Monday (13 January 2014) saw two big announcements – firstly, French energy company Total announced that it is to invest £30 million ($50 million) to drilling for shale gas in Lincolnshire. Secondly, David Cameron announced a series of bribes whereby councils will retain all of the business rates liable on fracking sites, and payments to local communities from fracking companies of £100,000 upfront and 1% of revenues thereafter.
A few days before the announcements, RAFF was informed that Cameron would be doing a PR piece from the iGas HQ near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire (iGas is the company currently carrying out exploratory drilling at Barton Moss, near Salford). It was too good an opportunity to miss, so RAFF members, together with folk from Frack Free Fylde, Gartstang Against Fracking, Longridge Against Fracking, Balcombe, Barton Moss and others got up at the crack of dawn to ensure we were there to welcome our PM in Gainsborough.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get close to Cameron – and neither could any of the TV/media companies who were waiting with us. Only Sky News was allowed exclusive access to the sight of Cameron in his wellies telling the public how good fracking will be for them and how our local councils are going to get rich from the bribes he was offering. This was then syndicated to the other news services. That meant there were lots of journalists, TV crews, etc hanging around with nothing to do apart from interview the protesters – us. Thanks to Dave’s non-appearance we got interviewed by BBC, Channel 5, Five Live, Sky, Local radio, local newspapers, etc. Most of it was broadcast live and we will add some links once they are available.
Listen to RAFF’s Tina and Mike Hill on Five live here.
Listen to Vanessa Vine from Balcombe on ITV News here.
Channel Five news coverage is available here.
The Total announcement is small beer really. Reuters pointed out: “The investment is tiny in oil industry terms – and especially small in the context of the tens of billions of dollars spent every year by Total, one of the world’s top five investor-controlled oil and gas groups.”
However, it does provide a clear signal to other drilling/energy companies that the UK is going all out for shale and we expect more land auctions with other companies coming on-board over the next few months. It’s particularly ironic that Total is a French company, given that France has banned fracking.
Cameron’s offer of bribes for local authorities is a cynical ploy to get councils on side. Councils who have had their budgets slashed will grasp this extra cash with open arms. Their concerns will be concentrated on what cash they can get, rather than the safety records of the companies concerned or the well-being of their residents. Our welfare is going to get ignored in this dash for cash. It’s particularly cyncial when you consider that Cameron doesn’t seem to be very good with figures. An item on the ‘Gas Man Cometh website called, Oi Gove .. Sort Cameron’s maths out !’ The article points out that by Cameron’s calculations, a well would need to produce about 150 billion cubic feet of gas in its lifetime; The average shale well in Barnett, USA is only producing about 1 bcf of gas. As our American cousins would say ‘Do the math’. This is a big con by Cameron