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Guest post: Who are the real Luddites?

Helen Savage responds to government support for fracking from the West Sussex village of Balcombe, scene of anti-fracking protests in summer 2013.

Opponents of oil operations at Balcombe in 2013, when the then operator, Cuadrilla, drilled at well near the village. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

A fortnight ago, the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, formally announced the lifting of the moratorium on fracking in England. He described opponents of fracking as Luddites and later suggested that the shale gas industry should canvass for support door-to-door, like politicians at election time.

The oil site at Balcombe has been largely mothballed since Cuadrilla drilled an exploration well nine years ago. Since then, villagers have established the solar company, RePower Balcombe. A bid to test the Balcombe well was refused by West Sussex County Council last year. A decision on an appeal is awaited.

Speaking from experience – Helen Savage

The moratorium on fracking is being lifted, therefore I can only assume that Liz Truss and her government no longer wish to remain in power!

Have they not noticed the spread of anti-fracking campaigns across the country since 2013? The climate emergency?

I speak from experience in Balcombe. When oil and gas come knocking at the door, local communities very quickly discover what bad neighbours they are; from broken promises on noise and traffic to damaged wells.

After an avalanche of objections, West Sussex County Council unanimously voted ‘no’ to more work from Angus energy in Balcombe. According to the West Sussex Joint Minerals Plan, it’s clear such exploration should not be happening here. And yet the company can appeal and has.

We now wait for the final decision from someone in a government office.

If they overturn the council’s refusal it would make a mockery of local democracy.

There are already rumblings that fracking sites could be considered Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, which would bypass normal planning requirements.

Drilling equipment leaving the Balcombe site in 2013. Photo: David Burr

What community would willingly say yes, after all? Or are government and the industry assuming people will take bribes in exchange for lowering their air quality, supersized trucks rumbling past their schools and being kept awake by the sound of drilling and worry of earthquakes?

It makes me sick to think of Jacob’s Rees-Mogg’s oily salesmen going door to door to try and prove they have community consent. We’ve had our fair share of misleading industry spin first-hand in Balcombe.

Rees-Mogg calls opponents of fracking Luddites.

Tell that to Repower Balcombe, a community energy collective set up in the year that Cuadrilla came here. It has been able to donate thousands to local community lighting projects with its profits.

No-one has protested, no air has been sullied with fumes, no-one has been kept up at night and there is no risk of earthquakes.

Solar energy has turned profits in Balcombe, not climate changing fossil fuels. Who then are the real luddites trying to resurrect dinosaur technology?

42 replies »

  1. [Edited by moderator] said EA could claim that some are suggesting that the Balcombe application was for fracking – some are not;
    or that he is accused of questioning “achieving net zero” – no-one would know how;
    or perhaps that those opposed to fracking are not concerned about children mining for EV cobalt – he’s wrong;
    or possibly that nuclear is needed because renewables have failed – nuclear is a controversial part of the intended energy mix, renewables have not failed, they are just under-funded and in consequence under-explored;
    or that nobody else but him understands climate change whose causes he alone disputes – manifestly not true especially in the initial assumption that he understands climate change;
    or, and ad nauseam, that those who use plastics whilst aware of the problems they cause are being hypocritical, regardless of whether there are or are not alternatives – clearly a peculiar take on the word ;
    or, that he understands what an oxymoron is – he doesn’t;
    or that his opponents are trying to “impose their nonsense” – clearly indicative of fear that rational argument might prevail;
    or that he alone is capable of determining what constitutes a fact – as when he told us that population growth not fossil fuels was the major cause of global warming;
    or that a failure to balance lack of knowledge about climate science with energy provision causes blackouts – the only answer to which is a question mark.

    Sadly for our EA, I do not see that any of his “cliche filled muddle” (sic) -( his words), will provide the regulation or enforcement necessary to protect the planet if the fools give fracking the go-ahead.

    Time to close down our self-nominated – sounds like a Tory House of Lords appointee – EA!

  2. [Edited by moderator]

    Perhaps, apart from anything else then to actually look at the facts (that will not happen as the definition had to be changed to try and make the pieces fit and needed to be corrected by this poster) that Balcombe is not an Appeal with any mention whatsoever about fracking!

    So, it is like a group of old hens clucking away about the dangers of injuries in the scrum if a local cricket field was built.

    Meanwhile, in that affluent part of the country warm rooms are being set up for those who will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter and others in that part of the country are crowd funding to stop local sources of heating fuel being utilized.

    And the answer? Oh yes, if “we” have more of something that is unreliable it suddenly becomes reliable! The fact is it just becomes more unreliable, and the consequences greater. If anything demonstrates the sheer inadequacies of the way the move to Net Zero has been approached, that is it. Net Zero needs the arithmetic and the physics to be sorted. Until then, it will not, and cannot happen, and £160B suddenly added to people’s bills for new nuclear is just part of the cost of the “extras” that were not even mentioned when Net Zero was agreed. How about Fuel Duty? Anyone seen a plan as to how to replace that yet, or will that just be sneaked out as well? There is a very simple way. Hydrogen from existing fuel stations with fuel duty added. Oh no, Governments could not have gone down the wrong road, could they? Well, £160B shows they do, and it wasn’t this one. And spend the £160B and hydrogen production suddenly looks a lot more straightforward, albeit, delayed.

    And, when the facts start to become uncomfortable, then those who have attempted to disguise the facts, withdraw in a huff. Bye (again) 1720.

  3. ‘Some’ are not suggesting the recent Balcombe FF applications are for fracking. We know these applications are not for fracking. You are stating the opposite. No need to “make the pieces fit”, no need to change the definitions, you are imagining all this and convincing yourself. That settles your first point.

    You can cope with the clucking hens yourself. None will query your expertise.

    No-one is trying to prevent local sources of heating being used, save where their use imperils the lives of us all.

    “ Achieving Net Zero has not been questioned by me. “ remains an incomprehensible statement, EA. Do you mean ‘the need to achieve’, or ‘the manner of achieving’? Do strive for clarity if you wish your environmental cloak to impress.

    Very few of us would want to argue with you in your assertion that the Government’s path to ‘Net Zero’ is inadequate. Nothing to prove here.

    Nothing unreliable becomes more reliable because there is more of it. (Nor does it become more unreliable.) But no-one suggests that it does. You’ve dreamed it up and are now fighting it.

    What should perhaps be repeated is that the search for renewables is not ended. None of their advocates – (all of us?) – deny that some renewables also have their downsides – this is not a ‘casus belli’, no need to make it one. The search must be stepped up, however, not hampered by governments’ encouraging industry to accelerate its search for FF, a process denying the development of renewables that portion of potential funding ear-marked for investment in elusive FF solutions.

    We’ll leave your noisy algorithms aside – although they do provide a link with that arithmetic and physics at which you have shown yourself so inept. Your physics and arithmetic should perhaps similarly be set aside as a (startlingly unsuccessful) component of your attempts to demonstrate the indemonstrable, to wit that FFs can save humanity while killing it. (Cigarette queues outside hospitals spring to mind.)

    You’ve been setting up a variety of windmills here, EA, at which to tilt. May I suggest you discontinue this modus operandi: it’s singularly unproductive.

    No uncomfortable facts; no attempt to disguise the facts; no withdrawal in a huff; no “Bye”, (at least for the moment). For the record, I have never withdrawn in a huff, or in pique. I should perhaps not mention the reasons for my occasional withdrawal, not however intended to be political. Glad you’ve noticed them however.

    Or was the “Bye” your taking your leave.? I do hope so.

    If not, then keep to the point. I assert that it is not possible to justify the immense deleterious actual effects of FF exploration, recovery and use by appealing to the possible (but improbable) very distant benefits which might accrue to the end-user. (I explicitly except those benefits consisting of profits to the exploiters).

    The search for new or improved renewables should, to start at home, be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project at the complete expense of FF – funding.

    To argue ‘hypocrisy’ at those who continue to use that which is being discontinued, pending the provision of alternatives, is an egregious example of rabble-rousing best reserved for extreme régimes.

  4. Ahh, you have decided to stay and debate!

    That’s novel.

    The result was not though. 1720, when you have to change my text to try and make your points you may find that the easy option, but it is a typical ploy of the activist and the first thing to look out for, i.e, they can only make their own argument they cannot deal with reality.

    For example, I did not assert the Government’s path to Net Zero was inadequate. If you want some real assertions to work on, try: “misdirected”, “out of sync” or even better “failed to account for laws of arithmetic and physics”. If you want to follow the last one, as you often do, then please explain why it was such a good idea to add in the lies that were told around energy security along the path taken in an attempt to show it was a safe path. And was it a safe path? No.

    Anyone with basic English can play such games, and you just rinse and repeat continuously. Obviously gives you some sort of joy but it also shows an inability to accept any coherent analyses of a given situation. As for striving for clarity, if your post is an example, then no thank you!

      • OMG John! And anyone knows that the first sign of someone losing an argument on DoD is to criticize some aspect of English.

        But thanks for your valuable insight that social media should conform to such standards. Perhaps that may include removal of “interpretation” and an OED definition of “fact”?

  5. Yes, staying was a mistake. I expected as much!

    You – “ If anything demonstrates the sheer inadequacies of the way the move to Net Zero has been approached, that is it.”

    You – “ I did not assert the Government’s path to Net Zero was inadequate. “

    I submit, conscious of the fact that I am wasting my time, that an intelligent person might concur with my interpretation of your statement that you were referencing the government’s approach in your first statement , particularly when you support it with the rhetorical question – “Oh no, Governments could not have gone down the wrong road, could they? “


    Now, of course, “debate” with you has sunk to the usual pathetic level which your quixotic and intentionally misleading modus operandi supports, and for that reason, and as a favour to the DoD community, I will leave you to debate with yourself, assured you will win. You might need to remind yourself of the topic for “debate”.

  6. Jacob Rees-Mogg accuses those opposing fracking of being Luddites. I was educated in the Colne Valley, heartland of the Luddites. They destroyed new textile industry machinery, as it threatened their old ways of hand-loom weaving.
    Clean, cheap, affordable, sustainable, home-grown, cost-effective renewables and energy storage are the new technologies, while fossil fuels are the old technology that should have been transitioned into history once we knew the reality of global warming from greenhouse gases over 100 years ago, and certainly within the last circa 40 years. Transition means to change, not to expand and continue. Who are today’s Luddites Mr Rees-Mogg?

  7. Perhaps if someone had realized what was being suggested to replace the hand-loom would only work under certain conditions, and would need £160B to rectify that design fault, the Luddites would have had no need to be concerned, Mike?

    • Perhaps if the Luddites found that hand-loom weaving was destroying the whole planet’s life supporting climate and ecosystems and making it increasingly difficult to sustain life, clean water and clean air, they would have accepted the new spinning and weaving machines. However, that would be a particularly crass and stupid argument to make.

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