This descent of the energy production industry into 19th century activities such as “fracking”, which was last tried in
The tragic deaths of four miners in
The camp is opposing plans for “fracking” – hydraulic fracturing – where water with chemicals is pumped into rocks to shatter them, releasing the carbon gas which is piped to tankers and transported to power stations. Cuadrilla, backed by Australian mining money and with BP's former chair Lord Browne in support, is one of a number given licence by the Coalition government to pilot fracking. The company is looking at sites across 437 square miles of
Its first operation was suspended in the summer, when geologists suggested they had caused two earthquakes that shook the seaside town of
As well as the health and geological risks, burning shale gas gives off more CO2 than coal. But the risks to the people, the environment and the wildlife of the
The sum total of possible shale gas deposits in
Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers has warned that tiny collieries like the one at Gleision where four miners died as a result of an inrush of water, may be operating “under the radar” of mine inspectors. The soaring world price of coal has led to an expansion of small, privately-owned drift and open cast mining in the
Gleision, which produced smokeless coal for boilers, is one of the smallest and remotest of these kinds of laissez-faire operations. Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the NUM, said: "We have grave concerns about safety standards in these kinds of mines. We fear that safety is often set at minimum standards so that costs can be kept down. They are not generally unionised or easily visited by inspectors."
As the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament shows, the reality is that government efforts to promote energy saving and efficiency, or local power generation strategies and clean sources, are minimal. The scale of what they plan – lots of advice and fine words but little funding or subsidy – shows they are not serious.
As long as we live in this undemocratic profit-driven energy society, the government will make sure the energy corporations keep the market sewn up. Only by challenging the ownership and control of energy production will we ever be able to put the focus on safety, clean energy and conservation.