Apparently, if we allow INEOS chief executive Jim Ratcliffe and his ilk their wicked way, our streets will be very shortly paved with gold, money will rain from the skies into the pockets of landowners, residents and local business and we will enter a land of milk and honey.
Let us put aside all the testimony of those in the US and elsewhere who claim to have had blighted lives, health effects, water contamination and damaged environments due to fracking for a moment and imagine that this utopia of wealth will come to pass in Mansfield.
Where is that money coming from? From a fossil fuel that its promoters argue is an “essential bridge” or “stop-gap” measure.
The nature of a bridge or stop-gap is that they are short term.
Why short term in this case? Because shale gas is threatened by the necessity to curtail fossil fuel use due to climate change, because renewable energy sources are advancing rapidly both technologically and in terms of energy market share to supplant these fuels and because Shale gas, like coal before it but with an even shorter extractive lifespan, is a limited resource.
This means that in the foreseeable future, even if INEOS outlandish claims are true, Mansfield and towns like it will go from boom to bust. Have we not learned that we should not base our prosperity on one industry?
Have we not understood that agreeing to be the dumping ground and plaything of energy corporations is not a wise long term option?
Can’t we see better, more sustainable, longer term economic development options for our area – options that do not risk our water supply, our landscape, our community cohesion?
That will not divide people and set themselves against each other as we have bitter experience of in these parts?
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and the former coalfield areas of the East Midlands and Yorkshire should not be prepared to act as a “sacrifice zone”, or the “desolate north” one fracking advocate spoke about in an unguarded moment when suggesting no fracking would take place in the leafy, well-heeled south.
Are we really prepared to be suckered by, swaggering chemicals and energy barons like Jim Ratcliffe?
No, the future of Mansfield, Sherwood Forest and Notts is in promising industries like renewable energy, tourism, leisure, brewing/food production, organic and free range agriculture – all of which will be threatened by any large scale fracking – and in the expansion of digital industries and high tech sectors.
We need to preserve and extend our forest and make the most of its internationally known potential. Our area is proud of the hard work and dignity of those who worked in the mining and associated industries – but that is now past.
We should not allow ourselves to be targeted just as our environment starts to recover and improve from a century or more of extractive industry, because they think we will be less resistant to environmental and health risk and destruction, because they think we can be bought, because they think we are desperate.
We need to have some dignity and self respect, and tell Jim Ratcliffe and the rest of the prospective fracking industry to get lost, as Scotland and France have.