My position on the Fracking motions at Conference this coming weekend

Looking at the final agenda for this Autumn’s Conference, starting on 9th September, you will find three fracking related motions C03, C04 and C05
http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/my.greenparty.org.uk/files/Autumn_2011_Final_Agenda.pdf  (members only site)The first (C03) is a composite motion submitted by SOC (Conference Standing Orders Committee), which seeks to combine the other two to supposedly save Conference time.

The second (C04) is a essentially a call for an outright permanent ban submitted by Blackpool Greens Chair, Phil Mitchell, et al. It does, however, also include clauses aiming at greater regulation to minimise impacts.

The third (C05) is a short simple unambiguous motion from Richard Lane (Manchester GP) et al :
“The Green Party would put a moratorium on all onshore and offshore shale gas exploration, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and coal bed methane extraction. A stronger scientific insight into the safety and environmental impact of these techniques is needed.”

Dealing with the ‘Blackpool’ one first, although I understand fully why they are calling for an outright permanent ban, I have argued strongly from the outset for an indefinite moratorium as a sounder intellectual standpoint that is likely to carry public opinion much more readily and thereby stand more chance of achieving the desired eventual outcome of a permanent ban on the practice of fracking. This position is shared by the Co-operative Toxic Fuels campaigners that I have been working closely with, and Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, author of the most rigorous shale gas report to date ( http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/coop_shale_gas_report_final_200111.pdf ).

The most compelling argument for stopping fracking activity at the moment is the fact that no in depth scientific studies (geological, hydrological, biological, ecological, or even just plain logical!) have been undertaken to assess the impacts of fracking at the full range of spatial and temporal scales in the context of the crowded, geologically complex islands we live on. Given the evidence witnessed from other parts of the world, especially the USA, the case for undertaking this due diligence is overwhelming. Furthermore, I have no doubt that the result of doing the due diligence here will be an irrefutable case for banning the practice in the UK – and provide substance to the calls for a global ban.

In contrast, a call for an immediate permanent outright ban is all too easy to refute as it would be based on what opponents could call circumstantial evidence from less well-regulated countries (this is exactly what the pro-lobby – and Tim Yeo’s DECC report – has been trying to tell us). A call for such a ban smacks of another knee-jerk reaction from the ‘tree-huggers’. You can see the headlines in the Daily Mail, can’t you?

If this main thrust to the ‘Blackpool’ motion were not misguided enough, they then proceed to ‘muddy the waters’ by adding the clauses about regulation and minimising impacts, as if they know that their call for an outright ban is bound to fall on deaf ears and they therefore need a fall back position. Surely, their fall back position should have been the immediate moratorium, rather than accepting fracking is going to happen and that we need to try the control the ‘evil genie’ once it is out of the bottle.

Turning to the SOC composite motion, this combines the call for a moratorium, a la C05, with the fall back position of greater regulation to minimise impacts. It therefore undermines itself in the same way as the ‘Blackpool’ motion. It is a tangled mess – and that is never a recipe for saving time.

The Manchester motion gets it right. It is an unequivocal call a moratorium to allow the due diligence to be done. Pure and simple. Less is more. No fall back position needed.

Andy Chyba
Chair Bridgend Green Party

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