Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip?

Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip? I certainly hope so after see what they did in Lancs and Yorks . Over the last few years they have cajoled too many in these counties to oppose fracking, yet they cannot get there facts right. 

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Here is Nick Grealy giving a good summary of their activities and why they may well be losing


Are Friends of the Earth leaving the field of the shale battle in the UK?  There are recent pointers that they are at least sidling towards the exit.  Ironically, for an organisation whose followers often see oil and gas money as the root of all evil,  it comes down to money.

In North Yorkshire, FoE and Frack Free Ryedale, are considering a legal appeal of the council’s planning decision, and are in the early stages of the process.  If it moves to the next stage, then it starts getting expensive, since under the UK legal system each party is liable for the legal costs of the other side if they were unsuccessful.

Given that appeal leans heavily on the argument that onshore natural gas is bad for climate change, a point broadly dismissed by the Committee on Climate Change itself,  the case is looking shaky.  Speaking for several in the industry however, we would happily welcome it. Bring it on – lets settle this in court where it belongs and not in the local press.  Then we can move on. Given that the multiple, if sometimes interminable, reviews of regulation are finally drawing to a close and the new government has other quixotic issues to waste years of time on, we will finally see a put up or shut up  day of reckoning – for both sides- sooner rather than later. This winter we may well see some actual results.  Based on the combination of 2017 technology and 300 million year old rocks,  the results may promise to be even more interesting than they could have been five years ago.  To those of us who have managed to survive, it may well be worth the wait.  Or perhaps not.  Even a failure of UK shale would settle things and allow an educated discussion of other UK energy options. Shale has been the elephant in the room that blocks all other energy projects too. The question has to be settled sooner or later, one way or the other, for everyone’s benefit.

FoE can commit their own lawyers’s time and risk their money on helping this cause.  But just as in shale exploration, investment from partners often depends on a complex web.  One thing that may be putting FoE off is that the donations from Frack Free Ryedale ‘s side are underwhelming with £618 out of £10K raised as of August 3.  Why should they run all the risk.  People have mouths – but sometimes you have to show them your money and FF Ryedale and their allies are neither putting up or shutting up. Insiders at FoE have told me that the Brexit referendum also counts in the calculations.  FoE, in line with most greens, and most of the onshore industry too, see Brexit as the real issue.  But as the insider from FoE notes, their allies in North Yorkshire and Lancashire voted two to one, not for the Earth, or Europe, but for selfishness and nimbyism. This highlights the essential clash of cultures in the shale battle between climate campaigners with progressive values and nimbys who are obsessively conservative. If the nimby side can only come up with £600, why should FoE bother?

But if it goes to court, even £10K will be peanuts.  So will FoE invest?  They have an in-house legal team so their costs are initially already low, but they run the risk of significant impact if they lose.

Insiders say they could run some commercial  risk for their arm Friends of  the Earth Limited, a company set up to avoid FoE’s charity arm ban on political campaigns. A complaint, long overdue in my opinion, against an egregiously alarming fund raising pamphlet by FoE Limited and inserted in the Sunday Times,


made by both Cuadrilla and private citizens is currently being decided by the Advertising Standards Authority.

If the complaint were upheld, FoE Limited run a risk of then being sued for damages based on restraint of trade or other principles. Cuadrilla would be unlikely to do so , but many other license holders and their potential suppliers could. At the very least, FoE can be expected to tone down some of the more fanciful allegations in their fracking scare machine.

It’s three years this month since we saw peak fracking frenzy in the press during the Balcombe protests.  Since then, nothing has happened either way.  The OGA ran an exploration round in the meantime that was  underwhelming in it’s results, and the press have moved on.  Anything other than the local press seems thoroughly bored with yesterday’s news. Meanwhile it’s clear that the shale revolution is advancing beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in the US, and starting to reach critical mass in China. At the same time, damage just isn’t showing up in modern shale and any point of having a debate based on the outdated Gasland movie is looking as meaningless as talking about solar and wind based on 2010 costs.

It’s time to move on and explore and see if the resource is actually there or not.  Then we can have a fact based discussion on the next moves. FoE have plenty of other good work to do. Fracking has been a money spinner for them, but the green brand is a valuable (as smart shale explorers are discovering) and attractive one and they can survive well enough without the fracking distraction.



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  1. Appreciate the article, Nick. Had much the same reaction to the news that these groups would legally oppose the 3rd Energy decision. I hope that challenge does go forward. From what I understand, if FoE seeks an injunction to prohibit the fracking from proceeding, it could lose a lot more because it would then be subject to paying for lost operational time in addition to legal fees. Let me know if you have any thoughts? Thx

  2. Interesting story from the UK. In the US, it appears that civil unrest in Venezuela, Iraq, and Nigeria can be found everywhere but in America’s oil import statistics! Today’s EIA report has high imports from all three states and Saudi Arabia and it appears that the ultimate law of OPEC is no member concedes any loss of the American market and will fight it at any cost.

    Also, I see that New York state has decided to include nuclear power as no-carbon power which will allow at least some reactors to continue running in the state. The justification offered was if they were shut, the power would be replaced by natural gas.

    I actually applaud this decision because it shows that the regulators (finally) understand that there are many competing values at stake, (no nukes!) (no carbon!) (save the earth!) and to choose one is to exclude the other. Making decisions on this basis is the sign of mature intellects making balanced decisions.

    If they continue this way eventually they will understand that allowing shale drilling in New York will lead to economic prosperity!

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