Slowly but surely, the Coalition’s policy of exploiting the large shale gas fields thought to exist under more than half of the landmass of Great Britain is starting to be realised. There are dozens of test wells being drilled around the country as billions in (largely foriegn) investment pours into the most toxic energy source inflicted on the world by the fossil fuel industry. Only last week, French energy giant Total poured several billion pounds into the British fracking industry, despite the fact that it cannot do the same in its home country because fracking is banned in France due to… environmental concerns.
But this bid to pour methane and corrosive chemicals into the environment in a bid for cheap gas is, apparently, not going ahead quickly enough. That’s why the Government is encouraging local councils to pass fracking applications with the most effective incentive of all: cash. Under the change proposed, councils can retain 100% of the Business Rates (a tax levied on businesses based on the value of the property they occupy) on fracking businesses within their jurisdiction. Usually, the central government takes half of what is raised, so it promises to be a great cash boost.
The move will all but demolish any debate about fracking in local government. To offer such a large revenue stream when many councils project a 50% reduction to their spending power between 2010 and 2020, doesn’t give councils a choice. If a person who was dying of thirst and stranded in the middle of a desert was to encounter the Devil, they will sell their soul for a bottle of water sooner or later. They do not have a real alternative.
Similarly, when we are promised cheap energy as energy bills rise and rise and rise, no government will fail to exploit the opportunity.
Unless voters decide en masse that we need to leave behind a clean and safe environment for future generations.