“Fracking Hell? What will shale gas mean for the UK?” London Meeting – review

Andy and Gareth represented South Wales at this high profile event in Central London. Andy got to address the gathering after the four advertised speakers:

1. CAROLINE LUCAS MP – Caroline gave a brief synopsis of the main issues, acknowledging the greater expertise of others present. She re-stated the Party position of calling for an immediate moratorium on fracking.

2. Prof. KEVIN ANDERSON – Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research that produced the recent report: Shale gas: a provisional assessment of climate change and environmental impacts, which recommends a moratorium on drilling shale gas in the UK. His presentation was rather academic but seemed to convey an inescapable message – we are pretty much peeing in the wind in terms of achieving emmission cuts that will avert very serious climate change consequences.
He was, nonetheless, categorical in insisting that shale gas should have absolutely no part in the energy futures of developed (rich) countries. He has revised his view with regards to developing (poor) countries; claiming that there is logic it letting them exploit their shale gas as long as it is instead of, rather than in addition to coal reserves.

3. MICHAEL MEACHER MP – was Minister of State for the Environment May 1997 to June 2003. I have largely been a fan of his over the years, but he pulled a shameless stunt here. He obviously woke up and realised he had not prepared a speech for this event. His breakfast read of the Guardian came to the rescue. This article, from yesterday’s Guardian by George Monbiot, is 90% of what he said – at least 50% of it word for word!!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/18/coalition-carbon-british-economy-fossil-fuels

4. PHIL MITCHELL – Chair of Blackpool Green Party. Not sure what to say about his speech. He was clearly very nervous. Some anecdotal evidence of some complaints of heightened respiratory problems near the fracked site was perhaps the most interesting element.

I was then invited to the rostrum and gave a quick synopsis of the evolving campaign in South Wales – the short lived NIMBY campaign around Llangeinor that quickly saw household name Centrica pull out of Bridgend County – the Vale Says NO campaign that achieved so much around the Llandow application – the evolving No Fracking UK campaign and the involvement with the Co-operative.

There followed a Q & A session which gave me reason to point out the nofrackinguk.com/ web address on the back of my t-shirt on several occasions. I will be interested to see how the hit count goes.

Some good networking followed:

A couple of guys from the area that our ‘friends’ from Coastal Oil & Gas are targeting in Kent (‘Deal With It’ Transition Group) came for a chat – thanking us for the info provided and with a view to perhaps linking up at some point in opposition to CO&G and Eden.

An interesting young guy came and took my email address with the promise of providing information on training for direct action – so that sounds very interesting!

A lady from Artists Project Earth (APE) – the event sponsors – came for a chat, saying she regularly follows our blogs/websites and is a fan of what we are doing. She is excited by the prospect of getting TV coverage for us if we get involved in any direct action. She promises to be at Camp Frack with cameras. (Check out the excellent work and excellent CDs the APE do: http://www.apeuk.org/ – note the Fracking Campaign tab.)

Phil Mitchell then came over to offer his opinion that we are wrong to be calling for a Moratorium – he insists we should be calling for an outright ban. Thanks Phil.

Justin Woolford, Head of Campaigns at The Co-operative Group, (Sarah Woods’ line manager, I believe) came to introduce himself. He seemed impressed with what Sarah Woods had reported of our activities, and seemed conscious of criticisms I had made of the lack of fracking related material on the Toxic Fuels campaign website and literature. I hope we will work together on rectifying this. He is keen to address it.

Finally, we had a chat with event organiser Phil Thornhill, from the Campaign against Climate Change, thanking him for the opportunity to speak and assuring him of as much support we can muster for their next big fracking event – CAMP FRACK.

FOOTNOTE ON OUR RAIL TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: Train left Bridgend bang on time. Makes unscheduled stop at Didcot Parkway. Transpires there had been a fatality at Hayes & Harlington Station and all services suspended! Our train terminated there at Didcot. Move to another train – but only accommodation left was in First Class. Nevermind! Eventually arrive in Paddington 90 mins late. Make the Fracking Meeting with 10 minutes to spare. Time to stroll across the West End after the event before catching the last train out of Paddington home. Again departs on time. Fluctuates from fast out of stations to slow 20 mins later as it keeps catching and being slowed by a freight train ahead of it! Get to Bridgend 30 mins late at 1:45am!! It would not happen in Japan!!!

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