March 6th, 2017

Blog: Celts Oppose Fracking While Dragon Ships Bring U.S. Fracked Gas

By Andy Gheorghiu

In a historic vote at the beginning of this year, Ireland opted in favour of a law that will make the green island the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels. This goes even further than the decision by the 2015 decision of Norwegian parliament to divest the country’s sovereign wealth fund from dozens of coal-related investments.

And it’s not the only clear movement of the Celtic Tiger towards a much needed post-fossil future. On October 27, a bill calling for a fracking ban passed its first hurdle in the Irish House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann). In the meantime, Irish officials have also decided to undertake a public consultation on the provisions of this bill together with the Joint Research Programme on the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on the Environment and Human Health, led by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.

On top of that, Northern Ireland has opted for planning legislation to put a halt to fracking. The current Strategic Planning Policy Statement states that “in relation to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction there should be a presumption against their exploitation until there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts.“ However, since this wording is still pretty weak in view of the overwhelming evidence for the negative impacts of fracking on the environment, public health and the climate, only a clear and permanent ban on fracking will ensure the protection of the people and wonderful landscape of Northern Ireland.

At the same time, Scots are also moving – hopefully – towards a permanent ban on fracking. In 2016, the Scottish parliament narrowly voted in favour of a ban. Looking at the ever growing evidence of the negative impacts, the decision of the Scottish parliament was nothing but a consequent follow-up-vote on the announced moratorium from January 2015. While the vote of the parliament is non-binding, the government nevertheless felt the need to act:  In January 2017, the Scottish Government started a four-month consultation on “the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland“. This is a crucial step in our united fight to ban fracking everywhere in the world. We all can help and support the Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign by taking action and telling the government why fracking should never be allowed to go ahead in Scotland.

Dragon Ships Bring LNG From the US

But while the Celtic nations are rightfully and consequently moving forward in their attempts to put an end to this absurd debate over whether fracking serves anyone but the frackers themselves, so-called “dragon ships” loaded with fracked hydrocarbons continue to regularly penetrate the Scottish shores.

INEOS, a chemical company still partly based in the tax-haven of mountainous Switzerland, started in September 2016 to ship fracked liquified natural gas (LNG) from the Marcus Hook Terminal of Pennsylvania to the Grangemouth petrochemical plant in Scotland. The main shareholder of INEOS, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, is not only proud to have brought the union Unite to its knees over pension and payment cuts at his self-proclaimed “Battle for Grangemouth,” but he has been a major lobbbyist for fracking and shale gas in the UK and beyond. Crossing the Atlantic with the “Shale Gas for Europe” slogans on the Chinese-made Dragon Ships, INEOS apparently doesn’t care about the negative impacts on the people and the environment in Pennsylvannia, where the fracking fever for the Dragon Ships and others rages.

The last few years of the European fracking debate have been driven by the absurd argument that we need fracking to “free European citizens“ from their dependence on Russian gas. Now comes the INEOS “fracking fun factor“ into play: The realization that the fracked hydrocarbons from the US are shipped across the Atlantic to use them for petrochemicals and plastics.

Food & Water Watch – our mother NGO – has recently uncovered in detail how fracking supports the plastic industry, which has reaped under-the-radar benefits from the environmentally destructive fracking boom. Unfortunately, as we all know, plastics production is inherently wasteful—and much of that waste ends up in our oceans and surface waters. A 2015 study estimated that nearly 200 coastal countries generated over 600 billion pounds of plastic waste in 2010 — and between 11 and 27 billion pounds of this ended up in the oceans.

No wonder that a recent survey found out that plastic – mainly in the form of small pellets called nurdles – are found littering 73 percent of 279 UK shorelines. According to the environmental charity Fidra and its Great Nurdle Hunt project, Scotland’s “beautiful coasts and the delicate marine environment that surrounds it are under serious threat from plastic litter”. It’s also no wonder that the Great Nurdle Hunt map shows that the unique Forth of Firth, where the petrochemical plant of Grangemouth is located, is at risk from plastics and toxins. Furthermore, scientists have also found that about 15 percent of puffins, endangered birds which are Scotland’s natural treasures, have plastic in their stomachs.

It’s time to stop this absurdity once and for all. We don’t need more plastics, petrochemicals or fracked hydrocarbons. What we do need is fresh air, clear drinking water and an intact environment.

A fracking ban in Ireland and Scotland sounds like a very rational step in the right direction – much more rational than shipping fracked hydrocarbons over the Atlantic to generate plastic that will finally turn the same ocean bit by bit into a cesspool.

I bet the old Celts would have told us the same.

3 Comments on Blog: Celts Oppose Fracking While Dragon Ships Bring U.S. Fracked Gas

  1. ronan shalloe says:

    If you wanted to do something positive for the environment in Ireland, you could reconsider your support for Right2Water’s campaign against our national water utility and against plans to make water services sustainable in Ireland. I think you need to become better acquainted with the realities of the situation and the challenges facing the Irish water system before taking it upon yourselves to intervene.
    Right2Water represent an anti-environmental backlash against measures taken to address the chronic problems facing the Irish water system and environment due to decades of under investment and neglect. These measures were undertaken in response to EU Water Directives introduced to enforce the polluter pays principle and legislation introduced by the Green party in Ireland.
    A coherent plan was being implemented to ensure that Ireland would finally have a sustainable, independently funded water system ensuring a clean and sufficient water supply and that steps would finally be taken to protect our environment including ending the practice of pumping raw sewage into our rivers and seas. Right2Water’s sole aim has been to sabotage this plan.
    As an Irish citizen, I strongly object to Food & Water’s unhelpful interference in this matter and your support for what amounts to an act of national environmental treason, and I would ask you to withdraw your support for this damaging campaign until you have better acquainted yourselves with the issue.
    I’ve provided a link below to a letter from the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) to the Irish Times that gives a more truthful description of what Right2Water have been campaigning against than what they have obviously provided you with.

    As an Irish citizen, I strongly object to Food & Water’s unhelpful interference in this matter and your support for what amounts to an act of national, environmental treason and I would ask you to withdraw your support for this damaging campaign until you have better acquainted yourselves with the issue.
    I’ve provided a link below to a letter from the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) to the Irish Times that gives a more truthful description of what Right2Water have been campaigning than what they have obviously provided you with.

    • Food & Water Europe says:

      Dear Ronan,

      Thanks for your comments. Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe have been campaigning on water for more than a decade, and our positions are public and clear. We don’t think that a market-oriented pricing reform is the solution to tackle water conservation. We believe this should be done by an integrated water strategy, and should address both residential and industrial use.

      Focusing just on metering and water pricing as the mechanisms for managing demand is unfair to ratepayers and doomed to be ineffective. And it is a dangerous starting point for water commodification.

      We work in solidarity with many movements around Europe and internationally to promote water justice and the Human Right to Water. We work together with the rest of the European Water Movement And we support the work done by the Irish Right2Water campaign. We believe in the importance of international solidarity as the only way to achieve social and environmental justice.

      You can read some of our statements about the situation in Ireland here:

      • Ronan Shalloe says:

        There are a lot of chronic problems facing the Irish water system and environment. Here are some of the main ones:
        Raw sewage is being pumped untreated into our rivers and seas.
        The water supply to our capital, Dublin, is on a knife edge and is insufficient to meet future projected needs. Stanford University research (link provided below) found that Dublin as the second most vulnerable city in the world to water shortages.
        Almost half of the water supply in Ireland is lost through leaks, which is unsurprising in a Victorian system that has been underinvested in and neglected for decades.
        Boil notices for water users are common as are dangerous Clypdosoridium infections.
        Potentially cancer causing chemicals , known as trihalomethanes (THMs), affect the water supply of about 400,000 households throughout Ireland.

        I read your articles as suggested in order to try and get your perspective on the current state of the Irish water system. I was expecting to see how you thought Ireland should deal with these problems and which ones should be prioritised. It was a bit of a surprise then to find that – not only did you not suggest any solutions to these serious problems – but you didn’t even mention any of them. Your opinion seems to be that these problems are secondary to the fight against privatisation.
        I could understand you objecting if they handed our water services over to private interests, but the national utility that was set up to run our water services is publicly owned. Right2Water, with your support, still objected to it on the grounds that they might privatise it. If we’re not allowed to have a publicly owned water utility, what will you allow us have? You say you’re opposed to metering and water pricing, but, when the government introduced an affordable, flat rate instead, Right2Water campaigned against that as well. That leaves us with trying to pay for it through general taxation – a uniquely Irish method you’ve described as “exemplary”. As an Irish citizen, I can tell you that the empirical evidence is in on that method after decades of being the only ones trying to use it: it doesn’t work! That’s precisely why we have all these problems. What other options are there?
        You don’t need to be a signed-up member of the Green movement to think that waterways on a beautiful island should not be polluted by raw human faeces, or that it should be possible to guarantee a sufficient water supply for our capital city, considering we’re a reasonable wealthy, small, rain-soaked, island nation, or that it shouldn’t be necessary to boil water before using it, or that you should be able to drink safely from the water supply without putting your health at serious risk. It is pretty mainstream to expect these things as a minimum standard, which is why a comprehensive plan was put in place to make sure that we got them. This is the plan Right2Water have now wrecked.
        If you do insist on continuing to support Right2Water’s campaign against measures to fix these problems, could you at least spare us all the patronising guff about the Irish people’s struggle? Right2Water don’t represent the Irish people any more than your own home grown, populist, grassroots movement, the Tea Party, represent the American people. A majority of Irish households had signed up to pay water charges before they were abolished. Most Irish people, the water protesters aside, have a progressive attitude towards the environment and understand that these problems need to be fixed and that it will cost money to do it. If that means having to pay a water utility directly rather than through general taxation then we’ll do it.

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