Environment Opinion

Autumn Statement: more fracking cash bribes

Autumn Statement
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The Autumn Statement has once again revealed the murky cellar of the Conservative approach to the UK purse. Fiscal incontinence appears to be very much in prominence at Tory HQ.

Along with lashings more of austerity for the poor, a healthy sprinkling of additional corporation tax breaks for the rich and a pouring of utterly no hope for disability benefits’ claimants who have lost £30 a week.

Oh, and national debt will rise by £220bn by the end of this Parliament due to Brexit. The UK has fallen down the rabbit hole and there is little light to be currently found.

The Treasury has also seen fit to throw supplementary taxpayers’ cash at communities who will be forced to have fracking thrust upon them.

Announcements today from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and his Autumn Statement, the Shale Wealth Fund (read that as fracking bribery), suggests another £1bn of cash is to be bestowed upon communities who are unfortunate enough to suffer the wrath of a greed-driven government intent on exploiting The Desolate North.

The Treasury stated:

Following a consultation to ensure local communities share in the benefits of shale production, the Shale Wealth Fund will provide up to £1bn of additional resources to local communities, over and above industry schemes and other sources of government funding…

But hang on a minute there, old sport. As one of the people in one of these “local communities” in Lancashire who has already refused fracking, I find the offer of extra cash-to-frack to be no more that the prostitution of my county:

Local communities will benefit first and determine how the money is spent in their area.

The thing is Mr Hammond, we already determined our decision on fracking: we clearly said no. By you offering to fling more spare change our way – and believe me, the amount of cash that has been flung already at local farmers, landowners and councillors is unforgivable – does not reassure, appease nor convince communities that fracking should go ahead in an unwilling community.

The Shale Wealth Fund (again, another misnomer, as the fracking Ponzi scheme is a gloriously debt-ridden black hole that America is already displaying with a piling rig count and multitude of bankruptcies) was created by the fiscally-challenged George Osborne who was most definitely backing fracking. And why not? His father-in-law was stacking the cash as a vested-interests oil and gas lobbyist.

Osborne pledged up to 10% of tax proceeds from shale gas exploration to local communities. The laughable fact is that there will be likely no profits from shale gas. For offshore banking fracking firms like Cuadrilla and Third Energy, the Cayman Islands will be the destination of choice for any profits made from this insidious industry.

But as Refracktion most articulately points out:

The Chancellor of the moment is much given to supporting fracking… it has been a feature of every Autumn Statement of the last five years.

Fracking promotion pushed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the last five years. Let that sink in for a minute and then remember the fact that there hasn’t even been a fracking drill in the ground for that long. Even with a government-stamped backing and community bribery scheme in place.

And while community opposition floods above what the industry and Tories ever expected, despite cash sweeteners and the blatant dismantling of democracy, fracking in anything other than small-scale attempts looks very unlikely.

The “up to £1bn of additional resources” as promised by the Treasury may well just be the same old bilge as trotted out over the last five years, repackaged as a new amount to secure a headline or two or to possible pacify the ailing UK fracking industry that is pretty much a non-starter.

The UK government, having only just ratified and signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last week, would do well do remember their obligations under this treaty; in that we must:

Contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gases and support sustainable development.

Nowhere under this clause, does shale gas development fit into it.

The UK should not be starting a new dirty industry whilst promising to reduce its carbon footprint. We don’t need this industry. Cash for investment and development must go to alternative and clean energy infrastructure that is sustainable and without addition to the already-laden carbon footprint of the world.

As someone correctly pointed out to me today, it’s becoming hazy to see where the UK government ends and the fracking industry begins, such is the greasy revolving door that oil and gas lobbyists are so blessed to use.

Mr Hammond: you can pledge whatever fictitious cash kickbacks you like. We said no – democratically, and we’ll continue to say no. In every legal and physical way we can.

So, see you at your Spring Statement for another jolly rehashed £1bn community buy-off promise then, Mr Chancellor?


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