This Fracking Profiteer You’ve Never Heard of Is the Richest Man in the UK

Ineos CEO James Ratcliffe makes a fortune from fracking in the U.S. Now he wants to frack the UK—but community resistance is stopping him.

Ineos CEO James Ratcliffe makes a fortune from fracking in the U.S. Now he wants to frack the UK—but community resistance is stopping him

The British media are buzzing about a big change at the top: The richest man in the UK, it turns out, is now a fabulously wealthy chemical CEO who tries to keep a low profile.

Jim Ratcliffe made it to the very top of the Sunday Times’ “Rich List” with a fortune of around $28 billion. Many of the stories about him point out that he is publicity shy and came from relatively humble beginnings, amassing considerable wealth all on his own.

But Ratcliff’s road to riches sounds pretty familiar: it was paved with risky corporate takeovers, a hostility to workers’ rights, and a willingness to cut corners on safety and violate environmental regulations the world over.

While he might be eager to avoid the spotlight, Food & Water Watch has been raising awareness about Ineos on both sides of the Atlantic. Ineos is a petrochemical giant that relies on fracking to provide the raw materials to create plastics around the world. The company has amassed a terrifying record of environmental and public health disasters—air and climate pollution, massive fires and other industrial accidents, and alarming emissions of carbon dioxide. He’s already benefitting from fracking in Pennsylvania, where communities are fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline that would bring even more raw materials to the UK for Ineos to convert into plastics for profit.

But Ratcliffe wants more. His nightmare vision for the UK is to bring fracking to Scotland and England. The company holds valuable shale licenses and aims to start drilling in sensitive areas in both countries.

There’s just one problem for Ratcliffe and Ineos: A powerful anti-fracking movement in Europe that is ready to battle the company—and they’re already winning. Local authorities are stepping in to stop Ineos, and some landowners are refusing to comply with the surveys that drilling companies must conduct before they start fracking. And the Scottish government, responding to overwhelming public opposition, announced last October that they would continue a de facto ban on fracking, with a formal decision to come.

Ineos has responded by trying to push through a blatantly undemocratic court injunction to curb anti-fracking protests, and it was just in court in Scotland attempting to challenge the government’s decision to stop their fracking ambitions.

In Europe, the movement has adopted the slogan “Ineos v. the People.” Clearly, the people are winning.

But perhaps some congratulations are in order for Mr. Ratcliffe: It’s pretty obvious that he wanted to amass great wealth at the expense of the health and welfare of people and the planet. But he shouldn’t expect his good fortune to continue: The people of the UK—with support from activists from the EU and US—are organizing to stop Ineos, and their power is more impressive than Jim Ratcliffe’s bank account.