Today’s big question

Just Stop Oil: who are the petrol protesters and what do they want?

Almost 350 people have been arrested since the group started taking action across the country on 1 April

Protest group Just Stop Oil has caused disruption to fuel distribution terminals across the country, which it claims has led to widespread shortages at petrol stations.

The group has taken action at 11 fuel terminals in England since the beginning of April, “blockading and trespassing on sites to stop tankers entering, filling up or leaving to deliver fuel”, said The Guardian

While petrol retailers have said the protests are “not having a serious impact on deliveries” there have been “dozens” of local reports of pumps “running dry”, continued the paper. Shortages have been reported in locations across the country, including Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Kent and Warwickshire. 

Group origins

Just Stop Oil is a youth-led offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, and is calling for the UK government to halt all new fossil fuel projects to combat climate change

Speaking to The Observer, one activist described the project as “a non-hierarchical coalition of organisers, scientists, lawyers and former workers in the oil industry who collaborate on both demands and tactics”. 

Members then operate in ”autonomous blocs with shared resources” but there is no formal leadership, with the group’s funding coming from donations.

Almost 350 protesters have been arrested since the group started taking action on 1 April. Their tactics include “gluing themselves to the road and attaching themselves to fuel tankers with bike locks”, said Sky News.

Aims

Their goal is to raise awareness of the effects the oil industry has on climate change “on a massive scale”. One activist told The Guardian the group is able to mobilise “upwards of 1,000 people” and is employing tactics that are a “fusion of other large-scale blockade-style actions you have seen in the past”.

As the name suggests, the group demands an immediate end to all new fossil fuel supply projects, and is urging the government to “make a statement that it will immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK”.

They believe that transitioning away from fossil fuels will “help cut energy bills and help us meet our international climate obligations”, said the Evening Standard.

“Allowing the extraction of new oil and gas resources in the UK is an obscene, genocidal policy that will kill our children and condemn humanity to oblivion. It just has to stop.”

Response

The government has said that while it recognises the protest group’s “strength of feeling” it condemns its “guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel added that “hard-working people across our country are seeing their lives brought to a standstill by selfish, fanatical and frankly dangerous so-called activists”. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice similarly criticised the protests as “not just making a point” but “trying to cause havoc with other people’s lives”. 

He told LBC: “We’re trying to make some changes to the law to deal with some of these problems of people gluing themselves to motorways and so on. It’s really not acceptable.” He argued that reducing the use of fossil fuels was now “a mainstream agenda” so “people really don’t need to do such extreme protests to make their point”.

But the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas has said that such disruptive protests were the “only way that people feel they can make their voices heard”.

Next moves

The protesters have said they will continue taking action until a ban on all new fossil fuel projects is agreed upon by the government.

One group has been chained to a pipework at the third-largest fuel terminal in the country, in Grays, Essex. “We’re doing this because our government is refusing to act on the climate crisis and we need to have a meaningful statement that we will have no new fossil fuel projects, it’s that simple,” said one activist who gave his name as Nathan, in a video filmed from the Grays terminal and published on Twitter.

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