This is a guest post from Reclaim The Power! On 16-21 August, thousands of people from all over the UK will join with the residents of Balcome, West Sussex, to reclaim power for the local community, taking it back from the government and corporations that want to ‘frack’ in the area. Join people from the anti-austerity and environmental movements to share ideas, skills and tactics, and to take part in a big spectacular piece of direct action. All the info you need for taking part can be found here.
As millions reel from the shock doses of austerity administered by George Osborne and co, behind our backs, another theft of our collective commons is taking place. We need to turn around and face it.
Decisions are being made right now about how we will power the UK over the next 30 years. Once made, these decisions will be almost impossible to reverse. The government’s Dash for Gas could see up to 40 new Gas power stations and 64% of England covered with Fracking rigs – if public opposition doesn’t stop it. A restructuring of our energy system is under way to fill the ‘energy gap’ and unsurprisingly the plan is to fill it with fossil fuels as usual and tax breaks for crony companies.
Just last month, George Osborne unveiled the most generous tax breaks in the world for fracking. The Treasury has set a 30% tax rate for onshore shale gas production – a 50% cut off the current top rate of 62% on new North Sea oil. Caudrilla, the UK’s biggest Fracker, headed up by John Browne, has caused earthquakes in Blackpool and is currently drilling in Balcombe, despite 85% of the population wanting them out. The revolving door between energy companies and government is in full swing. John Browne, former head of BP and a current Director of Caudrilla, lobbied Ministry of Energy and Climate Change chiefs four times last year and actually works in the Cabinet Office where his role is to appoint
executives to government boards – unsurprisingly Fracking Industry figureheads have been given jobs and are influencing government energy policy in their own interests.
The North of England, despite being unpopulated according to David Cameron’s father in Law Lord Howell – possibly because he doesn’t regard either scousers or geordies as people – could turn out to be the Texas of the UK for shale gas. A recent Royal Geological Society report states the UK has twice as much shale gas as previously thought with 1.3k trillion cubic feet running between Nottingham and Blackpool. Lord Howell is an enthusiastic Fracking lobbyist, recently promoting the industry in Poland where public opposition is massive and residents have sabotaged attempts to frack their lands. Poland is estimated to have the
highest reserves of shale gas in Europe – 22.45 trillion cubic meters.
Both Lord Howell’s reference to the North of England as ‘desolate’ and the recent callous ‘humour’ of Energy Minister Michael Fallon joking that Sussex residents will ’see how thick their rectory walls are, and whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!’ suggest that people are an inconvenient obstacle to profits for this government and greedy energy companies. Perhaps it would be better for Caudrilla if the residents of Balcombe – courageously putting their bodies in the way of exploratory drilling in their village – simply did not exist; a surplus humanity impeding business needs.
Osborne is talking about an energy revolution. He thinks it’s going to start in Balcombe. He’s not wrong. In response to Balcombe’s call for support to stop Caudrilla, we at No Dash for Gas and our friends from UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, Occupy and Fuel Poverty Action are moving our five-day action camp there to run from August 16-21. We had planned to re-target Big Six energy giant and fuel poverty profiteer EDF in West Burton which are a key part of the government’s Dash for Gas, but Balcombe was more urgent as a front-line of fossil fuel extraction.
Whether its the cowboy capitalism of extraction companies like Caudrilla or the monopoly stranglehold of Big Gas processors such as EDF, both are part of the same Dash for Gas. The 40 new gas power stations could have the fracked Gas of Lancashire, Sussex and Wales running through them in the next decade. The alternative is democratically controlled, sustainable clean energy.
Reclaim the Power has been likened to Climate Camp. What makes it different is the different political climate this camp is part of. It’s a climate of cuts, privatisation, dispossession and mounting economic and social injustice. It’s a climate of crisis with the biggest crisis being that of climate change and a crisis in democracy. The groups taking part have developed as a response to this climate. Our rights to determine our future, our right to decide not just how we power this country and what for, but who has power in this country are being undermined by not just by companies like Caudrilla and EDF but this government itself. Join us in Balcombe.
Let’s Reclaim the Power together.