With permanent protest sites becoming more difficult to maintain as winter draws in, gas fracking company bosses in England have announced in a puff piece today that they intend to throw yet more money at the crisis-hit industry — but appear to be struggling in the face of multiple threats and setbacks.
Cuadrilla, which has been hemorrhaging cash for the last several years, appears to be trying to shore up investor support ahead of the planned opening of its site at Preston New Road, which it now says will officially happen in December. The protest flashpoint, which has seen camps, lock-ons and other forms of direct action all year as people try to stop equipment from being brought in, is months behind schedule and is yet to produce any revenue for the firm.
Other members of the fracking club, including Third Energy and IGAS, have also been on the backfoot over the extraction method, which was recently banned in Scotland and dealt another blow by recent studies showing it to be a major contributor to air pollution, on top of existing fears over groundwater contamination, carbon emissions and even earthquakes. In something of an understatement, IGAS chief Stephen Blower said there was “a lot of myth-busting we have to do to really explain to people what we are trying to achieve.”
Ineos meanwhile is battling against a challenge to an unprecedentedly wide injunction it imposed on protests near any of its sites across the UK. Campaigners, Joe Boyd and Joe Corre were in the High Court yesterday challenging the ruling, which they say has a chilling effect on the right to free expression based on “flimsy and exaggerated” evidence. The result of the case is expected later today.
Industry-wide, fracking has also been hit by the simple problem that firms are being undercut by cheaper energy developments elsewhere. With solar and wind prices crashing and historically low (slowly rising) gas prices, firms have been reduced to begging for speculation cash on the promise of later market upticks. In Britain particularly, frack extraction is complicated (and made more expensive) by the local geology.
Pic: Reclaim the Power