Socialist Worker

Jim Ratcliffe’s fracking ships set a course for climate catastrophe

One of Scotland’s most notorious bosses says jobs are in ‘safe hands’ with his fracked shale gas from the US. Raymie Kiernan takes apart the false promise

Issue No. 2523

An Ineos Dragon Ship brings fracked shale gas from the US to Britain

An Ineos Dragon Ship brings fracked shale gas from the US to Britain (Pic: ian_woodhead1/flickr)


It was meant to be Jim Ratcliffe’s big day. The billionaire union-bashing boss of tax-dodging chemical giant Ineos amassed the media to Grangemouth in Scotland last week to watch his “shale gas revolution”.

They were wined and dined ready for the arrival of a 180-metre Dragon class super tanker laden with 27,500 cubic metres of liquefied gas.

This is the first of many shipments of fracked shale gas from the US. Ineos plans to move 40,000 barrels every day for the next 15 years.

A bagpiper was to play on deck as it sailed down the Firth of Forth.

Ironically Scotland’s greatest renewable energy resource ruined Ratcliffe’s fossil fuel party. The wind prevented the tanker from docking.

It did dock with the next tide—greeted by protesters. Scottish National Party ministers, wary of the negative reaction it could provoke, declined the invitation to the party.

Stake

Ratcliffe denounced them. He has well over £1 billion at stake in his plan to bring US shale gas to Europe.

He said 10,000 jobs in and around the vast Grangemouth complex “are in very safe hands” for 20 years because of imported US shale gas.

That’s the same Ratcliffe who repeatedly used the blackmail of threatening closures and layoffs to get government grants and loan guarantees—and union retreats over workers’ conditions.

Now he’s out to bribe locals, offering 6 percent of Ineos’ shale revenues.

Ratcliffe signs a trade deal with the Chinese National Petroleum Group as former energy secretary Ed Davey watches on

Ratcliffe signs a trade deal with the Chinese National Petroleum Group as former energy secretary Ed Davey watches on (Pic: Dunpharlain/Wikimedia Commons)


As Friends of the Earth points out, this is based on optimistic assumptions about shale gas yields. And if fracking doesn’t pay off for Ratcliffe he can walk away without paying a penny of this “community benefit”.

His main supplier is Range Resources, with access to frack about 1 million acres across Pennsylvania. It has been fined £3 million for polluting soil and groundwater.

Activists in Pennsylvania appealed to Scotland not to accept its gas.

“Americans are being sacrificed by having this production near their homes, schools and farms,” said the Citizens for Clean Water campaign.

United Against Fossil Fuels said people are being used as “lab rats for the fossil fuel industry”.

Ratcliffe dismissed criticisms of Range Resources in a recent radio interview, likening its “occasional issues” to getting a “puncture” in a tyre. When pressed further he threatened, “Do you want those 10,000 jobs or do you not want those jobs?”

As long as the energy production is in the hands of the likes of Ineos and Jim Ratcliffe people and the planet will be sacrificed for profit.


Ratcliffe is blowing hot air over jobs and emissions

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million last year. It isn’t dropping this year.

Even if the world stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, what is already in the atmosphere will remain for many decades.

This year has also been the hottest year on record.

But don’t worry—Ineos argues that “extracting shale gas is fully consistent with tackling climate change”.

It claims that natural gas is the “only alternative” to coal that can “provide the energy we need with reduced CO2 emissions”.

Emissions

But using gas produces more than enough greenhouse gases to stop us addressing climate change even if it replaced coal entirely. In reality the gas is likely to be burned as well as coal, not instead.

Bizarrely Ineos even claims that carbon emissions could be further reduced by fracking in Britain instead of importing it.

That would only bring the same environmental destruction that fracking has caused in the US to Britain.

Ineos holds licences to frack over 1 million acres of central Scotland, northern England and the east Midlands.

There is an alternative—generating genuinely renewable energy from the sun, wind and tide, conserving it with better insulated homes and replacing most car use with public transport. This would also create far more jobs than fracking.

Ineos points to figures from management consultants Ernst & Young to claim that a polluting shale gas industry could create 64,000 jobs in Britain.

The Campaign Against Climate Change has shown that a million climate jobs could be created through serious action to cut emissions


What the frack about water?

Fracking is blasting water, chemicals and sand to fracture shale rock and release gas. It can pollute the water table and cause earthquakes.

Each well can see 5-10 million litres of waste water flow back, with salts, chemicals and radioactive material.Where might this be dumped? “Most likely the sea,” said Ineos.


No safety for the workers

Ineos-run plants at Grangemouth breached health and safety regulations 34 times from 2011 to 2014.

They were condemned as “poor” for pollution three years in a row and served 11 legal enforcement notices.

More than 20 workers were injured in the first three months of 2015.


Tangled up in tax avoidance

Ineos, a web of over 80 firms, slashed its tax bill by moving to Switzerland.

Its petrochemical plant is owned by Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth, owned by Ineos Europe Holdings, owned by Ineos Jersey.

Its oil refinery is owned by Ineos Manufacturing Scotland, owned by Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland, owned by Ineos Refining Li, a venture of PetroChina and Ineos Investments (Jersey).


Fracking activist could face jail or £55,000 costs

The government was expected this week to announce its decision on whether to allow fracking at two sites in Lancashire.

Lancashire County Council voted against the plans by gas firm Cuadrilla last year, amid protests and following widespread campaigning.

But then Greg Clarke, Tory communities minister, announced that central government was taking it out of the council’s hands.

It is ruling on Cuadrilla’s appeal and could deliver its verdict on Friday.

Meanwhile leading Lancashire anti-fracking activist Tina Rothery could face jail for contempt of court.

Tina’s “contempt” consists of refusing to pay £55,000 in eviction costs from a Lancashire field earmarked for fracking.

In fact, protesters had already thoroughly cleaned and left the field when bailiffs arrived.

Bailiffs came to a protest outside Buckingham Palace last week to hand her a summons to attend court on 19 October.


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