99% of Scotts oppose fracking; government orders ban
The battle lines between the fossil fuel industry and ordinary people are starkly drawn in Scotland. The Scottish economy depends on natural gas for much of its domestic heating and commercial activity, but production from wells in the North Sea have been declining for years. The industry proposes to cover the shortfall by fracking on the mainland, primarily in parts of the country in which coal mining was once common.
By Steve Hanley
But a survey of 65,000 Scotland residents found an astonishing 99% are opposed to fracking. Faced with such overwhelming public opposition, the government has ordered a ban on fracking, a decision that has caused jubilation in some quarters and consternation in others. As expected, proponents of fracking emphasize the number of jobs at stake and the increase in GDP fracking could bring to the country.
Ineos is a privately owned oil and gas company partially backed by PetroChina. It has an oil refinery and a petrochemical plant in Scotland. Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of Ineos, warned that without shale gas imports, the company’s chemical plant would close, throwing many people out of work.
Tom Pickering, managing director of its Ineos Shale division, was infuriated by the decision to ban fracking. “Natural gas will be needed by Scotland for the foreseeable future and production from the North Sea continues to decline,” he told the press. “This decision, which beggars belief, means gas becomes a cost for the Scottish economy instead of an ongoing source of income.
“It speaks volumes about Scottish leadership on the world stage and sends a clear and negative message to any future investors in Scotland. Expert reports have clearly stated that this technology can be applied safely and responsibly — but it will be England that reaps the benefits,” Pickering added.
Dean Lockhart, the energy spokesman for the Tories, said fracking would create thousands of high value jobs and add $5 billion to the country’s economy. “This much needed economic boost and jobs will now be created outside Scotland thanks to the Scottish National party,” grumped Lockhart. Not so, claims consulting firm KPMG. It estimates allowing unconventional coal and gas extraction would increase Scotland’s GDP by only 0.1% and cause environmental ruin in the areas where it takes place.
On the positive side, Mary Church, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking. This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.” Fracking has also been banned in Wales, leaving England in a bit of a pickle, now that it is surrounded by neighbors who disapprove of fracking — a process England has embraced, at least until now.
Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish energy minister, said “It is our responsibility as a government to make a decision we believe is in the best interests of the people of this country as a whole. We must be confident that the choices we make will not compromise health and safety or damage the environment in which we live. We have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and an economic responsibility to prepare Scotland for new low carbon opportunities.”
Prof Stuart Haszeldine, an expert in carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, summed up the dispute best. “The…. replies from citizens shows they are very clearly prepared to forgo the doubtful possibility of short-term financial gain for the longer-term benefits of moving to a cleaner economy and air quality. This is continuing the decline of fossil fuels, and moving to a different sort of wealth.”
Scotland’s position is the polar opposite of the United States’ stance on fracking. At present, the pursuit of profits is the only game in town, and concern for the health and safety of citizens is not even on the table in America. There are many dark mutterings from people with flammable tap water, but corporate interests routinely prevail with local, state, and federal governments. The people could change things by not voting for politicians who are bought and paid for by fossil fuel interests, but that would require actually voting, something a majority of Americans have no interest in doing.
(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.)