Lead story

Fracked gas not so cheap

by Daphne Liddle

ENERGY experts from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last week told the BBC that Government ministers have been seriously exaggerating the benefits of using shale gas.

The Government plans to allow shale gas to be extracted on a mass scale by hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, from all over Britain. They claim that it will lower energy prices and provide a secure source of energy for decades. The Treasury said the potential of shale gas was “too big to ignore”.

But the scientists say these claims are were “hype” and “lacking in evidence” and that the process of fracking is so early in its infancy it was impossible to know how much could be extracted and at what cost.

They said it was most unlikely to make a substantial difference to prices or to the security of energy supplies in the Britain.

Fracking is already very controversial and strongly opposed by environmentalists. The process of drilling bore holes into gas-bearing shale and sands and then pumping in water and chemicals at high pressure to cause the rock to fracture and release the gas is risky. The full combination of chemicals used in the process has never been disclosed

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LRC divided over Ukraine

by New Worker correspondent

NUMBERS were down at this year’s annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London last Saturday, where a heated debate showed a clear division of views over what is happening in Ukraine.

The conference began with John McDonnell MP welcoming delegates and individual members followed by Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.

He gave a run-down on the long dispute currently raging as firefighters battle to keep their pension rights against the Coalition government, which wants to raise retirement age to 60 — an age at which few people are fit enough for the strenuous and dangerous job of fighting fire — or to lose their pensions if they have to retire before that age for health reasons.

He also called on the Labour leadership to improve its chances in next year’s general election by promising an emergency budget as soon as they are in power to end the harsh austerity policies of the Coalition.

And he called for a “rebirth” of socialist values and for demands to taking privatised utilities and companies back into public ownership.

John McDonnell, in moving the LRC national committee statement, spoke of the urgent need to bring the working class back to Labour or risk the danger of a new Tory dominated government.

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Belgian workers defy police

by New Worker correspondent

GREEK-style violence came to Brussels last week when riot police teargassed and water-cannoned workers marching through the Belgian capital to protest against the government’s harsh austerity programme.

Dockers, metalworkers and students fought back when the police moved to disperse the 150,000-strong crowd at the end of the biggest anti-cuts protest, which had marched peacefully through the centre of Brussels to demonstrate against plans to raise the retirement age, cancel a wage rise in line with inflation and cut health and social security benefits.

Protesters defied teargas, pepper spray and water- cannon during clashes which rocked central Brussels during the fighting. Cars were overturned or set alight by protesters who stoned the police and seized street barriers to set up temporary barricades or hurl back at the security forces.

The march, which was supported by all the major unions, was held to launch a national campaign against a new round of cuts intended to save some €11 billion that the new rightwing coalition government has ordered to dismantle what’s left of the “welfare state” to make the workers pay for the slump.

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The propaganda war on Ukraine

ANTI-FASCISTS in Britain and throughout the world who have rallied together to support the resistance in Ukraine are fighting an uphill battle against a mountain of misinformation, lies and confusion that is leading astray even some seasoned left-wingers who should know better.

The narrative that is being propagated is that even though Nato and the European Union are involved in meddling in Ukrainian affairs the Russian government is behaving in an equally predatory fashion, that Vladimir Putin is an ambitious imperialist who wants to expand Russia and to conquer Ukraine. This narrative admits there are some fascists involved in Kiev but claims that equal numbers of fascists are involved on the Russian side and that this is a complicated war between two imperialist empires with the poor Ukrainian people caught in the middle.

It also invents a neutral socialist Ukrainian working class that is there to be supported by those who do not want to dirty their hands by supporting one side or the other. Then its advocates claim that it is all very complicated, they do not really understand what is happening but nevertheless go on the condemn the people of Donetsk and Lugansk who have been forced to break away from the Kiev regime.

It is a response very like that of a typical police officer called to a case of domestic violence who hears conflicting accounts of what has happened, assumes “it takes two to make a quarrel”, both must be equally the blame, delivers a few anodyne platitudes and goes away to leave the man free to continue the slow process of murdering his wife.

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