The Town Hall Terrace Room was full for the Calderdale Green Party public meeting on fracking, addressed by Kirklees Cllr, Andrew Cooper.
Cheap fracked gas in the UK is a myth
Hebden Bridge residents opposed to fracking raised many questions, from how to counter the idea that fracking would mean cheap gas for people who currently struggle to pay their bills, to how to reverse the democratic deficit that allows oil and gas company staff to be seconded to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, where they shape energy policy in the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
Cllr Cooper pointed out that the idea that UK fracking would result in cheap gas is a myth – the situation in the UK is very different from the USA, where fracking has reduced gas prices. Even investment banks, like Deutsche Bank, have pointed this out. And Cuadrilla, one of the big UK fracking companies, has also acknowledged that fracking won’t lead to gas price reductions in the UK.
Even the UK government has stopped claiming that fracking will lower gas prices, and instead is justifying it on the grounds that it will increase energy security,
A far better way of reducing people’s energy bills, said Cllr Cooper, would be for Councils and the government to invest public money in insulating people’s homes, so they were energy efficient and needed less energy to keep warm.
(In fact, Calderdale Council has passed a resolution supporting the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, which advocates that the government should use carbon tax money to pay for a national home energy efficiency retrofits – but the Council has so far forgotten to actually sign up the Council to the campaign!)
Be annoying! And get some imagination into energy policy!
This is an example of where people could usefully act on Cllr Cooper’s advice to be annoying. He suggested people can put this proposal for publicly-funded home energy efficiency retrofits to Councillors and their MP, and challenge them on the ridiculousness of the Green Deal. Cllr Cooper said,
“We need to get some imagination into energy policy.”
He pointed out that the Coalition government would not have found it particularly difficult to live up to its claim that it would be the “greenest government ever”, since in 2007 the UK was third from the bottom in the Eurovision renewable energy contest – just above Malta and Luxembourg, with little more than “Nul Points”.
But rather than continue to invest in energy conservation and reducing energy use through home energy efficiency retrofit schemes like Warm Front, paid for out of public funding, the Coalition government cut that funding and instead introduced the Green Deal, which requires householders to take out a loan repayable over 25 years through their electricity bill, at 7% interest rate. This at a time when the government is saying that the country cannot afford to take on any more debt. The Green Deal launched in February this year, and so far only one household has signed up for a Green Deal loan.
Let Councillors and your MP know you don’t want fracking
As deputy chair of the Local Government Association Environment and Housing Board, Cllr Cooper is pushing for local authority determination of fracking planning policy. This will only happen, said Cllr Cooper, if people let their Councillors know that they don’t want fracking in their area and Councils commit to policies which oppose fracking.
Ways of making this happen include:
- drawing up a model motion for the Council to adopt
- get one of the Council scrutiny panels to investigate fracking, and get local people to attend and present information
Regulation, regulation, regulation!
Because the fracking industry is new, Cllr Cooper explained, it is largely unregulated. Despite Coalition government claims that fracking will be properly regulated in order to avoid environmental damage, in fact it is shaping up to be a self-regulatory regime. Cllr Cooper asked rhetorically,
“How many health and safety visits did Balcombe’s Cuadrilla site receive? None. And how many Environment Agency visits? None. ”
Write to your MEP tonight!
Tomorrow (Weds 11th Sept) the European Parliament will vote on proposals to make fracking subject to strict regulation. Cllr Cooper urged everyone to write a letter to Yorkshire MEPs asking them to vote in favour of these proposals. You can write to all six Yorkshire and Humberside MEPS here.
Asked whether he expected that the six Yorkshire MEPs would vote in favour of strictly regulating fracking, Cllr Cooper said it would be the logical thing to do – but he wasn’t confident that the MEPs would do the logical thing.
In July, all six Y&H MEPS voted against a European Parliament proposal for a moratorium on fracking, which would have allowed time to look at all the health and safety and environmental issues raised by fracking, and to figure out if it is possible to regulate to protect health and safety and the environment from fracking.
The vote was lost.
Renewables and energy conservation are the way forward, for energy sovereignty, spending less on energy, and reducing climate change. Not fracking. Remember, be annoying.
Don’t hesitate, agitate!