Post-Brexit UK has seen a change in prime minister and one of the first acts of the newly un-elected Theresa May, little under 2 weeks ago, was to add to her poor environmental record by closing the department of climate change. Worse, the equivalent department is now called business, energy and industrial strategy a name that many activists fear is intent on squeezing all profit possible from the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the gas in the rocks.
In addition the new minister for the environment is May's failed tory leadership contender, Andrea Leadsome. In the past Leadsome has written to the Prime Minister calling for cuts to wind farm subsidies, and had criticised the Labour government for signing up to an EU target that called for 15 per cent of the UK's energy to come from renewable sources by 2015. Non of those EU targets are in the way of 'progress' anymore.
In one of those moments of bizarre political speak when Leadsome was asked about her new role she replied:
"When I first came to this job one of my two questions was: 'Is climate change real?' and the other was 'Is hydraulic fracturing safe?' And on both of those questions I am now completely persuaded."
It's good that she was able to find an opinion on climate change having been given the role as environment secretary, but although the implication that she believes climate change to be real is there (as if that debate hadn't ended long ago) she has in addition conflated this with the contradictory notion that fracking is safe. Thus ignoring the weight of evidence and clearly forgetting her belief in climate change, which means only renewables are the way forward if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change by keeping the required 70% of remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
The people of Gloucestershire will now remember the first acts of the new faces in the tory administration as the acts that allowed fracking in to their/our county. That's not to say the pre-brexit administration was any less clear. In December 2015 Parliament voted to allow fracking under national parks and other protected areas. 298 voted in favour. That consisted of 296 Tory MPs, with only 4 going against the party line. The outlook from central government is bleak. The restraining factors at present is the availability of cheap imported fuel (Access to the European market may be restricted or carry high tariffs in the future) local government resistance (if it continues) and the threat of actions by local activists.
There is also the chance that frack companies are wasting their time. local free-miners and Geologists are skeptical that there is any gas to be found and if there is any deep shale the reserves are thought to be limited.
It appears that despite mixed messages it is the more destructive deeper reserves that South Western Energy will be prospecting or attempting to prospect for.
Owen Adams resident expert has written a detailed account of the situation here
Frack off our forest facebook group is the main organizing and information hub and can be found here
Frack Free Gloucestershire is here
Tolkein was inspired by the forest of dean, and Lord of the Rings teaches that you must never underestimate folks from the shire. The message to the Frackers and the government has got to be then "YOU SHALL NOT PASS"