The movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground is gaining in success stories, and we should never underestimate our impact.
The fifth Global Frackdown, an international day of action, was held on October 15 to challenge the oil and gas industry and ban fracking worldwide. Groups from around the globe rallied in solidarity under the joint banner of “Ni ici, ni ailleurs”, or “Not here or anywhere!” Numerous creative actions were conducted, some big, some small, and each one of them chipped away another brick of the fossil wall that’s keeping us from a clean, renewable energy future.
People all over the world showed their commitment to a common future that is free of fossil fuels — from the presentation in Mexico City of the report Last Frontier: Public Policies, Impacts and Resistance Against Fracking in Latin America, to the travelling photography exhibit on Polish resistance in the German village of Quakenbrück, to the screening of the Australian documentary “Frackman” in Saint-Tropez, to the joint postcard action for the EU Parliament.
Here are the latest developments on fracking in several European countries:
Germany: No real ban — the struggle continues
Not long ago, in June 2016, international media proclaimed, “German government agrees to ban fracking indefinitely” and “German government agrees to ban fracking after years of dispute“.
Unfortunately, the celebrated fracking ban is not a complete and consequent ban, and the years of dispute are about to continue. Why? First, the German Parliament voted for a moratorium on fracking for shale and coal-bed methane until 31 December 2021, but up to four fracking research projects for shale and coal-bed methane will still be allowed. Second, the German government has created a novel phrase — “conventional fracking” — to refer to the target of tight gas in sandstone layers. The result of this linguistic twist is that fracking for tight gas is not banned at all — and could now even take place in protected areas, such as in the EU’s Natura 2000 sites.
A July 2014 study from the German Federal Environment Agency shows that the development of a 260 square kilometre field would generate an estimated demand of up to 21.8 million cubic metres of water for tight gas extraction. This average amount would exceed the water needs for agricultural irrigation in some regions of Lower Saxony, for example, where water supplies are already considered critical, and where fracking would occur.
The oil and gas industry in Germany is already responsible for a long list of environmental incidents over the past 12 years, including contamination from leaks and spills of waste water, and even earthquakes.
The controversy of the conventional/unconventional categorisation is based on a lie — fracking by any other name is still fracking. Even so, we should not limit the scope of our mobilisation to just fracking for oil and gas. We must look more broadly at all fossil fuel extraction.
The German anti-fracking movement met on October 8 and 9, 2016, to exchange information and to debate a joint strategy for the coming months. Food & Water Europe joined the meeting and gave a brief overview of the anti-fracking movement and fracking development projects at the EU and global levels.
One immediate result of the meeting was an open letter to the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, which is the stronghold of the oil and gas industry in Germany, calling for a complete fracking ban in the region. The civil movement highlighted in the letter that the government is still not properly addressing the environmental and public health impacts related to the production of fossil fuels. Methane emissions, in particular, represent a massive problem for climate change.
One thing is certain: German activists are ready to confront authorities and the industry both out in the countryside and within the administrative process.
Poland: Awakening from gaseous dreams
It has been a long struggle, but yet another shale myth has been dissolved by economic realities.
Poland — formerly hailed as the European Shaletopia — has finally bid farewell to shale. On October 12, Reuters reported that, “Polish firms concede defeat in search for shale gas riches“, and, on October 19, Politico analysed “the death of Poland’s shale dreams“.
Just a few years ago, in May 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and Advanced Resources International wrote about fantastic opportunities: “Poland has some of Europe’s most favorable infrastructure and public support for shale development. The Baltic Basin in northern Poland remains the most prospective region with a relatively simple structural setting….”
All these EIA projections clearly have not panned out.
As EU activist Antoine Simon summarised, “Quite funny to now see Politico acknowledging all the arguments we’ve been using for years when we were called scaremongers“.
Spain: Bye bye BNK!
BNK Petroleum Ltd., formerly known as Bankers Petroleum, was one of the most active players in many parts of Europe. But after losing all ground in Germany and after facing the shale reality in Poland, the only remaining shale sanctuary for BNK was Spain.
Now, they’ve had to abandon even this last hiding place. BNK was holding two licences in the North of Burgos. In June, the company announced that it would withdraw one of the licenses (Sedano) but would continue with the other one (Urraca). But, on October 18, Spanish media announced that BNK would also give back this last licence. Samuel Martín-Sosa, spokesman of Ecologistas en Accion, said, “The prices spoke before the geology gave a final response.”
Ireland: First legal step towards a fracking ban
On October 27, a bill calling for a fracking ban passed its first hurdle in the Irish House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann). This is a historic step towards getting fracking banned in Ireland. The vote came just two days after the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) published a report titled Hydraulic Fracturing: Interactions with the Water Framework Directive & Groundwater Directive and Implications for the Status of Ireland’s Waters.
The huge effort by local groups made the vote of the Dáil Éireann possible. And although it represents only the first step in enforcing a nationwide ban, it is yet another important step towards a frack-free Europe.
For us all, this means that — in order to win — we need to continue to organise worldwide. It will require a strong, and likely tedious, struggle for at least a few more years to come.
It also means that we’ll need more Global Frackdown Days of Action — but we won’t stop until the work is completely done to keep fossil fuels in the ground.