Upon first coming to power in 2010, the Tory’s and their Chancellor George Osborne announced Plans to introduce Fracking as a ‘cheap’ and ‘efficient’ way for our country to get lots and lots of oil. For those of you that don’t know, Hydraulic Fracturing, most commonly known as Fracking, is a process intended to extract Gas by pushing vast quantities of water and toxic chemicals deep underground, in order to force out natural gas. Since these new plans for fracking have been announced, there has been strong resistance, delaying the process for numerous years, and for good reason. If the toxic liquid used for fracking seeps into the water supply, it could cause contamination. It has also been claimed that fracking has the potential to cause earthquakes. The most recent place in the UK turned into a Fracking destination is Ryedale in north Yorkshire, although fracking has been approved in numerous other destinations. Unsurprisingly, several members of the government serve to gain from the Hydraulic Fracturing plans. The fact that the plans are neither cheap nor efficient do not seem to matter to the ones running the whole show, who can simply sell the false propaganda narrative that fracking will result in cheaper energy bills, and that we need fracking in order to have a practical way of life. In this blog post, I would like to explain some of the special interests that lie at the heart of the fracking industry in the UK. If you are reading this in America however, you might also find this relatable. Anyone who has seen the film Gasland by Josh Fox, knows of the dangers of the industry.
Fracking Is Inefficient
Fracking is an extremely economically inefficient model of energy generation. Hydraulic Fracturing operations are very energy intensive, requiring the transportation of millions of gallons of water, the production and transportation of toxic chemicals and extremely deep drilling. In compensation for all this, the amount of gas produced is actually very low. In comparison to a conventional oil well, the investment of energy needed to extract gas via the fracking process is huge. The return on all this energy, with shale fracking, can be as low as 1.5 units for every unit of energy spent on extraction. While I think we should be focusing on developing renewables and reducing our pollution, the energy return on conventional oil drilling can be as high as 100. Even hard to access oil supplies like North Sea oil, have a return of at least 10. What all this means is that, fracking produces such low energy return on energy invested (EROEI) that it is only profitable, when energy prices are high.
Tax Breaks for Frackers
So our government says that ‘fracking has the potential to keep energy bills low for millions of people’. This argument is completely invalidated by the fact that, as I just explained, fracking can only be profitable when energy bills are high. If however Fracking is so efficient that it will keep energy bills low, then it needs to be questioned why on earth it needs vast tax breaks, in order to make it profitable. It seems as if the Tory’s know that fracking cannot be financially viable, unless they make massive tax breaks to fracking companies, which are not available for more environmentally friendly forms of energy generation such as wave or solar.
The fracking tax break will set taxation at just 30% for onshore shale gas production. To put this into perspective, North Sea operations have a tax rate of 62%, while older offshore fields have a rate of up to 81%. It seems highly ironic that a government which declare itself to care about the environment, have decided to give tax breaks to one of the most environmentally destructive and inefficient forms of energy extraction possible. This is especially irritating, considering the fact that research into the environmental effects of fracking have not yet been completed. Despite this, when the EU tried to pass a law banning neonicotinoid pesticides, the then environment secretary Owen Patterson refused to pass it, citing the fact that the government had not yet completed their research project into the subject. However, they seem perfectly happy to hand large tax breaks to an industry they do not fully know the effects of yet. This shows an example of the Tory’s insisting that their research must be completed when a legislative delay benefits their financial backers, yet pressing full steam ahead on non-researched policies when that benefits their financial backers. This absolute disregard for moral honesty, should be enough to prove to anyone, that corporate interests are an overriding imperative for the Tory Party.
Who Are the Major Interests Supporting Fracking?
Apart from the environmental destruction, the economic lies and the obvious concern for corporations, implicated in the governments fracking plans, several members of the government serve to gain an enormous amount from these plans. Note that this is only a small list and other Beneficiaries not mentioned here include Tory donor Ian Taylor, transport department non-executive Sam Laidlaw, unelected lord Sarah Hogg, and former BP executive Ben Moxham.
One of the main interests backing this whole fracking business, is George Osbornes farther in law and Tory Peer, David Howell. In addition to being energy minister at the foreign office, Howell is also the President of the British Institute of Energy economics, a company sponsored by Shell and BP, both companies that unsurprisingly stand to gain considerably from tax breaks. As someone who is notoriously sceptical of renewable energy, he is also Chairman of various other energy lobbying groups, one of which is even sponspered by NATO. From this, it should appear obvious who stands to gain from the Tory’s Fracking plans.
Another one of these special interests is, former BP chairman and non-executive John Browne. Just to clarify, the job of non-executives involves being an unelected adviser to government departments. Browne’s most obvious fracking interest is in Cuadrilla, the company currently exploring for gas in West Sussex. In addition to this, Browne holds numerous shares in BP. He is also Chairman of the Accenture Global Energy Board, which produces reports detailing how to expand the shale Gas Industry, and works to undermine renewables. All this makes Browne another likely beneficiary of the Tory’s Fracking plans.
Who of course can forget Lynton Crosby? He was one of the people implicated in the plain packaging for cigarettes scandal when, just as the Tory’s did a U-turn on this legislation, it was revealed that his lobbying group, Crosby Textor, is employed by the tobacco company Phillip Morris. Despite Crosby facing calls to step down from several MP’s, Cameron refused to have him sacked. As such, just a few days after the Tory’s announced their Tax break for Frackers, it was also revealed that Crosby Textor also represents Dart Energy, a firm that holds shale gas extraction licenses in Scotland.
The Tory’s blatant support of the environmentally destructive process of Fracking, whilst cutting funding for renewables, should be enough to pour shame on the idea that they are somehow the ‘Greenest government ever’. At the heart of this is the corporate donors and lobbyists who the Conservatives clearly represent. This to me, shows how truly intertwined environmental destruction and corporate interests are.