Text of Andy Chyba’s speech at the Frack-Free Wales demo in Cardiff Bay

As requested by several people. Thank you for the many supportive comments I have received.

This campaign has dominated my life for the last 3 years and for long periods of that I wondered whether we had any chance of prevailing against the power and influence of the oil & gas lobby and their allies in Government, but I am here today to tell you that I am now totally convinced that we will prevail and prevent the devastation that this industry brings.

 

Why am I so confident? What has become clear in recent months is that this issue resonates with people, with voters, across the political spectrum in a way that issues like climate change have singularly failed to manage.

 

Despite the fact that climate change science is established and only challenged by the loony right-wing fringe; despite the fact that the arguments have been won and just about every world leader now acknowledges that we are well on course for catastrophic climate change, within the lifetimes of most people alive today; despite this no major country has found it politically possible to do anything like enough to avert the impending calamities.

 

We have been preaching about climate change for decades and instead of weeing in the wind, we look destined to be pissing in the coming gales for all we seem capable of achieving on this issue. The threat simply does not seem obvious, immediate or personal enough to influence people’s votes.

 

But fracking is different. It does, of course have a critical climate change dimension, but voters of all persuasions are beginning to realize what is at stake, especially when it pitches up in their back yards.

 

Witness the reaction in the Tory heartland around Balcombe. Fracking was fine when it was up in the desolate North, as the profits being made would boost their dividend payouts and pensions funds. But bring it to their doorstep and all of a sudden it is their water turning shades of green and black, it is their health being threatened, it is their leisure and tourism and agriculture being ruined, and perhaps most tellingly of all for fans of capitalism, it  is the value of their prized capital assets, their property, that is being decimated and made unsellable.

 

This is why they have welcomed us with open arms when we visit the Balcombe camp and recognize the sacrifices being made by people like Frances Crack and Caroline Lucas in risking their liberty for the cause.

 

We don’t fight for these people though. As ecosocialists, we in the Green Party and Plaid Cymru have long recognized that any environmental threat tends to be a socialist issue. Who is it that disregards the environmental consequences beyond ensuring they have a big enough compensation kitties for when it goes tits up?

 

BP were able to establish a $20 billion compensation fund straight after the Deepwater Horizon disaster (a disaster they had insisted could never happen) and it barely caused them a moments inconvenience. Meanwhile thousands of fishermen have lost their livelihoods and way of life forever; the tourism and hospitality industries, and the poorly paid people within it, have taken massive hits, while those with lawyers and accountants milk the compensation pot.

You see, it always the little guys that are ultimately made to pay for the mistakes of the big guys. Sound familiar? Here in austerity Britain?

 

So, we have voters from the left and the right finding common ground in opposing fracking, and we even have Conservative AMs championing the precautionary principle if we are to believe Suzy Davies. What a pity they are in opposition, I bet she hopes we think.

 

Which leaves us to consider the middle ground of the political landscape. And for that we need look no further than over my shoulder. This is, of course, crediting Carwyn and his mates with not quite being the Red Tories we see in Westminster, but where has been the leadership the Welsh people deserve on this issue?

 

Many of us here today have written to Carwyn, he is after all my AM in Bridgend, and what do we get? We get him peddling the ultimate myth of the fracking apologist,  regarding, and I quote his letter directly: the role that gas will have as a key transitional fuel as we move to a low carbon energy system”.  

This only ever had any traction if we were to burn gas instead of coal, but there is absolutely no evidence of this happening – coal production has continued apace in the USA and a drop in coal consumption, in the capitalist world, only means a drop in price and greater demand and consumption in other, poorer, parts of the world.

The latest research coming out of the London School of Economics tells us that we have to leave between 60 and 80% of current known reserves in the ground if we are to stand a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Wake up Carwyn – the very last thing we need is to keep looking for ever more extreme forms of fossil fuels.

 

If we had proper leadership here in Wales, we could be at the very forefront of the worlds low carbon economies given the staggering potential for renewable energy we have here in Wales – not just wind and solar, but ground source heating and biogas potential that would allow us to heat our homes a lot cheaper and safer than using shale gas – and not forgetting the near criminal waste of the second highest tidal range in the entire world rushing past our doors as regular as clockwork, just over there!  

The latest multi-technology proposals suggest a readily available 14GW is going to waste everyday in the Bristol Channel – the equivalent of 4 Wylfa sized nuclear power stations, at least 10 Gas-fired power stations, or put another way – more than enough to meet the average consumption level of the whole of Wales today.

So what doe we need? We need Carwyn to get his backside off the fence, get out here and listen to the hard cold facts of the matter rather than keep looking for a lead from the red Tories in Westminster that only ever give us slightly tamer versions of whatever the blue Tories say, and for him to recognize that we are not going away until we get the environmental and social justice of a ban on fracking in Wales.

Let’s hear you Carwyn!    Thank you!

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Andy Chyba

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