Grassroots Mobilisations and the Democracy They Want: Renewable Energy and Anti-Fracking

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anna SZOLUCHA, University of Bergen, Norway
Recently, a wave of local resistance to increasingly risky methods of fossil fuel extraction (such as exploiting shale gas in Europe and the USA, tar sands in Canada or drilling in the Arctic) has swept across many countries in the world. Some of the most sustained civil disobedience against fracking (an unconventional method of shale gas extraction) took place in Europe. How are this opposition to fracking and popular demands for energy transformation navigating the closely intertwined structures of state, finance and (carbon) democracy? May they be anticipating a new form of democratic politics?

Based on my fieldwork in the UK and Poland, I would like to explore how in practice, national policy narratives and local planning procedures appear to be designed in ways that help evade different forms of popular democratic contestation, producing some puzzling outcomes when they are met with grassroots resistance. I will also examine the inherent power imbalances between state, local communities and energy corporations during planning and negotiation processes. This conference paper will aim to explore how economic and political pressures are passed from the top national and international actors down to citizens living and working in regions potentially affected by fracking. I will try to uncover the consequences of national, corporate and international interests and narratives for local communities as well as how local communities respond, mediate and resist such pressures. This will also help describe persistent inequalities that are being played out in democratic negotiation processes between local populations, the authorities and energy corporations.

This paper will provide a comparative analysis of the changing nature of democracy in contemporary Europe as well as the issues involved in negotiating the future supply of energy – the two questions that perhaps, unlike any other in the contemporary world, demand our immediate attention.