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Molotov Cocktails, Civil Disobedience and Middle-class Furor: Fracking Protests Hit Europe

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LONDON -- Threats to use Molotov cocktails in Poland, a civil disobedience workshop in affluent rural England, and an Irish farmer with a sick child moved to become an eco-campaigner: these are just some of the ways in which Europeans have responded to the expansion of a much-debated oil industry practice.

Fracking has long been the source of heated debate in Pennsylvania and the controversy is now exploding in Europe, fueled by horror stories from across the Atlantic.

It is a debate that has created some unlikely alliances: The usual suspects of environmental campaigning have been joined by farmers and inhabitants of the so-called "stockbroker belt" concerned about house prices and "the industrialization of the countryside."

There are even suggestions that Russian money has been financing anti-fracking groups in Bulgaria - to help keep prices for its gas exports high.

The U.K. has become the latest front line for fracking after the British government lifted a ban imposed when the procedure was linked to a series of earthquakes in northwest England.

For some, fracking - a process that involves forcing water and chemicals into the ground to shatter rocks like shale and release natural gas trapped inside - poses a risk to water supplies, causes air pollution and flies in the face of the fight against climate change, worse even than coal.

But supporters of the process say it is safe, has been carried out for decades largely without problems, and could actually help reduce carbon emissions.

Chris Peters, of the No Dash for Gas campaign group, took part in a five-day protest last week against exploratory drilling that might eventually lead to fracking at a site near the village of Balcombe, Sussex, in rural England.

He said the camp held workshops in "methods of civil disobedience, direct action and various campaign strategies" and attracted about 1,000 people, including some from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Poland.    
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