Post by Helle Abelvik-Lawson

We’ve had a busy May here at the Extreme Energy Initiative (a project of the Human Rights Consortium).  As well as formally launching and developing content for our dedicated project website,, our preliminary research has shown that many countries all over the world are currently being affected by extreme energy projects like tar sands and fracking for shale gas.

One of our more recent blog posts outlines how Algeria is considering fracking, and has quietly amended their hydrocarbons law accordingly.  This is particularly interesting because the French Foreign Minister is likely to sign an agreement allowing French companies to conduct research in the exploitation of shale gas on Algerian territory, despite the fact that France was the first country to ban fracking domestically.

Another news article we published is a review of a lecture by Dr James Hansen at the LSE on unconventional fuels and climate change.  The former NASA scientist was in London on May 16 to give evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

On May 20 we hosted an Australian Toxicology expert, Mariann Lloyd Smith for her lecture entitled ‘Licence to Drill: Is Australia’s Present Britain’s Future?’ which spoke about the chemicals used in fracking and drilling fluids and the effect they have on the health of adults and children living in nearby communities.  She also outlined a very successful social resistance method which is being used in Australia, called the Lock the Gate Alliance.  A podcast for this talk will be available on our website soon.

The project is now looking very carefully at social resistance methods to industry-led research, development, licensing, exploratory drilling and actual fracking or underground gasification schemes in a number of countries – including the government’s response, which in the UK includes a promise of generous tax breaks, despite no regulation being in place.  In the UK there has also been a flurry of activity surrounding Shell’s sponsorship of Oxford University’s new Earth Sciences Laboratory, including a creative protest on May 9 in Oxford and a letter in the Guardian.  So we ask the question: Has ‘frackademia’ arrived in the UK?