- Fracktion stations in Sussex
- Fracking’s far from finished
- Infrastructure is the enemy
- M18 – gatecrashing the Euro-bankers’ party
- Smart spies in our homes
Razor wire lines the top of the 15-foot high fence surrounding the concreted compound in the heart of the West Sussex countryside between West Chiltington and Billingshurst.
It looks for all the world like some ghastly concentration camp, but here the fortifications are designed to keep “miscreants” out rather than in.
Oil and gas firm Celtique Energy has permission for an exploratory oil and gas borehole at Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge – work on the site between Prince’s Wood and Pocock’s Wood off the B2133 is nearly complete and drilling could start any time now.
The formidable defences around the drill compound betray the business’s knowledge that their activities are highly controversial and liable to meet opposition. There are some “enemies of progress” out there who strangely don’t welcome the prospect of contaminated water, soil and air, of devastated countryside, of lorry-congested roads, of a night sky constantly lit up by flares and of the occasional frack-induced earthquake.
But so far things have been fairly quiet in this corner of the Weald. Perhaps locals are happy to take Celtique at their word when they insist that their aims here are purely “conventional“ and will not involve fracking?
Cynics suggest that Celtique’s non-fracking line was merely what they needed to get drilling permission from West Sussex County Council – and to try and keep the protest wolves at bay for as long as possible.
It just happens that in boring down 10,000 feet in supposed search of conventional fuel, their drill will pass through the both the Kimmeridge Clay and Lias shale layers, giving them a coincidental chance to assess the fracking potential.
Celtique’s joint investment partner Magellan Petroleum was certainly selling the shale side of the West Sussex operations in a letter to its American shareholders in May 2013.
It boasted: “In the UK, we maintain a large acreage position in the Weald Basin, which we believe is a very promising unconventional play. In recent months, it appears that the regulatory and political climate has warmed considerably to unconventional production onshore UK.
“The Department of Energy and Climate Change recently lifted its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, and the government is exploring new tax incentive proposals to encourage unconventional drilling onshore. We believe that these developments should have a favorable impact on the perceived value of our acreage.
“In order to substantiate this value, we, together with our partner Celtique Energie, plan to drill one or two evaluation wells at the end of 2013, through which we will gain a better understanding of the shale potential of our acreage. In the meantime, Magellan remains one of only three publicly traded companies to offer significant exposure to this emerging UK shale play.”
And Celtique itself somewhat gave the game away on a page that has now mysteriously disappeared from its website, but has been preserved on the Frack Off site.
The firm is more or less rubbing its hands together in greedy delight as it details the profits to be made by despoiling the Central Weald area “located in countryside south west of London, close to the large south east UK energy market and proximal to major gas trunk lines and refineries.”
Celtique declares: “Several material size conventional prospects and major shale oil and shale gas unconventional resource potential have been established within the boundaries of the licences. The shale oil and gas resource position provides a low risk and very significant up side to the conventional prospects.”
“In the Weald Basin, it is believed that the oil shales in their acreage which cover an area of 1,000 sq. kms (123,000 acres) could hold up to 200 mmbbls of recoverable oil resources, with a mid-case estimate of 125 mmbbls”.
Anyone still tempted to believe that Celtique’s drilling plans are strictly conventional might also want to take a look at the IGas conventional site at nearby Cootham. No sign of any barbed wire, let alone razor wire, on top of the modest fencing around that compound… So what’s so different about Broadford Bridge?
The temporary drop in crude oil prices, drops in fracking firms’ share prices and the talk of fracking moratoriums in Scotland and Wales, is in danger of lulling some opponents into a false sense of security.
But there is absolutely no reason to imagine that the threat is over or even diminished.
As Frack Off point out succinctly in a new poster, the much-heralded protection for certain parts of the English countryside has failed to materialise, Scotland has no moratorium, just a 12-week “public consultation” period and Wales has no power to halt fracking even temporarily.
The Infrastructure Act (see below), which some naively imagined might rein in the frackers, in fact leaves them stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) due to come into effect later this year will further boost corporate power.
The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in the EU-US (TTIP) and EU-Canada (CETA) agreements would allow corporations to sue governments for damage to profits as a result of measures taken to protect the environment, public health, etc. This means that even if fracking bans were introduced, they could be overturned by the industry, via closed tribunals outside the control of any national or European court.
And, of course, the British state continues to deploy large numbers of its hired thugs to intimidate fracking protesters and deter all opposition.
Democracy is a sham anyway and business interests have always ruled behind the scenes. What we are now seeing is the rapid abandonment of even the pretence of democracy – welcome to the new era of totalitarian capitalism!
In the first issue of The Acorn we mentioned the position of The Invisible Committee, which has recently described localised battles against infrastructure – like the NO TAV campaign in Italy – as the front line in the global struggle against capitalism.
It is appropriate, then, that the latest capitalist assault on our communities and environment in the UK should come in the form of the new Infrastructure Act!
The legislation unleashes yet another new wave of neoliberal insanity upon us.
* It will turn the Highways Agency into an “arms-length” government-owned company, Highways England, charged with funding a £15 billion programme of more than 100 road schemes between now and the end of the next Parliament.
* It will promote the selling-off of publicly-owned land and property to private developers, via the Homes and Communities Agency, cutting the “red tape” holding back business profiteering.
* It will allow property developers to avoid some planning conditions with a new ‘deemed discharge’ provision to “help speed up house building”.
* And, of course, the Infrastructure Act represents a significant intervention on the side of the fracking industry, as set out in detail on the excellent Drill or Drop website.
The frackers are delighted, with Marcus Pepperell, spokesperson for Shale Gas Europe saying: “The UK has taken a decisive step in embracing the shale gas opportunity. We may now start to see the emergence of Europe’s first commercial shale gas industry.”
Most significantly, the Act actually makes it a principal objective of the government to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum and grants the right to drill underground someone’s land without their consent.
There are hardly any restrictions on fracking, with firms allowed to leave land in a different condition than they found it and to leave any infrastructure or substances in the land. Despite all the talk of National Parks being protected, it even allows fracking companies to drill horizontally under national parks from outside their boundaries.
The official government statement on the Act makes it clear as to what it is all about, for all those capable of translating Capitalese into plain English.
It says: “These powerful new measures will drive investment, making it easier, quicker and simpler to get Britain building for the future”. This means: “These draconian new laws will pander to our global corporate paymasters, making it easier, quicker and simpler for them to walk roughshod over the concerns and interests of the public and carve up the country for their own profit.”
Anti-capitalists from all over Europe are converging on Frankfurt in Germany on March 18 to gatecrash the opening party of the new European Central Bank (ECB).
Says the Blockupy network, which has been staging protests against institutional European capitalism since 2012: “On March 18th 2015 the European Central Bank (ECB) wants to open its new headquarters in Frankfurt. A dizzying 1.3 billion euros was spent on a 185-meter-high fortress-like twin tower building, surrounded by a fence and castle moat. This intimidating architecture of power is a perfect symbol of the distance between the political and financial elites and the people.”
Adds the call-out on the M18 site: “The ceremony will allow the representatives of the European member-states to pat themselves on the back for their crisis-solutions whilst using the celebrations to prepare themselves (and us) for the next round of austerity programmes. They want to institutionalize the state of exception.
”But a lot of people are going to crash the party – because the solutions for the crisis that is capitalism are a catastrophe for the people. Hence the spring of 2015 will hopefully also see a landmark of resistance against the European crisis regime as thousands of different people from all over Europe and beyond travel to the action days against the ECB-party. We call for the antiauthoritarian movement to participate in these actions and discussions. Let’s use this possibility to promote transnational self-organisation in the fight against state and capital and turn this party of domination into our party.”
At a previous protest in November 2014, some 2,000 protesters climbed over barbed wires and threw stones and bags full of coloured water at the ECB’s new building.
The policy states: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”
Similarities have been widely spotted with George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which telescreens listen in to people’s conversations, ensuring they do not criticise the police state personified by “Big Brother”.
The issue goes further than merely listening to conversations – the webcams fitted to the latest TVs for internet use can be activated to secretly spy on people in their own homes, as hackers have demonstrated.
This all goes a lot further than specific companies or equipment, of course. The whole new generation of “smart” devices are designed to build an “internet of things”, where privacy, freedom and, indeed, humanity will be consigned to the past and we will all be reduced to the status of permanently monitored and controlled slaves to a techno-industrial global state that will make Orwell’s nightmare look like a whimsical daydream.
That is, if we don’t bring it down first.
A new article by Nafeez Ahmed, published by Insurge Intelligence, a crowd-funded investigative journalism project, explores the dystopian implications of Britain’s new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, and the efforts to rush it through without public scrutiny. He writes: “In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.”
* * *
The anarchists of Class War have restarted their campaign against separate doors for rich and poor residents at a London development, with a protest held at Aldgate East on Thursday February 12. They had paused their efforts at One Commercial Street after new owner Taylor McWilliams promised to discuss the ending of the socially divisive arrangement. Writes Daniel Brett of the controversial development: “Included within its heavy shaft is 70 units of affordable housing. Generosity? They have apartheid doors to prevent the socially transmitted disease of class awakening. One door for the Rich, one door for the Poor. The Rich have concierge service, executive kitsch and chandeliers, while the “poor” scurry round the back to an ill-liturine-smelling alley. Segregated refuse areas, segregated parking, segregated post: a barrier that sterilises society.”
* * *
An eco-activist journal that inspired a generation has now been archived online. Do or Die, the world’s biggest English-language anarchist journal, was published in the British Isles from 1993-2003, crammed with reports and analysis from the world-wide ecological frontlines. The voices collected here are not those of outsiders, journalists or academics, but of those involved in the struggles themselves. In these times of concrete alienation these voices shine hope from movements that took action to defend nature, create revolution and re-wild humanity.
* * *
A guide to the Euro Zone Crisis has just been published in English by Corporate Watch and is available to read online, as well as to buy in printed form. The work by Christina Laskaridis, called False Dilemmas: A Critical Guide to the Euro Zone Crisis, has a particular emphasis on what has been happening in Greece and shows how to debunk common myths about the crisis, and counter arguments justifying austerity . It asks who profits from the crisis and provides information on grassroots resistance and alternatives.
* * *
Animal rights activists around the UK campaigned against “The British Heartless Foundation” on Saturday February 14. Says the campaign: “The British Heart Foundation are huge funders of sick animal experiments. A quick look on PubMed, a publicly accessible archive of research papers, reveals over 1,500 papers documenting cruel research funded by BHF involving animals on this website alone. Despite their claims of transparency and openness, BHF do not make public a list of which animals and how many are killed in the course of the research they fund. What have they got to hide?” More info at www.britishheartlessfoundation.co.uk
If you like this new bulletin please tell others about it.
Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress