative that every method at our disposal is used to halt fracking and to ensure it does not gain a foothold in the UK. Climate change needs to be tackled urgently and fracking is the clear and present environmental danger right now in the UK.

With over 30 constituencies impacted by fracking licences – constituencies that could be decided by a swing of just over a couple of thousand votes – it leaves me in no doubt that fracking will be a major influence in any forthcoming general election. We are ready. Are you?

Steve Mason is co-founder of 
Frack Free United and Director of Environmental Smart.