Demanding Clean Energy: Fracking Companies Aren’t Invisible

The fracking industry in the UK is dying. Cuadrilla’s main site at Preston New Road is all but cleared, IGas’s attempts at Tinker Lane turned up nothing and stock prices for fracking companies have plummeted. But it’s not quite dead yet. A few hopeful profiteers continue to provide support in the form of  funds, materials and lobbying support to the floundering industry, in spite of enormous and growing public opposition and willfully ignoring the climate emergency we are currently living in. This is why Reclaim the Power, working alongside other groups, called for two days of action against a range of targets, highlighting these links and the system that perpetuates them. This is also while demanding a just transition to renewables and a society that has workers and people at its heart.

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One of the sociopathic, optimistic supporters of UK fracking is HSBC. ‘The world’s local bank’ has recently launched an ad campaign helpfully reminding people in places like Leeds and Manchester that they are, in fact, in Leeds and Manchester. As HSBC have so kindly answered this vexing quandry for us, I thought I’d ask another, who are HSBC? Turns out they fund fracking, owning 11.6% of IGas allowing operations at Mission Springs in Nottinghamshire to go ahead as well as providing financial services to Cuadrilla. Not content to rest there they increased their funding of extreme fossil fuels globally with support ranging from tar sands to TransCanada who, backed by armed police of the supposedly ‘green’ Trudeau government, trespassed on the indigenous Wet’suwet’en peoples land to begin pre-construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It’s fine though because they will no longer fund coal plants except in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam, some of the most vulnerable countries to climate breakdown.

As if funding the destruction of the living planet weren’t enough, they finance the arms trade and, in the past, have laundered money for drug cartels. The only thing outstripping their desire for profit seems to be their desire to inflict misery and destruction on people and planet (and reminding us we drink Colombian coffee apparently).

These are some of the reasons why we took action against them in places like Leeds, Manchester and Cambridge. In Leeds, we placed posters describing some of HSBC’s actions around town as well as sticking them up all over the windows of the branch itself so that members of the public really know what the bank stands for. The protest itself had banners, music and speakers from a range of local environmental groups highlighting the destruction caused by HSBC and the need for us to take action to avert the climate crisis we find ourselves in. This all created a great atmosphere at the protest and really helped us get our message across to the general public.

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In Cambridge, families entered the bank to stage a picnic whilst outside there were banners saying, ‘Fossil Banks No Thanks’. (link)

HSBC is not alone in its actions of course. Centrica have given money to struggling fracking firm Cuadrilla, dragging out its inevitable demise. Mining companies like Sibelco’s operations are important in providing sand for the fracking process and the political lobbying for fracking remains with recent calls to reduce regulations despite the fact that the industry had previously been supportive of them.

These companies are all part of a wider system that ranges from banks and other corporations, all the way to governments who seek to loosen the regulations around fracking development despite the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We need to highlight and take action against these companies in the supply chain of fracking and fossil fuels not just because they prop up the fracking companies but because they highlight the fact that fossil fuels are an integral part of the global capitalist system we live in. A system that doesn’t care that about the views of local people, regulations that protect local people and environmental destruction that irreparably harms people and the planet we live on.

These connections and links must be highlighted and protested if we are to take action to achieve the structural changes that we need to move to sustainable and just world. The fracking companies, and those that support them, will not stop out of the kindness of their hearts but only when people organise and campaign to stop them. The inspirational action of Greta Thunberg and last week’s school strikes show that anyone can organise to take action and that students can play a leading part in the struggle for climate justice.

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Photo from Bristol protest against SSE, Photo credit: Ellie Pipe

That’s why we took action: To highlight and disrupt the suppliers of the fracking and fossil fuel industries and demand they stop supporting the destruction of our planet, to demand a transition to clean, affordable energy, an end to fuel poverty, an end to fracking and a transition that places affected workers at its centre. And as the school strikes so brilliantly demonstrated last week we’re doing this so that we as students and young people can have a future.

Mark Matthews currently studies International Relations at University of York. In his spare time he is one of the co-coordinators of Extinction Rebellion York, an activist and organiser with Reclaim the Power (RTP) and was recently elected as one of the Environment & Ethics Officers at YUSU. He is mildly sleep deprived. Twitter here

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