Students let Cuadrilla know the fracking score

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Photo by Ben Singleton

Students showed their moral outrage on Thursday of Week Two by staging a demonstration against talks held between Lancaster University and Cuadrilla, the leading company in the hydraulic fracturing industry in the UK.

Protesters, armed with placards and a public announcement system, gathered in Alexandra Square shortly after 2.00 pm before unfurling their banner bearing the legend ‘CUADRILLA FRACK OFF!’ Beginning in the Square, the group proceeded down the Spine to the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) and continued to voice their concerns and hand out information to fellow students.

The anger of those marching across campus was sparked by a tip-off detailing plans to hold talks between the University and Cuadrilla with a view to establishing a business partnership. Though the University did acknowledge the truth of the rumours, it had earlier refused to divulge the exact details (including time and specific location) to concerned parties. Police and Community Support Officers were seen around campus throughout the day in what appeared to be a pre-emptive bid to maintain decorum whilst the talks were in progress.

Promoted largely via social media, the event encouraged students to voice their dissent in order to send a clear message to both parties involved in the negotiations. A message on Facebook said: ‘Many of us students are outraged by the idea of the university being tied with this immensely environmentally unfriendly and destructive company […]make some noise and show Cuadrilla how unwelcome they are!”

Hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’, as is not-so-affectionately known – is a controversial method of gas-extraction from shale rock, which is impermeable and so resistant to conventional gas-extraction techniques. As shale deposits constitute approximately one third of subterranean rock in the UK, anti-fracking groups are concerned that the drilling of wells for the purpose of extracting gas from shale rock will proliferate into ‘wholesale industrialisation of the countryside’.

Of greater concern for those opposed to the process is the reported instability of the method, which, although not itself a new method of gas-extraction, has only recently burgeoned into more widespread use through a rapid expansion of shale-gas extraction in the USA. There is also anger at this drive to squeeze the environment for its last remaining resources; Thursday’s demonstration questioned the logic of using potentially volatile procedures to the end that developing and becoming more reliant of cleaner, more sustainable means of energy-production is deferred whilst more damage is done to the Earth.

Since hydraulic fracturing relies on large volumes of pressured fluid into the earth, there have been concerns raised over the link between fracking and earth tremors experiences in the locality of fracking wells. Videos posted on YouTube show American citizens demonstrating the ability to set their tap-water alight following chemical contamination caused by toxic substances contained in the fracking fluid.

The students’ demonstration ended with a clear message for Cuadrilla: if the company intends to forge a partnership with the University then it must anticipate strong opposition from within the student body. One protester candidly expressed the position of the anti-fracking lobby towards what he termed the ‘corrupt’ corporation: ‘If you don’t respect existence then you must expect resistance!’

More information about the process of hydraulic fracturing and those in the UK who are seeking to oppose its widespread application may be found online at www.frack-o
.org.

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