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UK 14th Round map
'14th Oil & Gas Licensing Round' map from the
'Jam Tomorrow' presentation, 2011

Paul Mobbs/MEI – Current Work:

Extreme Energy

'Extreme energy' has been my major project for the last six years (2009-2015). When I started working on this in 2009, unconventional gas and oil production appeared a seeming irrelevance. Today this issue dominates the grassroots environmental movement in Britain, as well as the USA, Canada, Australia and many other states.


The 'extreme energy' issue

'Conventional' sources of fossil fuels have, for the last 150 years, been exploited relatively cheaply – which is what has powered the growth of the global economy so strongly.

As the 'easy to produce' sources of gas, oil and coal are used up, the global producers are beginning to turn to more 'extreme' sources:

This inherently greater ecological footprint – closely related to its lower energy and economic returns – is what is creating the higher impacts of unconventional fossil fuels upon communities and the environment. Rather than a 'solution', their use is driving the human system further towards economic collapse as we approach the 'limits to growth'.

My work

In 2009, I was one of the first environmental campaigners working on the unconventional gas issue in Britain. And whilst I'm currently shifting focus slightly, away from this theme, for the foreseeable future I'll still be running workshops and giving lectures in the issue.

My work around this issue began in obscurity in 2009, but since then I've been able to help the grassroots community develop through my workshops, and through my writing and research. However, over those six years my focus has shifted significantly.

In the beginning this was a technical issue. As I've often said you can teach a fairly large proportion of the environmental science syllabus – or the technical basis of grassroots activism – using the issue of "fracking". That is because it involves so many fields; from geology, to planning and development, to pollution assessment and permitting, to industrial processes, to energy economics, to toxicology, to local and national government policy-making.

After six years working on this issue, and working through all those technical themes, my opinion has changed. What I believe "fracking" in the UK context flags up is a problem of political accountability, and the use of transparent and objective evidence in policy-making.

That is why I have gone from organising public training workshops in 2010/11, to trying to arrest members of the Cabinet in March 2015.

MEI Image 43
Presenting 'Fracktured Accountability' to the police
at Downing Street, 5th March 2015


What's next?

In my view the issue of 'extreme energy' in Britain has ceased to be a technical, evidence-based debate. Instead, given the Westminster Government's deliberate choice to ignore that evidence, and proceed with these policies irrespective of the consequences for communities and the environment, this has now become a civil rights issue.

That, inevitably, changes the nature of my participation.

I will continue to research new developments in this field, write, and run workshops. However, my focus will shift towards the practical application of 'activism' to address the official obstruction to the evidence-based debate on extreme energy in Britain.

Given both the economic and political factors that debates such as "fracking" throw up today, I also believe that we need to steer this debate back towards what, at its simplest level, it is really about – ecological limits. That is because "fracking" has been the first major 'extreme' development issue to surface – and there are more already in the pipleine (for example, more intensive agriculture).