By Alex Seabrook
There was a demonstration last Saturday outside of Barclays in Cardiff, protesting against fracking.
A mock cocktail bar was set up outside Barclays Bank in Working Street, by St John’s Church, which served “fracked water” cocktails to passers-by. The demonstration was organised by Cardiff Friends of the Earth and Cardiff People and Planet to highlight the dangers of drinking water contamination that can be caused by fracking.
Fracking, which is also sometimes called hydraulic fracturing, is a method of obtaining underground natural gas reserves. Advocates say that there are high economic benefits to fracking, and as the UK has lots of underground gas reserves, the technology could allow for more energy independence. Opponents cite widespread evidence that fracking causes severe environmental damage, such as earthquakes and water contamination.
Barclays own 97% of Third Energy, a company who gained planning permission last May to frack at Ryedale in North Yorkshire. Third Energy are the second firm, after Cuadrilla, to apply for licenses in the UK to frack. Law firm Leigh Day are challenging North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to grant planning permission in an ongoing judicial review in the High Court.
The law firm claim that the council failed to properly assess the environmental impact and to secure financial protection from Third Energy against environmental damage. They also claim that the vast majority who responded to the council’s fracking consultation in Ryedale rejected the proposals. A decision on whether to overturn the planning permission grant is expected for the 22nd November.
The cocktails were made “just to catch people’s eye”, said Jack Pickering, of Cardiff People and Planet. “They’re meant to represent the cocktail of chemicals in the water used for fracking”, and were made out of molasses, cous cous, and cocoa. The demonstration “got a lot of interested people, who wanted to know about it”, with many previously unaware of the dangers to drinking water.
Third Energy, which calls itself an “independent company” on its website, is 97% owned by Global Natural Resources Investment (GNRI), a private equity branch of Barclays. The demonstration called for a boycott, asking Barclays current account holders to move the money to a different bank. A student boycott of Barclays caused the bank to sell off their South African subsidiary in 1986, and remove all of their support of the apartheid government.
Barclays were rated as the world’s most powerful transnational corporation in a study in 2011, due to vast ownership and corporate control over global financial stability and market competition. They are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Services Authority for bribery and corruption dating back to 2008. At the height of the financial crisis, the bank avoided a bail out from the UK government, and instead raised funds from investors in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. The amount of power that these investors hold over policy making is still unclear. The Serious Fraud Office expect to complete the inquiry by the end of the year.