Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Fracking: the contradictory messages coming out of governments

It's difficult sometimes to decipher what western governments think about fracking.
A message from the US last month:

If Climate Change Is a ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction,’ Why Promote Carbon Proliferation?

Zoƫ Carpenter on February 19, 2014

On Sunday, 
February 16, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a call for climate action that attracted considerable attention because of its forcefulness. Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, Kerry rebukedclimate deniers, referring to them as “a tiny minority of shoddy scientists…and extreme ideologues.” He described the economic costs and catastrophic implications of inaction. Most strikingly, he suggested that climate change is “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

While the administration takes steps to cut down emissions at home—via investment in renewables, tighter efficiency standards for power plants and vehicles—Obama continues to promote an “all of the above” energy strategy that ensures oil and coal companies profit from selling American-made dirty energy abroad. It’s one of the most critical inconsistencies among the president’s climate policies.

One could argue that US exports are simply meeting demand that other countries would fill in our absence. But the United States has been working to make sure that demand doesn’t dry up, and that markets remain open for our dirty energy. As Tim Dickenson reported in Rolling Stone, US trade representative Michael Froman has tried to weaken new fuel standards in Europe that are intended to reduce emissions, largely out of concern for refiners of tar sands oil.

Making less, not more, fossil fuel available should be a critical part of the climate agenda; we know we have to keep 80 percent of global reserves in the ground to have a chance of avoiding the most damaging effects of climate change. “The solution is making the right choices on energy policy,” Kerry said in Jakarta. “With a few smart choices, we can ensure that clean energy is the most attractive investment in the global energy sector. To do this, governments and international financial institutions need to stop providing incentives for the use of energy sources like coal and oil.” To the contrary, by increasing production and exports, the United States is encouraging more consumption and more fossil fuel investment. And that makes it more difficult for renewables to compete.

The same can be said of the Keystone XL pipeline. Currently, Alberta’s tar sands—which hold some of the dirtiest oil in the world—are considered risky investments, because they are difficult to produce and transport. As the oil industry, the Canadian government and financial analysts have made clear, the pipeline is the best way to get oil to international markets. Approving it, then, would clearly incentivize both the production and consumption of tar sands oil.

In the UK there also seems to be some confusion amongst official circles...
In the recent budget, we were urged to look to the US:

Energy round-up: budgeting for resilience?

The Chancellor also flagged shale gas as another way to cut energy costs for manufacturing: “To those who say manufacturing is finished in the West, I say: look at America”. But since even shale’s biggest British cheerleader, Lord Browne, accepts fracking is unlikely to deliver cheaper gas, this doesn't look like a strategy for real resilience.

Energy round-up: budgeting for resilience? | new economics foundation
Futures Forum: Budgeting for resilience?

Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices

Statement contradicts David Cameron and George Osborne's claims that shale gas could help curb soaring energy bills

Damian Carrington Friday 29 November 2013

Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to the chairman of the UK's leading shale gas company.

The statement by Lord Browne, one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain, contradicts claims by David Cameron and George Osbornethat shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills. Browne added to the government's ongoing troubles over energy policy by labelling nuclear power as "very, very expensive indeed" and describing the fact that more state subsidies are given to oil and gas than to renewable energy as "like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time".

The former chief executive of BP, who now holds a senior government position as lead non-executive director, told an audience at the London School of Economics that climate change was "existentially important", but that without gas the transition to a zero-carbon energy system would never happen.

However, Browne, who is the chairman of fracking company Cuadrilla, said: "I don't know what the contribution of shale gas will be to the energy mix of the UK. We need to drill probably 10-12 wells and test them and it needs to be done as quickly as possible. We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price," he said.

In August, Cameron said: "If we don't back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills … fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down." In July, Osborne said: "This a real chance to get cheaper energy for Britain … a major new energy source that can reduce energy bills."

But what do you do with all those pesky people who ask difficult questions?

Emails reveal UK helped shale gas industry manage fracking opposition

Government officials accused of cheerleading for fracking by sharing 'lines to take' and meeting for post-dinner drinks

Damian Carrington, Friday 17 January 2014
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Shale gas executives and government officials collaborated in private to manage the British public's hostility to fracking, emails released under freedom of information rules reveal.

Officials shared pre-prepared statements with the industry last year before major announcements and hosted high-level dinners with "further discussion over post-dinner drinks", while the industry shared long lists of "stakeholders" to be targeted. Critics said the government was acting as an arm of the gas industry" and was guilty of cheerleading, but officials defended the discussionsaid facilitating discussions was "right and proper" as "right and proper".

This week David Cameron said the government was "going all out for shale" and announced financial incentives for councils and local communities, labelled bribes by opponents. There have been major protests against fracking at sites across the country, and a Guardian polllast summer showed the public evenly split for and against shale gas wells near them.

Are You Opposed to Fracking? Then You Might Be a Terrorist.

From North America to Europe, the 'national security' apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism

Nafeez Ahmed, www.theguardian.com
January 21st, 2014

Manufacturing “consensus”

In the UK, Scotland Yard’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (which started life as the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and later became the National Domestic Extremism Unit), has had a long record of equating the spectre of “domestic extremism” with “single-issue protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM crops.” Apart from animal rights, these movements have been “overwhelmingly peaceful” points out George Monbiot.

This has not prevented the police unit from monitoring almost 9,000 Britons deemed to hold “radical political views,” ranging from “anti-capitalists” to “anti-war demonstrators.” Increasingly though, according to a Guardian investigation, the unit “is known to have focused its resources on spying on environmental campaigners, particularly those engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to protest against climate change.”

Most recently, British police have gone so far as to conduct surveillance of Cambridge University students involved in social campaigns like anti-fracking, education, anti-fascism, and opposition to austerity, despite a lack of reason to suspect criminal activity.

This is no accident. Yesterday, senior Tory and ex-Cabinet minister Lord Deben, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Committee on Climate Change, characterised anyone suggesting that fracking is “devastatingly damaging” as a far-left “extremist,” holding “nonsensical” views associated with “Trotskyite” dogma. In contrast, he described “moderate” environmentalists as situated safely in the legitimate spectrum of a “broad range of consensus” across “all political parties.”

In other words, if you are disillusioned with the existing party political system and its approach to environmental issues, you are an extremist.

Deben’s comments demonstrate the regressive mindset behind the British government’s private collaboration with shale gas industry executives to “manage the British public’s hostility to fracking,” as revealed in official emails analysed by Damien Carrington.

The emails exposed the alarming extent to which government is “acting as an arm of the gas industry,” compounding earlier revelations that Department of Energy and Climate Change employees involved in drafting UK energy policy have been seconded from UK gas corporations.

Public opinion is the enemy

The latest polling data shows that some 47% of Britons “would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home,” with just 14% saying they would be happy. By implication, the government views nearly half of the British public as potential extremists merely for being sceptical of shale gas.

This illustrates precisely why the trend-line of mass surveillance exemplified in the Snowden disclosures has escalated across the Western world. From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of “terrorism” and “extremism” are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation.


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