One of the paradoxes of power is this – because very powerful people frequently get away with ignoring their critics, they often do. It follows from this that, in important respects, they can be ignor-ant people. With something like fracking they pick up the benefits of the process for themselves and other people pick up the harms. But that need not concern them because their PR helpers have already constructed the pat arguments of why there is no need to worry – and if problems do emerge then they construct the arguments as to why the problems are not the result of fracking.
Powerful people are used to getting their own way and this includes the people who run the oil and gas industry. For a long time oil, gas and coal has fuelled the devices of our civilisation. They are of strategic importance so it follows that the senior managers of the fossil fuel sectors are used to working closely with officials and politicians in the formulation of economic policy, foreign policy and military strategy too. The oil and gas industry are players in global geo-politics. Given their close working and personal relationships in the corridors of power they are used to getting their way – often to the point of being able to use military power to pursue their agenda. They are used to managing media to present their viewpoint and where necessary they are able to hide in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions.
People like this are not used to engaging in public debate except on their terms – stage managed by their spin doctors and media managers. If they did they would lose the arguments but probably don’t know this – because they have never actually had to engage closely with the victims of their agendas. That’s why they can believe the banal pat arguments that their spin doctors tell the public – like earthquakes that you can barely feel, frack-chemicals from under the kitchen sink and each frack requiring the amount of water used for so many months on your local golf course.
None of this chimes with living in a genuine democracy. As Paul Mobbs pointed out in the debate in Nottingham the British government has signed up to the Aarhus Convention which links human rights with environmental rights. We are all supposed to be consulted about fundamental environmental policies in genuinely participative processes – yet a vested interest coalition at the heart of government is driving policy with no real counter arguments being heard. The kinds of participation we are offered, is the kind where the outcome is a foregone conclusion, where fake participation is a way of legitimising what has already been decided. Unless the proponents of fracking come out and debate on platforms with us in a genuinely equal debate then the state of democracy in this country will be revealed as being in a very sorry state, as an asymmetry of power in which the carbon and money elite hold immense power and do not see themselves as needing to answer to anyone.
Brian Davey (writing in a personal capacity)
Frack Free Notts