Images of people protesting against Fracking this summer brought back a host of memories for me. I’ve done some protesting in my time. Most notably as part of a group that occupied the USAF base at Molesworth, for a year or so, to prevent the siting of cruise missiles there. Our eventual eviction, by more squaddies than it took to take Goose Green, made the back page of the Guardian, and I remember coming face to face with Michael Heseltine as he stepped off his chopper in flak jacket and make-up ready for the TV cameras – who could forget that.
The Americans never did station their cruise missiles at Molesworth and I’d like to think that what we did played a part in that – but who can know.
I’ve watched with admiration since then as subsequent generations of protesters have put their bodies on the line to prevent the things that they have serious objections to. The people at Sea Shepherd are a wonderful example in their annual battle against the Japanese whalers in the South Atlantic.
Fracking looks like the new frontline, or fault line if you like, where the government bumps up against the people.
It’s a desperate idea and a dangerous diversion from what we really need to be getting on with – building new sources of green energy. At best it will bring us a few more decades of a fossil fuel, which as this week’s IPCC report makes very clear – we simply cannot afford to burn.
The protests make clear the strength of feeling against it. But protesting at fracking sites won’t by itself stop the development of fracking in this country. Our Government seems determined to pursue shale gas at any cost – witness the reckless promises of cheaper energy, the tax breaks for drilling, the relaxed planning rules, even overlooking their much-vaunted policy of localism.
What can we do? Protesting can work, but not everyone wants to chain themselves to a gate at Balcombe or elsewhere.
There is another way to protest – with your energy bills. A way to conscientiously object if you like, to peacefully but purposefully oppose fracking. And the new frontline is on your sofa.
All you have to do is to refuse to buy gas from fracking. Refuse to deal with energy companies that will not exclude this gas from their own supplies. This still allows you to take action, to actively protest and make a difference, without necessarily putting yourself on that frontline. If energy companies don’t listen, you move somewhere else that will.
This week Ecotricity launched Britain’s first frack free gas pledge – to enable this new activism. Our customers will never be supplied with gas from fracking. That’s our promise and we’ve taken steps to ensure that it cannot enter our supply chain. Other energy companies can follow our lead – I hope they do.
People want to be able to choose what they eat and don’t eat – labelling of food enables that and GM free food is a good example. Green Electricity is also labelled to guarantee its origin. We’re extending that concept to our gas supply – it now has a guarantee of origin – it is and will remain ‘frack free’.
It’s a chance to vote with your energy bills, the more people that join us the louder our voice.