Climate Radio takes a look at the battle for the UK’s energy future: on the one side we have Chancellor George Osborne and the gas lobby; on the other side are the communities resisting the threat of fracking, the government’s own Committee on Climate Change, 21 people who occupied a gas-fired power station – and everyone else interested in maintaining a habitable planet.
Phil England is joined for this episode of climate radio by:
• David Kennedy, CEO, Committee on Climate Change
• John Broderick, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
• Vanessa Vine, co-ordinator of Britain & Ireland Frack Free (BIFF!) and Frack Free Sussex
• Mariann Lloyd-Smith, Senior Advisor to the National Toxics Network, Australia
Listen to the podcast here.
Chancellor George Osborne is planning to build up to 40 new gas-fired power stations even though the government’s own independent advisers warn that this would be illegal, expensive and crash our climate commitments. The Chancellor is also encouraging the polluting and landscape-despoiling process of gas fracking in the UK, while the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been promoting this controversial technology internationally. From a climate change perspective we already have more carbon in fossil fuel company reserves than we can safely burn before adding yet another source of unconventional fuel into the mix. Unless there is an effective global cap on carbon emissions or a global carbon tax, developing shale gas reserves by fracking will increase global greenhouse gas emissions.
Communities from the US to Egypt and from Australia to Algeria are fighting back against the threat of fracking and the Chancellor’s entire gas policy will be challenged by climate protestors in Britain when they return en-masse to West Burton gas-fired power station for the Reclaim The Power camp from 17 to 20 August 2013.
The Dash for Gas would increase fuel poverty
Britain’s fuel bills have risen dramatically over the last five years, 60 per cent of this is down to the rising price of gas, while less than 10 per cent was because of the cost of investment in renewable energy. The cost of gas is likely to continue to rise (as global demand continues to grow) while the cost of renewable energy is predicted to fall (as the technologies become mature and achieve economies of scale). Investing in low-carbon technology could save consumers between £25 and £100 billion ($38.6 and $154 billion) by 2030.
Britain has the worst rates of fuel poverty in Western Europe with nearly 20 per cent of all households in fuel poverty. Fuel poverty was likely to be a significant contributor to the 2,700 ‘excess winter deaths’ that occurred in Britain in 2010-2011 according to a government commissioned report. While the poorest customers of British Gas face the choice between heating and eating, the company paid £16 million ($25 million) to its senior executives.
The Gas Mafia vs democracy
Why is the Chancellor being allowed to dictate British energy policy? Why is test drilling going ahead in the West Sussex village of Balcombe when 82 per cent of residents oppose it? Why is the Foreign & Commonwealth Office providing support to British companies wishing to exploit shale gas in countries such as the US, China, Mexico, Bulgaria and Lithuania? Campaigning group Frack Off revealed that the gas lobby has key allies in every government department that has a bearing on gas policy.
The health impacts of fracking
Fracking results in pollution of both water and air causing significant health impacts. The Oscar-nominated film Gasland collects the testimonies of people affected by fracking across the US while the List of the Harmed compiles details of nearly 1,400 affected residents. Fracking companies have been buying people’s silence by including gagging clauses in legal settlements for damage claims. The fracking boom in the US only took off after Dick Cheney secured an exemption for the industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the toxic impacts of fracking have been suppressed by industry interests. Already in the UK, fracking company Cuadrilla has been found making misleading, exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims by the Advertising Standards Authority.
• Email your MP and ask them to support carbon-free electricity in the Energy Bill
• Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 2292 for a moratorium on fracking
• Find out if fracking is coming your way and join your local group
• Come to Reclaim the Power at West Burton gas power station, 17 to 20 August 2013.
Listen to the podcast here.
This post is extracted from a longer article which can be found here at the Climate Radio website.