The Character of the Worldwide Anti-Fracking Movement

by Duane Nichols on August 27, 2013

Fracking Protest in England

The Worldwide Anti-Fracking Movement

Review by S. Tom Bond, Ph.D. Retired Chemistry Professor and Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV. August 27, 2013

To the casual United States reader of newspapers and captives of the TV news, any complaints about shale drilling may appear local and peculiar.  Anyone who digs deeper realizes this is not the case.  It is a worldwide phenomenon, present anywhere shale drilling takes place.  New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, the Karoo desert in South Africa  (a most unlikely place for an industry that takes so much water), Romania,  Poland, and others. Each reaction, and there is always a reaction to what happens, has a separate story.  Each uses different methods, to protest the same, identical complaints, but there are two constants: non-violence and largely unpaid workers in the anti-fracking response.

 While the industry pays $80,000 to $125,000 to what the Chinese call “perception management” employees, people in the opposition work for free, out of conviction. Yes, a few of the long established environmental groups support paid employees, but they have a variety of interests, not just opposition to shale drilling.  The reason people work for free is that when they see the facts they are energized.

I saw a man I have known for years today, but hadn’t talked to for years.  First he mentioned the expansion of the Industrial Park at Jane Lew, our home town. Had I seen it?  Yes, I’d observed a stoned  road to it, wide enough to lead to a major airport, off Berlin Road.  He told me the price of the land, $1.5 million, paid to the not-affluent family that had mostly let the plateau grow up.  As our conversation continued, I became aware that he understood the game very well.  The short lifetime of the wells, the need for continuous drilling to maintain production of a field, and the fact Jane Lew’s industry would be a burned out hulk, like the rust belt after steel, in two or three decades. This from a man who observes, but doesn’t read much.

The character of the resistance varies by country.  In Europe, more densely populated, and familiar with organized young people in droves going up against police charged with maintaining  “order,” there are lots of  big demonstrations.  Demonstrations against Cuadrilla in the United Kingdom at Balcomb involve hundreds of well educated young people.  The drilling site was surrounded with chain link fence, topped with razor wire, just like American jails that have a yard, but the protestors resolved to go over it.  Here is a BBC video.  Notice the attire of the police.  Try this in the U. S. and you’ll get heavily armed police, perhaps a Swat Team.  I went to an informational meeting in Normantown which was about as tame as a church business meeting and someone had sent two deputy sheriffs.

In Romania about the whole population was involved.  They had parades with big brass bands. Protest is a way of life in Romania, and they did this one right, but did not shut Chevron out.  Bulgarians with similar tactics were more successful.

Eastern European countries are very anxious to wean themselves away from Russia, which has abundant supplies and laughs at the U. S. shale effort.  As usual, the Russians are more than a little heavy handed, demanding lots of money (relatively) and political concessions.  Poland was quite receptive to shale drilling technology, with relatively minor and local protests. ExxonMobil, Talisman and Marathon drilled about 40 wells, but only four were fracked. You see figures like 20% to 50% nitrogen, so it was unfit for fuel.  All three have pulled out.

Canada is much like the U. S., with perhaps an even more powerful energy sector.  Provinces in the East, with dense populations, have very strong movements. Quebec has locked the practice out.  In the West, Alberta is a mess, with both tar sands and fracking coal seams.  Jessica Ernst, a high-profile, Alberta-based environmental consultant, has released a comprehensive summary of science, facts and documents relating to groundwater contamination from the controversial practice of natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking).  It is part of a $33 M  law suit. The culmination of ten years of research, the  93 page report  “The Science is Deafening- Industry’s Gas Migration” is sure to cause a stir with the energy sector and its critics.  Groundwater contamination has been a key concern everywhere, world wide.

The powerful oil and gas industry has governments in it’s hand.  “We’re Being Watched“  is an article which tells how corporations and government classify the environmental movement  as a danger similar to violent groups.  Opposition to “Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders” seems to be the problem with those expressing environmental concerns.

In spite of the loss of water and contamination of land, health problems, inconveniences, loss of property values, danger to workers and ugliness of the industry, there has been virtually no violence. Exceptions are some threats in England, and Romania and Wiebo’s War  in Alberta and British Columbia.  The later is worth a few hours of study for its curiousness alone.  A blurb on the documentary movie of that name ends ” Their footage of confrontations with gas workers and police, and its stark contrast with media reports, raises a critical issue: when politicians and police become sock puppets for private interests, is vigilante action justified?”

When so much is taken from so many, a really high ethical stance is required for there to be no violence.  For so many to work so hard on the basis of conviction without pay means something real is going on.  And it involves a dispersed leadership in response to eyeball observations all over the world!  Think about it! 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Duane Nichols August 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

“Britain’s Furor Over Fracking” ——
PEACE and LOVE are not the story! There is the heavily policed front line in Britain’s fracking war. A conflict has erupted over Prime Minister David Cameron’s vision of turning the English countryside into hydraulic-fracturing central, a place where West Sussex would release its inner West Texas. See the latest story from the New York Times:


Samuel Gregg August 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

FRACKING IN FERMANAGH …. what could it mean?

This is a community film, made with young people in County Fermanagh, exploring the possible consequences of fracking in the County. It contains interviews with farmers, fishermen, tourism providers, community members, the Council and politicians from the Northern Ireland Assembly. It includes interviews also with specialists from Canada who have experienced fracking in their own rural communities.

See it on Vimeo or on YouTube:


Salmon Beatty August 28, 2013 at 10:04 am


So, can we stop talking about shale and move on to more serious topics? Have I sufficiently made the case that shale is a source of waste and nonsense, not of energy? Probably not, right? And it seems so simple, all these people should take one good hard long look at shale in Poland, and they’d understand.

“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”
President Barack Obama

It won’t even last 10 years. Far too little recoverable carbon has been bought with far too much borrowed money.


S. Thomas Bond August 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm

There is a picture of Argentine police “cracking down” on protestors in Neuquen, Patagonia at:

As usual, it is the POLICE indulging in violence, not the protestors.


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