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Fracking: short-term profit before safety
Matt Kilsby, Salford Socialist Party
A recent major study - released by the British Geographical Survey and Environment Agency - has raised fresh concerns over the potential of fracking to contaminate our drinking water. Meanwhile scientists in the US have said that fracking wastewater wells are directly responsible for turning Oklahoma into the earthquake capital of America.
Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing, to give it its full name - involves drilling and injecting over one million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals - including lead, uranium and mercury - deep into the ground. This process fractures shale rocks to release natural gas.
Unsurprisingly, the fracking industry and its cheerleaders in government have rushed to dismiss the reports and still insist that the process is safe.
They tell us fracking will be heavily regulated. But at the same time, the Con-Dems, without a whimper of opposition from the Labour Party, are busy hammering regulatory bodies, such as the Environment Agency, and throwing workers on the dole.
It appears that public attitudes to fracking are becoming more polarised. Promoters say fracking could make Britain energy self-sufficient, drive down gas prices, create skilled jobs and boost local economies.
But a YouGov poll last month found that public support for fracking has fallen below 50% for the first time, with 31.4% now actively opposed. And whenever exploratory drilling begins in a new area, the gas companies are welcomed with protests, marches and pickets.
On Sunday 11 July, more than 150 people marched through Beverley in Yorkshire to protest against Rathlin Energy's plans to begin exploratory drilling.
In Salford we are no strangers to protesting and marching against fracking. And while iGas have vacated the drilling site at Barton Moss for the time being, we must be prepared to launch another campaign when they submit plans to the council to start fracking for real.
Only a concerted and united campaign from trade unionists, campaigners, environmentalists and local people opposed to fracking will defeat it and force the Labour council to refuse the permissions and the government's bribes.
Fracking is also likely to feature prominently in the general and local elections next year, when the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is planning to stand in every council ward in the city and at least one of the parliamentary constituencies.
Apart from the Reality Party, fronted by Happy Mondays music celebrity Bez, TUSC was the only party in Salford that was firmly against fracking and stood shoulder to shoulder with campaigners telling iGas that they aren't welcome in our city.
In stark contrast, the Labour council has granted licenses and planning permissions to allow iGas to drill in Barton Moss. Just like it cut every job and attacked every public service that the Con-Dem government has told it to.
As socialists, we think that the dash for gas and the fracking industry shows how broken and utterly crazy the capitalist system is. Even if fracking was 'safe', it is the most wasteful and insanely resource intensive process. This is because the bottom line for the capitalists - and the three main parties in Westminster that do their bidding - is short-term profit, regardless of any environmental and economic factors.
Only democratic socialist planning can properly safeguard the environment by building an economy based on our needs and by investing in sustainable and green energy sources.
In The Socialist 9 July 2014:
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