Dozen labour organisations call for a ban on fracking

pnr 170711 Ros Wills2

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 11 July 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

More than 20 representatives from 12 labour organisations made what they called “a unified stand” today against the shale gas industry and in support of communities opposed to Cuadrilla’s site near Blackpool.

In a signed statement, they called for a million new climate jobs across the UK and a halt to fracking.

The signatories included officials from Unite and Unison, the UK’s two largest trades unions, along with the public and commercial services union, PCS, ranked at number six, and the Universities and College Union, the biggest further and higher education union in the world.

Other representatives included the General Secretary of the Transport and Salaried Staff Association, the President of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union and officials from trades union councils across north west England.

The statement coincided with a rally (pictured below) at Preston New Road, attended by unions and groups campaigning for fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy.

The statement said:

“As trade unionists representing tens of thousands of workers in the public and private sectors across the North West, we stand in solidarity with the community near Preston New Road in Lancashire who are defending their environment and local democracy.

“We stand firm that fracking should not be forced on our local communities”.

The statement described fracking as “a bad deal for Lancashire”.

“It poses risks to local people and workers, will worsen climate change, and will not bring the clean jobs and investment that we need.

“We are calling for a million new climate jobs across the UK, including investment in the vast renewable energy potential of the North West. This investment would create tens of thousands of new jobs, while reducing the devastating effects of climate change.

“We call for a halt to all fracking-  in line with Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, France, New York State and many other places around the world, which concluded that the risks are too great.”


Paula Barker, Regional Convener, UNISON NW

Ian Hodson, President of BFAWU (Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union)

Clara Paillard, President of PCS Culture Group (Public & Commercial Services)

Zita Holbourne, PCS National Vice President

Manuel Cortez, General Secretary of TSSA

Michael McKrell, Chair, UCLan UCU

Mohammad Taj, Unite, former TUC President

Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary

Janice Godrich, President of PCS Union

Martin Meyer, Unite the Union National Executive Committee & Secretary of Sheffield TUC

Peter Billington, Secretary, Lancashire Association of Trades Union Councils

Dave Savage, Secretary, Preston & South Ribble TUC

Peter Thorne, Secretary, North East Lancashire TUC

Suzanne Jeffrey, UCU, Campaign Against Climate Change

Jonathan Neale, UCU & Campaign Against Climate Change TU group

Graham Petersen, UCU & Greener Jobs Alliance

Steven North, Secretary of Salford City UNISON

Stephen Hall, President of the Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils

Philip Pearson, Unite the Union & Greener Jobs Alliance

Jenny Patient, Unite & the Union & Sheffield Climate Alliance

Steve Murphy, Unite the Union, Knowsley Trade Union Council Secretary

73 replies »

  1. So individuals from many unions have their own opinions, which are based on fake science? Why is this of interest?

    • For the same reason that your opinions (and mine) are of interest – if indeed they are. Science is not necessarily fake, although you do of course have a supporter in this belief, across the Atlantic. We can’t carry on calling science fake because we have a contrary, probably a non-scientific and ill-informed opinion. Most of the fake science you refer to seems to me remarkably cautious about its conclusions, whilst outlining facts and findings which may help inform the open-minded.

  2. This move from a significant number of unions is most appropriate in terms of job provision. I have seen precious little (or should I say none whatsoever) hard evidence backing the claim of 64,000 jobs in the fracking industry. Perhaps these unions have recognised the economics and employment potential of renewables and the risk to existing jobs – particularly agriculture and tourism. Of course, one would never suggest that the last govt wilfully destroyed the fledgling renewables industry and many thousands of skilled beneficial jobs, but the hard evidence is out there. What could their motives possibly have been for deliberately wiping out around 90% of a burgeoning industry that was already having a significant impact on employment, energy security, energy poverty, climate change emissions etc etc? Money is invariably the root of all evil. Cue several posts about excessive subsidies, but nothing about subsidy and tax breaks to the O&G industry. Cutting subsidies to a proven sensible level is one thing, cutting to the degree that it all but destroys and industry is quite another.
    As for ‘some unions not do not support the policy.’ Some unions didn’t support essential safety measures in the asbestos industry because their members were on big bonuses and payouts on death (of course, nothing for the wife if she died of asbestosis after regularly handling and washing hubbies work clothes). Could the motives of some unions be described as ‘short-sighted self interest’ based on the fanciful lure of 64,000 jobs? Money is invariably the root of all evil.
    Interesting claim that ‘The price of oil will rise significantly around 2020 ‘. Oil price will continue to be based on supply and demand. Basic economic fact: Price will only rise if supply reduces ‘significantly’ or demand increases likewise. Does this not mean that US fracked O&G supplies must reduce significantly for this to happen? Will Trump allow that to happen? Will US demand plummet? Over to you hugely economically literate commentators.

    • It’s wise to have your own energy resource unless you want to be in an foreign country’s back pocket?
      All we are seeing is local opposition trying to prevent upsetting the status quo. Our left wing media give a very small number of protestors a much larger voice. There is no national appetite to ban fracking hence why it’s proceeding albeit at a slow pace but that’s about to change now bigger companies are moving in.

    • Sorry Mike I hadn’t seen you cite some of my earlier posts.
      I suggest you take a look into the fields and countries that are currently producing oil. You’ll notice that they are rapidly depleting. The resources have not been spent on getting future projects ready. Demand for oil is increasing year on year.
      I don’t see 100usd happening again but I do see 70-80.

        • Tesla are facing battery shortages and Musks Oz project is facing scrutiny by environmentalists who smell something fishy.

            • I like Musks innovation in general but he is running before he is walking in this instance.
              The free cash he has received is literally colossal hence he can do PR stunts like in Oz.
              The source of lithium is an interesting story which I’m sure people like yourself wouldn’t condone. Ah but of course it’s not happening on your doorstep so it’s ok then…. Outta sight outta mind and all that.

            • No need to mystify Lithium. It is an abundant element but as yet industry is not going beyond readily available sources. Newer tech looks like it is about to overtake the need for Lithium anyway with the ‘glass’ or solid state forms entering the scene. Apple may throwing its hat in the ring too with an eye on the rapidly growing home energy/storage market … it has recently filed a patent for solid state batteries and while their portable gadgets will be the obvious target for these none of their current big ticket items are showing growth.

    • Mike, why should the government stop at just 1 million renewable jobs? Maybe 10 million would be a better figure? Of course the only problem is that these jobs are not market created, they aren’t an efficient allocation of resources and they will invariably bring financial disaster to the economy as so many Green pipedreams have.

      No, let the market take care of this as it has in America. We have created millions of jobs (direct and indirect) with the help of shale gas. Now we’re using the growth and flexibility from the shale revolution to invest in renewables. That’s a win win. Your proposition is a lose lose.

  3. The low oil price is due to floaded supplies. My understanding is that this over supply is intentional and temporarily manufactured by Russia and Saudi to drive US shaler out of business but it leads to unintended consequences on high cost producers from OPEC and oil projects. And as a result US shale oiler will replace these producers for the time being. Supply and demand will reach equilibrium at which technology advances demands and prices work in harmony .

  4. We have a massive, unlimited and largely unpolluting source of energy of our own – the sun (occasionally), the wind (most of the time), the tides (twice a day every day), the waves and the water (all the time). It needs political will and investment to harness it. Progress is quite astounding, as is battery and other storage technology. Will the big boys really be daft enough to pile in for what will be stranded assets in around 10 years or less? Our left wing media is a very small minority. The majority of our media is staunchly right wing and hardly gives a balanced view. There is no appetite to ban fracking because very few people know or care about it. There was similarly no appetite in Australia to ban fracking or CSG until the industry ramped up and began to cause irrepairable damage. There was sure as hell an appetite to ban it thereafter. It’ll be the same here unless the industry can be squeaky clean and live up to the hype. I have around 0% faith in that happening. That’s before taking into account the massive increase in traffic, water use and waste water treatment that are an inherent part of the industry.
    Demand for energy may be increasing, but few people will give a damn whether it’s from oil, gas, coal or renewables. The effects of man made global warming are already upon us. Where and when does the stupidity end?

    • All the general population care about is the cost. Affluent old timers have peaked and will start to fizzle out. Serious investment into renewable won’t be forthcoming from any party that seeks reelection anytime soon after.
      I don’t believe in wind or solar power. The maintenance costs are being fabricated to the point its a sheer corrupt money making racket.
      I do think tidal power is more interesting but the issue we will face for a very long time is sufficient storage capacity.
      The political climate is deteriorating and it’ll only get worse. Trust me you don’t want to be out with your begging bowl when it comes to energy. NIMBYs always come 2nd to a nations need.

    • Hey Mike, what happens in your never-never-land when a high pressure system settles in for weeks on end with a big fog bank? How are your batteries going to handle that? Who will decide who lives and who dies?

      • Easy – they network smart grids across several countries and look forward to future storage capacity. It’s all in the plans Fibs.

        • So, Philip, do these “smart” grids create energy? No, they just move it around. Making grids flexible will help, but it certainly won’t solve the fundamental problem. You want to rely on the kindness of your neighbors to supply three weeks of reliable energy? Where do they get that from, Philip? They are on intermittent power as well, I assume? How much storage will your neighbors have to allow them to meet not only their own needs but the needs of their neighbors? Will you pay for their storage? Do you understand the scale of the storage solution you are contemplating?

          Let’s do a little math to understand your proposal, shall we? Look at Tesla’s battery for S Australia as a benchmark. The $40mn system will provide enough backup for 30,000 homes for two hours. The UK has approximately 25mn homes and it will require a three week backup solution. If you do the “maths” you will see that the approximate cost for this solution, assuming Tesla pricing, would be $8.4 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of jing, is it not? It comes to around 3 years of UK GDP if I’m not mistaken.

          Now, you would be correct to argue that prices of batteries will decline over time as the technology improves. But how much can we count on those declines when some of the principal materials in batteries are already in short supply? In particular, cobalt may be a problem. Again, if you do the “maths” you will see that a battery of the size we are contemplating would require approximately 12.6 million tons of cobalt. (you can check my “maths” to make sure this is accurate – I used 425 gr/kwh and extrapolated from the Australian battery specs) The problem, here, is that world cobalt reserves are estimated at around 7 million tons (https://www.statista.com/statistics/264930/global-cobalt-reserves/ ) and those reserves are already taxed by EV battery demand as well as other applications (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4061069-cobalt-weak-link-teslas-supply-chain ). Lithium will also be a pain point in the supply chain, though it may not be quite as acute as cobalt. Nonetheless, the point remains that it would be quite easy to argue that if the world were to pursue your fairy tale 100% renewable strategy, battery prices could increase dramatically from what we are experiencing today.

          This formidable “solution” of yours would likely put every man, woman, and child into energy poverty in the UK and create a desolate land of strife, poverty, and misery. Note that I did not even factor-in the investment required in solar arrays and wind turbines to facilitate the intermittent energy production . We should also recognize that the $8.4 trillion investment will buy around 10 to 15 years of battery life (storage will decay to around 70% by year 10) and then a new $8.4 trillion investment will need to be made.

          • Incidentally, Phillip, the scale of land use in your Renewable Dream scenario to facilitate the build-out of intermittent generating capacity, battery storage facilities, and mining would be staggering. In addition to the costs of batteries and generating facilities, we would want to consider the opportunity costs and environmental costs involved in land use and mining. For instance, a large proportion of the country would need to be dedicated to wind and solar farms to make your scheme work (in addition to more expensive offshore wind farms). Some of that land could still be used for farming and other activities but a good portion of it become unavailable. Would the UK rely on more food imports in your scenario? If so, where would they originate if those countries are also pursuing the Renewable Dream?

            • Oh please – cry me a river! “likely put every man, woman, and child into energy poverty in the UK and create a desolate land of strife, poverty, and misery” I thought it was only us ‘lefties’ (I’m not one of those anyway) that were supposed to stoop to such hand-wringing wetness.

              I wouldn’t place any bets on your outmoded ways of thinking lasting more than a few years Fibs. These aren’t ‘my’ dreams and solutions, they’re out there and they’re not rocket science… growth accelerating, prices plummeting, technology advancing in leaps and bounds, notwithstanding Tesla getting a bit carried away with some of their predictions.

              Can’t be bothered going into details right now, anyone can explore these things for themselves.

              • That’s it, Phillip. Why bother with nitty gritty details? Who has time for them anyway when we can sprinkle some pixie dust. Your “plummeting prices and technology advances” aren’t going to help the central issue which is the intermittency of energy supply. No technology can stop the earth from rotating about its axis or force the wind to blow (as far as I know).

                Your fairy tale energy policy will kill people, Philip.

            • I’ve been around for a long while and don’t recall a complete lack of wind for ‘weeks on end’. However, the tides would still be moving twice a day, rivers still turning hydro, waves still moving, and as Philip P mentions, smart grid networks moving energy around – as they do now. It’s about a ‘can do’ attitude, rather than ‘can’t do’. Batteries are also not the only form of energy storage. It’s certainly interesting that the same people continually insist that single specific short term events would derail a whole integrated energy supply system, yet insist that a single fracked oil and gas industry will be our only saviour for some indeterminate short term bridging period, while conveniently ignoring or denying both the detremental effects of fracking and the ultimate stupidity of continuing to heat our climate to catastrophic levels. I believe that the necessary political will and funding for sustainable energy systems in the near future is absolutely possible, but currently unlikely given the lobbying and other unsavoury influence of the O&G industry and those with personal gain as a single priority. Those people will always find the money to influence people and rubbish every other possibility. We see their influence every day… right here.

              • Mike, Perhaps it is your sunny disposition that prevents the “dark doldrums” from registering with your conscious thought? http://www.windaction.org/posts/46290-the-dark-doldrums-brings-germany-s-power-supply-to-the-limit#.WWyXzGjyu00

                Energy systems must be built to withstand that nine sigma event. It isn’t likely to happen, but when it does the system must respond. The UK is relatively isolated. It might count on help from its neighbors to a certain point, but how much help would they provide? They might be subject to the same “dark doldrums” and how willing would the British people be to literally put their lives in the hands of foreign nations?

                Have you looked closely at the power supplied by tidal resources? Have you done the “maths” regarding the cost efficiency of these solutions? From what I understand, they are prohibitively expensive and incapable of providing much power.

                Batteries are not the only form of energy storage – very true. My guess is that thermal storage will become increasingly popular over time, and other technologies will advance as well. But when it comes to storing electricity, batteries are the most advanced technology, and LCO is the technology of choice for its relatively high specific energy. There are massive issues surrounding the ramp of the battery supply chain. Many of these issues may be dealt with in time, others are likely to never go away. Technologies will advance to deal with some of these problems, but I wouldn’t count on batteries to be an economic or practical solution for combatting long-term intermittency for a long, long time. Without batteries, you are stuck with some measure of fossil fuels.

                I have not heard anyone here or anywhere claim that fracking is the sole answer to the energy problems that the UK faces. I have heard people say that it is worth exploring and that it could be a meaningful addition to the UKs domestic energy portfolio. The UK is going to be using gas 50 years from now (my opinion). The choice is whether to import that gas or to use more secure, and environmentally sound domestic gas.

                I don’t think that your point about lobbying is very fair or balanced. From my understanding the Green lobby is as potent and effective as the o&g industry. They have certainly been more successful at buying greater subsidies per unit of produced power.

            • Since when did two wrongs make a right Fibs? As for nitty gritty details I do not think you’d have a stomach for those and would be immediately out of your comfort zone unless arguing within your own prescribed self-reinforcing logic. Nitty gritty on my terms brings in factors like climate change impacts, and biodiversity. We’re still within the ‘United Nations Decade on Biodiversity’ and if you cross-reference their information with the WWF’s you’ll find the steepest decline in species has been amongst those in fresh-water habitats. Screwing around with water tables and risks of contamination is the last thing we should be doing. Removing water tens of millions of gallons at a time from nearby sources, none of which can be returned to the natural hydrological cycle is most unnatural – I’d call it insane. This can, and does affect agriculture as well (and thereby humans/livelihoods).

              We start getting into pretty dark and dodgy territory when you into using the terrorist word too. Are you one of those O&G advocates with interests in Colombia? I was speaking to a young lady who frequently visited a village there that has practically died (the village that is). When the big fossil fuel company nearby got into hydraulic fracturing their water table dropped by over 15 feet and they could no longer grow the food that they relied on. It used to be a lush, self sustaining community but now it is completely divided as their survival strategy became about getting family members to work for the FF company. People who complained were readily labelled terrorists and if too vocal the goon squads got sent around and they simply disappeared.

              Such an ugly business. Not your industry you say, then why are you such an advocate?

              [Typo edited at poster’s request]

            • Don’t think that water usage is a key issue for the UK. It’s just a fraction of a percent in the US and we certainly have some more arid climes than you have in the UK.

              But again, you have dodged the issue. You can’t put forth a coherent energy plan because your Green Dream is neither economically feasible, nor is it practical from a materials standpoint. You can run but you can’t hide, Philip.

            • Only because you’re looking at old models – so last century – and not to the future. These aren’t dreams nor are the industrial scale developments happening now or in the very near future. The thousands of people involved in them are real too!

              • You’ve contradicted yourself (again). I’m looking at old models, according to you. Yet, I am citing the very industrial scale developments happening in the near future that you think offer the solution. The Tesla battery hasn’t even been built yet. You can’t get a lot more current than that.

                You can employ millions and millions of people if you’re willing to pay them, Phillip. And if you don’t have to worry about your bottom line because the government funds it, then it is easy to pay the people.

            • ‘The Tesla battery hasn’t even been built yet’ – you’ll regret such an obviously flawed quote Fibs. Tesla batteries and powerpacks have been and are being built in their multitudes from domestic power walls to car batteries to utility scale plants.

              This Tesla utility installation was finished in January (in record time): https://arstechnica.com/business/2017/01/a-look-at-the-new-battery-storage-facility-in-california-built-with-tesla-powerpacks/
              Now Siemens and AES are getting in on the act (two huge names in power gen and distribution): https://arstechnica.co.uk/business/2017/07/two-energy-powerhouses-join-together-to-make-big-grid-tied-batteries/
              Tesla has just clinched the Sth Australian deal btw (despite the nay-sayers): https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/07/tesla-to-build-worlds-biggest-lithium-ion-battery-in-south-australia

              I know these aren’t going to solve all problems but in proving themselves then scalability does not present any great difficulty. Unlike other sorts of plant these are very modular.

              UK (originated) company Res-Group is working all over the world with these new grids and storage technologise: http://www.res-group.com/en.

              Oh, if you meant to say ‘Tesla’s Factory hasn’t even been built yet’ (which I suspect was the case), you’re both right and wrong. It’s built to a point where they’re already – from January – mass producing batteries, it just hasn’t been completed: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/04/teslas-gigafactory-starts-mass-producing-battery-cells/
              … AND it is already planning Gigafactory 2 for Europe.

              There you go – some free homework. You’re welcome.

              • You misunderstood me, Philip. The Tesla SA battery has not yet been built. It is the largest battery to be built yet, as far as I am aware. But I have no doubt that it will be built successfully – they are just housing interconnected cells and providing control infrastructure.

                These can be scaled, Philip. But they won’t be inexpensive, and we will strain natural resources and damage the environment irreparably. The $8.4 trillion dollar figure isn’t something you can just gloss over. And that’s just for the little ‘ol UK. You are talking about a massive use of land and natural resources and you are talking about an expense that is absolutely unrealistic. Other than that, it is a very pretty plan, Philip!

                I’m fairly familiar with Tesla and Elon Musk. So, thanks for the links, but there is really no need!

  5. Well said Mike Potter. Meanwhile here’s an archetypal Englishman enthusing over the future directions for UK energy as flagged up in the Queens speech and via other important developments…

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