Anti-Fracking Protests: The Frack Fight Goes Global

Fossil fuel corporations are finding that while prospects for fracking sites and wells are not unique to the U.S., neither are anti-fracking protests or fracking bans.


| March/April 2014



Anti-Fracking Protestors

Farmers Against Fracking Rally in Melbourne as part of a National Week of Action on Coal and Gas Mining in Australia in August 2013.

Photo by Flickr/Lock the Gate Alliance

Some call it an energy revolution, others a toxic threat. It’s been hailed as the dawn of a new energy era and condemned as the final deadly fossil rush that will carry us over the climate cliff. Some governments have banned it, while others are offering tax breaks and eagerly rewriting local laws to smooth its arrival.

It’s not hard to see why horizontal high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—has hit the headlines around the world. It’s a new process that dangles the possibility of an oil and gas bonanza just when conventional sources are becoming ever harder to find, making it of great interest to speculators, fossil fuel corporations and revenue-hungry governments alike. At the same time, its potential environmental impacts have had concerned communities up in arms, and climate change campaigners have been horrified at the suggestion that billions of tons of carbon that were locked up in rock formations might now see the light of day.

What happens over the next few years will probably determine whether fracking becomes common practice around the world, the preserve of a few enthusiastic states, or is abandoned as a dangerous dead-end.

 

While “vertical” fracturing—pumping fluid into existing oil and gas wells to increase output—has been around for a long time, the horizontal technique now being used to crack fossil fuels out of shale and coal seams only became economic in the late 1990s. It was pioneered by a U.S. fossil fuel industry desperate to squeeze more fuels out of a country where conventional oil and gas output had passed its peak.

In addition to the Halliburton loophole, fracking in the U.S. is exempted from six other key pieces of regulation relating to hazardous waste and pollution. This follows years of fierce lobbying by the industry. According to Sourcewatch, pro-fracking lobbyists poured $239 million into the campaign coffers of U.S. political candidates between 1990 and 2011, and spent a further $726 million on lobbying from 2001 to 2011.