We are unsure just how many banana skins the latest cabinet is prepared to jump on in order to be considered ‘hard’ Tory, but many in the ruling party are becoming increasingly nervous as the disasters pile up and they wonder why they imagined the new chief clown would be any better than the one they just ditched.
Of course, the government cannot really do anything but fall into traps, given that the global overproduction crisis leaves them little room to buy their way out of their economic woes. To add to their problems, the blind obedience (until now) of most of the European Union and British leaderships to the orders of US imperialism to destroy their own economies in order to protect the USA’s hegemonic position in the world has left them squarely wedged between a rock and a hard place – with massive pressure building all around.
Now the latest ‘solve the energy crisis’ / ‘look like you have a plan’ wheeze is: “Let’s start fracking again!” What could possibly go wrong?
A recipe for disaster
In case anyone has forgotten, fracking basically consists in drilling into the earth in search of shale gas. Which sounds simple enough; even harmless – until you understand that mere drilling doesn’t release the gas from the rock.
Instead, a toxic cocktail of chemicals and water has to be shot into the shale at incredibly high pressure, smashing the rock to make the gas accessible.
There are two very important consequences of this operation.
1. That toxic cocktail stays underground. Along with the excess water that has been blasted into the substrata, it steadily seeps its way into the water table – and then on into the wider ecosystem, poisoning wildlife, crops (making its way to our food via farm animals as well as vegetable crops), and drinking water.
2. The extremely high pressure jets lead to underground ruptures. If these occur near a geological faultline, of which there are many, earth tremors are the natural result. In countries where fracking is still going on, earthquakes and cavernous holes have been caused around fracking sites alongside the pollution/toxicity problems outlined above.
After a magnitude 2.9 earthquake was caused in 2019 by Cuadrilla Resources (the only company that had been licensed for fracking), causing structural damage to local housing in Preston, Lancashire, Boris Johnson’s government put a moratorium on fracking. A report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) published shortly afterwards concluded that it was “not possible with current technology to accurately predict the probability of tremors associated with fracking”.
Of course, in 2019, there was an election in the offing, and the issue of fracking was creating a lot of anger amongst workers. Then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promised that Labour would ban fracking forever. Whether he would have stuck to that promise in the present economic conditions we have no way of knowing.
Meanwhile, as the economic crisis deepens and the price of oil and gas rises inexorably, the potential profits to be made from shale gas are huge, so that politicians of the bourgeois variety, whether Labour or Tory, stand in the way of such opportunities for big capital at their peril.
There are plenty of other, saner and safer, ways to produce the energy we need, including developing clean coal, investing in green technologies at scale, building small-scale nuclear reactors, and investing in nuclear fission (which surely would have been a reality by now if serious funding had been given to it).
The true path to energy security
Meanwhile, real self-sufficiency and ‘energy security’ require the nationalisation of every part of the energy production and distribution sector, so that we can plan production to meet need – and provide what is needed at a price that can be afforded by all, as safely and cleanly as possible.
Although the fracking lobby is working hard to push the idea that its aim is ‘self-sufficiency’, ‘energy security’, ‘job creation’, etc, the lobbyists’ only real concern is maximising profit – and the carefully-obscured truth is that having a ‘locally produced’ source of energy will make no difference to workers’ ability to access the product.
The price of British shale gas, produced for profit by private companies, will be set on the world market, and sold to whoever in the world has the money to pay for it. It will not be used to warm up the workers who are shivering in cold houses for want of what it takes to feed their ever more extortionate meters.
Of course, if they want to ensure a secure and relatively cheap supply of oil and gas to Britain in the short term, the best thing our rulers can do is end their sanctions on Russia, stop stoking the proxy war in Ukraine (whether with weapons, training, mercenaries or propaganda cover), and start a genuine dialogue with Russia to secure peace and stability in Europe.
Meanwhile, the new ‘fracking plan’ looks like another potential banana-skin for a government that can’t seem to put a foot down on solid ground.