Anti-fracking activists from Stroud join protests in Balcombe
CLIMATE campaigners from Stroud joined around 2,000 anti-fracking activists at a protest camp in West Sussex over the weekend, close to where the energy firm Cuadrilla is test-drilling for oil.
James Beecher, 29, of environmental group Transition Stroud, and his parents Sandi and John, both 69, travelled by train to Balcombe on Sunday, August 18, to deliver a message of solidarity to residents protesting against the controversial technique known as fracking, which is used to extract shale gas from deep underground.
Although Cuadrilla, which suspended drilling during the six-day protest, is only searching for oil at present, it has not ruled out using fracking to capture gas from the rock, despite fears that the technology could cause earth tremors and contaminate water supplies.
The Beechers, who took part in a march through the village with several other protesters from the Five Valleys, had collected around 30 signatures on an anti-fracking placard, which they presented to demonstrators at the site.
Among those who put their names to the cardboard sign before it was handed over to local campaigners was the Stroud green energy entrepreneur and founder of Ecotricity Dale Vince.
Environmental activist and PhD student James Beecher said his family attended the protest because they were opposed to fracking on a number of grounds.
"First, it is globally dangerous. It is getting gas which is a fossil fuel out of the ground when we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are going to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic global warming," he said.
"The other big reason, which people in Stroud I think understand very well, is that it’s just not necessary. We know that there are all kinds of alternative energy sources like wind, solar and tidal.
"Those are the technologies we should be investing in and those are the industries we should be subsidising."
Mr Beecher also criticised the Government for providing ‘tax breaks’ for the fracking industry and warned that a failure to oppose the practice now could lead to drilling operations expanding throughout the south of England and possibly into Stroud in the future.
But the town's Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, who is in favour of fracking, said the technology could deliver a number of benefits, such as cheaper fuel bills for householders.
Speaking to the SNJ, Mr Carmichael voiced his support for a ‘mix’ of renewables and other energy sources, like shale gas, and said: "I think fracking has to be done in a sensible manner and I wouldn’t want to see it taking place in areas of outstanding natural beauty but subject to the economic case and environmental considerations it may well be appropriate to try it in some places."
Mr Carmichael added that he did not think there was ‘substantial evidence’ to back up anti-fracking protesters’ concerns about water pollution and earth tremors.
Asked whether he would be happy to see fracking take place in his constituency, the Tory MP said: "I don’t think there is any part of my constituency which is likely to have the geographical or geological characteristics for fracking and as I have already said I wouldn’t want areas of outstanding natural beauty to be affected so for all intents and purposes that would cover the Stroud Valleys."
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