10 Days Remaining

Friday 6th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

CUADRILLA starting construction of fracking wells in Lancashire is a dark day for our future.

The fracking fiasco is rotten the whole way through. The immediate issue of the government overturning the county council’s decision and rejecting the wishes of residents is utterly shameful.

For good reasons they oppose fracking, in which toxic sludge is shot into the ground at high pressure to smash sub-surface rocks and release gas. Building the wells and associated facilities tears up the countryside and there are numerous documented accounts of earth tremors and released gas poisoning groundwater.

As valid as these concerns are, there is a fundamental problem that eclipses them all.

To build new facilities to extract untapped fossil fuels is sheer madness. Every pound spent to extract resources which are then burnt is a pound spent to fuel planet-wrecking climate change.

It has been perfectly clear for years that we must leave almost all — at least 80 per cent — of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

New fracking wells take us in the opposite direction. Once built, the logic of capital investment means they are hard to shut down.

Those who see fracking as a way to cut off our dependence on “henchmen, hangmen and headchoppers” are misguided.

Supplying more gas from new wells will further entrench the burning of gas for electricity, making it more difficult to switch away from.

We have the tools to make that switch now, but the Tories’ slashing of support for renewables will drive investment off a “cliff edge” in the next three years.

Renewable energy is the best investment going. Wind and solar power are cheap and getting cheaper and there is no question that this is where the new energy jobs are.

Fracking — and fossil fuels generally — lead us to a dead end that will prove uncomfortably literal.

Dubious safety

THE Office for Road and Rail’s impartiality must be called into question by its report into Southern Rail, which conveniently shares the government’s view of the dispute.

Photographs taken from the cabs of trains on the route, released this week by train drivers’ union Aslef, cast doubt on Southern’s breezy claims on door safety.

But — as RMT general secretary Mick Cash points out — focusing exclusively on door control is also to accept the rail operator’s caricature of the dispute and to ignore “a whole raft of safety issues.”

Southern’s war on its staff is a bid to smash the rail unions. Department for Transport bigwig Peter Wilkinson said as much in his ill-advised Croydon outburst last year, where he promised “punch-ups and ... industrial action” before vowing: “We have got to break them.”

It can afford the mayhem and misery this causes its passengers because of owner Govia Thameslink’s unique franchising model, where the company is paid a set fee by the government regardless of how much is made or lost on the services themselves. If successful, the drive to scrap train guards will be rolled out elsewhere (as it already has been on some routes).

The implications for passenger safety — from disorderly, abusive or predatory individuals, during accidents or security alerts where the driver may be incapacitated — are grim, and the only winners are the shareholders milking profit from our privatised transport network.

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