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Anti-fracking protest outside Cuadrilla Resources PR firm

A small group of anti-fracking protesters glued themselves to the front door of the London building which houses the offices of Cuadrilla Resources’ PR firm Bell Pottinger

A small group of anti-fracking protesters today glued themselves to the front door of the London building which houses the offices of Cuadrilla Resources’ PR firm Bell Pottinger.

Six members of No Dash for Gas - an environmental group spearheading anti-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) protests at Cuadrilla Resources’ drilling site in Balcombe, Sussex, attempted to barricade the entrance to Bell Pottinger’s office in London at around 8am BST this morning. Two women placed a plastic tube over their arms which they then glued to the door.

Protester Emma Goldman, who had glued herself to the building’s door, told Petroleum Economist the group hoped to gain publicity for the anti-fracking cause.

“We’re hoping to get some publicity because we have no money to employ a PR company like Bell Pottinger,” Goldman said. “They (Cuadrilla Resources) need a good PR campaign because all the evidence from the (United) States, from communities, from religious towns shows that fracking is devastating. There are people turning on their water taps and gas and flames are coming out.”

Goldman was referring to a scene in Josh Fox’s film, Gasland,  which claimed fracking was responsible for methane leaks into residential water supplies. An investigation into the incident ruled this was not the case.

No Dash for Gas also blockaded Cuadrilla Resources’ headquarters in Lichfield, Staffordshire, today. The company issued a statement saying protesters “harassed (Cuadrilla) staff and chained themselves to filing cabinets” and that the police were now dealing with the matter. The company added: “Cuadrilla is rightly held accountable for complying with multiple planning and environmental permits and conditions, which we have met and will continue to meet.”

Protests at Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe, which started earlier this month, continue. It is understood arrests have been made in connection with the Sussex demonstrations.

Today’s protests were not just against fracking and fossil fuels, they championed renewable energy. But when I spoke to the protesters, it was clear they had little understanding of current UK energy policy or the role different energy sources play in the mix.

UK gas production has fallen by about 40% over the past decade. While the country imports gas to make up the shortfall, some of that gap is now being met by coal. Coal emits around twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas when it burns. Last year the UK used 30% less gas-fired power than the year before and is instead using coal to offset this loss because it’s cheaper.

This shift in the UK energy mix – from gas to coal – does little to tackle carbon emissions. Displacing coal with domestic natural gas production could both reduce emissions and cut UK coal imports.

And while the proportion of UK electricity sourced from renewables actually increased last year, government figures show that renewables accounted for just 4% of the country’s electricity. This is not because of a lack of investment, it is because a number of issues with renewable power generation – intermittence among them – have yet to be resolved. Renewables will help cut carbon emissions, there is no doubt about that, but until renewable sources can reliably produce power at scale, and at times of peak demand, it is unlikely to make up 100% of the country’s energy mix any time soon.

When I asked Ms Goldman if she knew how much coal the UK uses, she replied: “I’m hopeless on facts.”

While the protesters did garner publicity with the sit-in at Bell Pottinger’s central London office, they did not disrupt the firm’s operations. Despite No Dash for Gas’ claim that the action had prevented the company’s staff getting to work, a Bell Pottinger spokesman said: “Staff are at their desks.”

Fortunately for Bell Pottinger employees – and for the other firms operating from the eight-storey office block – protesters forgot to glue themselves to the back door.

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