Category Archives: Fracking

Stuff on fracking , mostly in Lancashire

Why catholics stand against fracking in Lancashire

Thirty years ago the churches were beginning to wake up to the fact that we as Christians should not only be concerned about traditional understandings of salvation but also our relationship, care and stewardship of the natural world aka the Creation. And so now care for Creation is high on the agenda for most churches. For many it has been a new discovery.

it has taken many forms and so today many Christians with a concern for the environment oppose fracking, but almost every occasion they are less than accurate in their objections.  An example is a recent article by Bob Turner for the the Lancaster faith and justice group, and Independent Catholic News gets his facts very wrong  and spins things to the point of inaccuracy. Local Anglicans from the Diocese of Blackburn are equally inaccurate

These type of views opposing fracking are almost the orthodoxy for green christians of all denominations and are echoed by the Environment Group of the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn. It is frustrating to find a high level of inaccuracy and poor argument as this does not reflect well on one’s Christian calling.

 

I make no apology for my criticisms and suggest that before well-meaning Christians make a public comment they ensure that they have their facts right and are not blown about by every wind of doctrine from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. It would also help if “practitioners” [those working in the industry and there are numbers of well-qualified Christians working in various parts of the petroleum industry] were listened too and brought into the discussions by the church. However, I do not see that happening as the usual “green” arguments against fracking would be challenged, if not destroyed.

Here is the article;

FandJonfrackingsept2018

to be found on

http://www.lancasterfaithandjustice.co.uk/newsletter/

and F&J bulletin Sept 18

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/35443

I have lifted it and reproduce it below with my comments as extended quotations

************************************************************************************

WHY CATHOLICS STAND AGAINST FRACKING IN LANCASHIRE

Bob Turner

Following the announcement – on the last day of Parliament before summer – that Fracking at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire has been given the final go-ahead by the Government, I would like to outline a few points to Claire Perry our Energy and Clean Growth Minister.

Fracking is one of the dirtiest methods of extracting fossil fuels.

dscf6016

Fracking for gas is very clean compared to coal mining whether deep or open-cast. Having worked in an underground copper mine, I was appalled by the dirtiness of going down a coal mine. My snot was black for days 🙂 I visited an open cast which was better but very dusty and messy. (it has now been restored and the area is looking good.) What surprised me at Preston New Road on three visits is how clean it is – no dust, no smells, very little noise etc

Part of the myth against fracking is that it is DIRTY and is part of the mantra. If fracked gas is so dirty, why don’t those who oppose stop using all petroleum – which is nearly 100% fracked.

Its production of gas would not be compatible with the targets to cut fossil fuel use required to tackle climate change.

Here there is a difference of conclusions, but many environmental friendly people e.g. Lord Deben reckon that fracked gas is compatible climate change targets. There is good reason for this, as methane is CH4, and coal is mostly (impure) Carbon, so that combustion of coal produces far more CO2 for the same amount of heat , which is then converted to energy.  (I am aware of Howarth’s claims that gas is worse than coal, but prefer to follow all the other 95+% of researchers.) That is the stated position of Cuadrilla and many working in petroleum. Oh yes, I know some petroleum workers don’t care about it but many do.

The health hazards and pollution of water resources are well documented

Many of the US health surveys have been challenged and one paper at least was retracted for totally inaccurate results

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/fracking-will-give-you-cancer-not/

cancerretract

This paper on asthma in Pennsylvania includes maps which show that people in fracking areas have less asthma than elsewhere.  – a poor argument

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/fracking-causes-asthma-or-does-it/

Within the UK there have been the flawed Medact reprots on fracking which CANNOT demonstrate any ill effects of fracking  – and admit it.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/medacts-madact-on-fracking/f

There have been cases of water pollution  in the USA caused by bad management of water on the surface. The only pollution of an aquifer was at Pavilon WY where fracking was carried out a few hundred feet below an aquifer and combined with poor drilling practice this caused pollution.

In the UK fracking can only occur at great depth below an aquifer and there are further restrictions. Note – the aquifer at PNR is unsuitable for domestic use, yet protestors want to protect it. Further, fracking will take place about 2 kilometers below the aquifer, meaning that as cracks for fracking extend only 300 metres, they will miss the aquifer by over a kilometre.

There is a risk at surface due to spillage hence the tight regulations on water containment etc. During the wet winter some were concerned by leakage of surface water on the PNR pad – but this was rainwater and was contained by bunding. I did visit the site when it was wettest.

These two comments are ill-informed scaremongering and ignore the controls on fracking.

and the fear of earthquakes is an unknown quantity not to be ignored.

Undoubtedly people have a fear of earthquakes as too many on hearing the word “earthquake” think of massive Mag 7+ quakes rather than a tremor which will probably not be felt. Fracking does produce “seismic events” most of which are too small to be felt. Even the two big ones at Preese hall were very minor , hardly felt and caused no damage.

This is a classic scare tactic as many do not realise how minute  even a Mag 3  quakes is. Hence my blog on quakes having been through the largest recorded Himalayan quake

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/assam-earthquake-15th-august-1950/

The “Not for Shale” campaign of Greenpeace was very misleading on earthquakes

DSCF2859

It will lead to damaging development in the countryside

The Elswick gas well from 300 yards!! This is what will be seen of a completed well!! It is behind the bushes halfway between the pylon and the larger pole

DSCF2846

and hit house prices.

There are no grounds for this dogmatic statement and indications at PNR is that there has been no effect.

It is estimated it would require 6000 wells to replace 50% of the UK’s gas imports over a 15 year period.

Exactly how many, no one knows , but even allowing 40 wells per pad, this would mean 150 multi-well pads and they would be in various parts of the country rather than only in Lancashire

 

The pipelines and the millions of extra lorry movements up and down country roads, would bring excessive pollution and serious disruption to large parts of the country.

Apart from the occasional hold-up due to a delivery, the traffic has run smoothly at PNR – EXCEPT when protestors have caused problems neccisitating road closures to the inconvenience of many.

I ask What excessive pollution?

Further the pipelines for gas are already in place in Lancashire, but few notice them

The impact of one single well has been significant in North Yorkshire, where impacts from noise, traffic and noxious smells are reported .

This was a leak from an existing well, (nothing to do with fracking) and the smells were due to mercaptans which were added so any escaping gas could be smelt!! At PNR the noise can hardly be heard from the road, traffic impact has been low, except that caused by protestors often resulting in road closures, there no smells even on the pad.

It has been said that some local businesses have closed and the community is divided.

“It has been said” is simply speculative. However local businesses have suffered through the protestors. Rather than make unfounded assertions evidence should be provided.

Which businesses have closed?

As for dividing communities protestors and NGOs have done that well!

The combined impact of over 6,000 wells would be wide-ranging and severe…. a far cry from the wonderful opportunities that are laid out in Cuadrilla’s glossy brochure.

It is difficult to say what the numbers would be , but they would be spread over UK and not just Lancashire. Further they would not all be in use at one time and restoration would be carried on disused wells.

Some years back I drove through part of Pennsylvania where there was a lot of fracking. I had to look hard for the wells.

057

There were 8 wells 150 yds from where I was standing – directly bwehind the bush!

Cuadrilla, now granted the licence to frack at Preston New Road in September, is one of a group of fracking companies of which INEOS is the major player.

INEOS the hate firm but has no relevance to Lancashire. INEOS is a leading chemical firm, which at Runcorn produces the chlorine we need for our water supplies to be safe to drink.

INEOS produces Ethane from the fracked gas….. a long and dirty process.

Really , what is the evidence? The process is as clean as other industrial processes and thus I presume the author would like to see all products made from ethane be banned, whether medicines or other goods we use.

Ethane is the base material for plastics used in packaging…. the same plastics which we are allegedly trying to reduce !…. However INEOS is building bigger factories to produce more and more .

This is the latest theme in the wake of the plastic straw concerns. [I loath plastic straws along with excess plastic.] It is claimed, without evidence, that INEOS only want fracked gas to make more plastic (to make more pollution.) This is wrong as most will be used for fuel e.g. to heat 80% of UK houses.

This is simplistic on plastics as much plastic use has a long life e.g. in cars, multi-use plastic containers, my compost bin, water-butts, parts of mobile phones, computers, kitchen utensils etc etc

Further at Runcorn Ineos use gas to make caustic soda and chlorine. Chlorine is used to make our water safe.

 

 

The owner has just been revealed as the richest man in the UK with his wealth more than tripling in the last 12 months and he recently received a knighthood in the queen’s birthday honours list.

So what, – Lord Sugar, sir Richard Branson etc  – even Dame V Westwood 😦

 

 

Carroll Muffett, president of the US Centre for International Environmental Law, states that “Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels ……..there is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.”

That is well-known, but why make it malign.

 

 

Earlier this month Ms Perry’s department published The 2018 International Climate Finance (ICF) results. These show the beneficial impact UK investments can have in tackling climate change and in protecting vulnerable people. The ICF has supported 47 million people to cope with the effects of climate change and has provided 17 million people with improved access to clean energy.

There is no clean energy. Every form of energy is DIRTY including all renewables.

The photo is of the foundations of a wind turbine. Imagine that on a moor with a peat bog.

turbinebldg

There is a contradiction here. We have done wonders elsewhere in the world but we appear to be taking a backward step with our responsibilities on home soil.

Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth’s Director of Campaigns

This leaflet from FoE had to be withdrawn after complaints to the ASA in Jan 2017 for unsubstantiated claims. Craig Bennett could not answer the complaints with a TV interviewer. Why should we listen to FoE when they have consistently misrepresented fracking?

foe-leaflet-cover

said it had taken seven years for the Fracking industry to reach the point it had, during which time Renewable Energy sources had gone from supplying one tenth of the UK’s electricity to a third.

As electricity is a fraction of energy usage , that is still less than 10 %. The chart below shows how little energy was renewable up to 2014. Even if you scale it up 5 times it is still minimal. Looking at the chart reminds me I need to go to Specsavers

energyuseUK - wheressolar

 

We have urgent problems to tackle, as highlighted by Pope Francis in his Encyclical, Laudato Si.

 

The pope said nothing about fracking. Repeat 100x

Much of what he says is spot on and is a call for environmental responsibility

Fossil fuels must stay in the ground

Who says so?

What would we do for energy, medicines, and many plastic items without them?

A good exercise is to spend a day not using anything dependent on fossil fuels. For a start we could not use tap water as that is made safe by chlorine from Ineos’ Runcorn plant. Bicycles are out too

That is a misrepresentation of the the UCL paper which claimed reasonably the 80% of coal needs to be left in the ground, 50% of gas and 33% of oil. That gives a very different picture.

Too often activists make this false claim, but #keepitinthe ground  is more important than truthfulness. It does not help over-stating things when the original warning was clear enough

 

 

and we need to stop our binge on single use plastic as soon as possible

Wonderful virtue signalling! The process of getting rid of single use plastic has been going on for years, starting with charging for plastic bags. It seems to be happening without eco-activists!!

The over- and wrong use of plastics is only one of the issues we face today.

 

…. or the future is very bleak for our grandchildren and their children.

sometimes I think Green Christians have taken over from the men in sandwich boards proclaiming “The end of the world is nigh”

This article is like an incredibly bad and confused sermon from a weak theology student!!! as one person commented

“Just read the article. It is an unstructured rant.”

 

Why was it published in Faith and Justice Newsletter and Independent Catholic News? Surely it is counter=productive/

To deal with the seriousness of all environmental issues we need a much more informed and rational level of discourse – and take heed of St Augustine

Augsutine

and realise  that many  will only respond to a nudge to help them change one thing rather than an apocalyptic rant. When they find the flaws they’ll reject the lot.

This kind of apocalyptic scaremongering is both childish and counter-productive

Sadly it is the common ground of far too many Christian environmentalists at present. This applies to all denominations whether Roman Catholics, Anglicans or non-conformists. Anglicans in Lancashire are similarly ill-informed and apocalyptic

To end with some humour

https://babylonbee.com/news/pope-apologizes-for-catholic-churchs-carbon-emissions-from-burning-heretics-at-stake/

 

In the newly released parish resource film Global Healing Bishop John Arnold is asking us to take practical action in many different ways including nagging our politicians.

See: www.ourcommonhome.co.uk/practical-response [12min 40sec]

and www.ourcommonhome.co.uk/

 

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Divest your church this Season of Creation: 1 September to 4 October 2018 – Bright Now

The month of September has been designated the Season of creation which is a magnificent idea as so often God as Creator and his Creation has been sidelined, almost to the point that the Gospel is just about Post-mortem salvation, with only a narrow concern on personal ethics. Or the more “liberal” who have a social concern but are indifferent to the environment and thus Creation.

In my church we are having Sept 2 to Oct 14 as our Season of Creation as it is bounded by Harvest Services and a Pet Service. That gives great opportunity to consider a variety of themes on God as creator, human responsibility to Creation, whether plants , animals, minerals,water and the need to ensure that there is enough for all.

There is much to consider apart from the Big bad wolf of fossil fuels, which at times become THE only issue.

As part of the Season of Creation Operation Noah  has launched a campaign to encourage parishes and local churches to divest from fossil fuels.

opnoah

This follows the partial divestment by the General Synod of the Church of England in July 2018. Operation Noah did not thinkt hey went far enough

This is the blog of the new campaign  http://brightnow.org.uk/action/divest-your-church-season-of-creation/

As our scorching summer gradually begins to fade into autumn, the Bright Now campaign is inviting local churches to support the movement for fossil free Churches. Could you join us in this next stage of the campaign? ………………

Source: Divest your church this Season of Creation: 1 September to 4 October 2018 – Bright Now

Their aim is to encourage all to divest totally from fossil fuels as soon as possible. In their reports Bright Now of 2013 http://brightnow.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bright-Now-Report.pdf and Fossil free Churches: Accelerating the transition to a brighter, cleaner future on June 2018 http://brightnow.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Bright-Now-Transition-Report-2018-web.pdf they give very clear and forceful arguments which divestment should be done immediately, with a large number of references.

If these two reports are the only things you read, then you will conclude that for the sake of the planet and humanity, immediate divestment is the only ethical action. Here they are in line with groups like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, McKibben’s 350.org and many fossil fuel campaigns.

However I consider the whole Operation Noah  and Bright Now campaigns and reports to be very inadequate and misleading, and thus fatally flawed.

Major Issues simply disregarded

First there are aspects about fossil fuels and energy which they simply ignore.

  1. Fossil fuels are more than fuel
  2. Renewables will not be able to replace fossil fuels for decades
  3. Fossil fuels vary in dirtiness

Now to consider each in turn.

  1. Fossil fuels are more than fuel

Fossil fuels are used for far more than providing energy as this picture shows.

Fossil fuels are used for Medicines, Cosmetics, Plastics, synthetic rubber, cleaning products, and asphalt. They could have included artificial fertilisers without which many in our world would starve and the making of essential chemicals like chlorine which means that our water is safe to drink.

oiluses

This gives some of the things made just from petroleum. Try to eliminate all these from your daily life!!

In fact about a third of each barrel of oil produced is , on average, not used for fuel. As for gas, some is used  to make plastics, fertilisers and other things.

Yes, I know, many plastic things are awful, especially the excessive use of single use plastic and it is great that these are campaigned against.

For those who do not have perfect health (or even eye-sight) we depend on plastic for so many things medical.

Perhaps  readers could get up one morning and vow to use nothing dependent or made from oil, gas or coal.  First, you will have no heat, Secondly no water, thirdly no electricity, fourthly, no clothes from artificial fibres, fifthly you can’t take your medicines, sixthly you can put your glasses on etc etc.

Renewables will not be able to replace fossil fuels for decades

It would be fantastic to get rid of all fossil fuels by the end of the year. That will not happen and cannot happen for several reasons.

Renewables are dependent on energy storage to tide one over when wind and solar produce no or little power. Batteries or other storage systems are simply not in place and hardly on the horizon.

Even if they were in place ramping up would take decades and not years.

Often we are told that renewables produced 30% of our power this year. This is true, but often no power is produced as on a cold windless winter’s night. Further electricity is only a third or so of our energy usage – industry, heat, trans[port and when that is taken into consideration renewables produce less than 10% of Britains’s energy.

This shows how energy is sourced on a world perspective

bp

This earlier chart for 2015 shows how small the renewable contribution is. Note the question

renewBLES

This shows the change in the mix for UK energy this decade. The largest changes have been the decline of coal and rise of gas.

elec

And a reminder that energy transitions take decades, not years.energytransistion

I rest my case that divestment from fossil fuels is anything but premature and also folly  resulting in worldwide suffering. In fact I consider it a poor form of virtue signalling and is better for those divesting than our fellow humans who struggle with insufficient energy as well as everything else. I include those  in fuel poverty in our towns and cities.

Fossil fuels vary in dirtiness

There is no doubt that fossil fuels are dirty. Some of us remember the London pea-soupers. I think the last was early 1963 and the soup came within a hundred yards of our house in Surrey. I won’t forget the petrochemical smog around Chamonix when we were walking by a glacier, or the pall of coal smoke hovering over Llanrhaidr-ym-Mochnant while climbing the Berwyns in winter. Far worse is an open fire heating a hovel, but that is preferable to hypothermia.

Of all fossil fuels coal is by far the worst and emits more CO2 but also particulates, ash and radioactive particles. We know of diesel. The cleanest is gas and all scientific studies conclude that gas is by far and away the cleanest fossil fuel, except for one researcher – Robert Howarth. (However, the 2013 Bright Now report accepts Howarth’s outlying ideas due to relying on questionable secondary sources. But they did acknowledge that the switch to gas has reduced emissions.)

From this, it is a pity that Operation Noah did not prioritise getting rid of coal.

 

Having considered their serious omissions I will now consider some

Bad arguments

Discussed in my blog https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/the-church-of-england-and-divestment-july-2018/

The ON reports very much follow a leave it in the ground stance and say

5. The vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement targets. The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone would take the world beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

This is in two parts. The first is a sweeping statement on the Paris Agreement and fails to make any distinction between the 3 fossil fuels. The fact that emissions of CHG from coal are vastly greater than oil, which is turn is greater than gas is simply ignored as is the proportion of each fuel which should be left in the ground. Also ignored is the wide-spread rejection of coal. This seems to be a rewrite of the Paris agreement and rather alters the meaning. Further no one has put it that baldly. The original source on keeping fossil fuels in the ground comes from a paper in Nature from University College London researchers. They distinguished between the three fossil fuels
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150107131401.htm
A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.

guardianunburnable
This puts things in a very different light both on the timeframe and which fuels are to be left in the ground. In other words, coal needs to be left there but oil and gas will be used to 2050 – and will have to be simply to keep the lights on. There is clear to anyone who understand than energy transitions take DECADE not YEARS.

This attitude is often accompanied with the mantra keepitintheground which is great for chanting but does not solves problems of energy or emissions.

As serious is the lop-sided bias of Operation Noah reports, as I discuss in my blog referred to above. The authors seem to ignore anything apart from the most strident keepitintheground position, preferring the one-sided approaches of  the most strident greens and ignoring the more moderate (and in my view more constructive ones) of Lord Deben, Sir David Mackay, Dieter Helm and various others. It is wrong not to mention and consider them as it prevents the average churchmember and minister from considering a variety of viewpoints which are all concerned with doing the best for the planet and to fulfill the Paris agreement.

At best this is a case of shoddy argument, but is very misleading and prevents an honest discussion as other well-evidenced arguments are simply not presented.

Some may consider it to be duplicitous and slightly less than honest.

What has happened is that the churches’ witness for the environment , and particularly fossil fuels, has been hijacked by a group who are prepared to give a highly biased and often inaccurate argument for divestment. I also note that some members of Operation Noah are prepared to break the law to make their point.

It is very difficult for someone, even if they have some technical skills, to counter such strident arguments which are buttressed by claims to be ethical.

It is a pity that there are insufficient people in the churches, who have the technical expertise to present a more reasonable argument rather than virtue signalling.

 

I rest my case and there is much more i could have said………….

 

 

Why CPRE is opposed to fracking

Over recent months the CPRE Council for the Preservation of Rural England have gone in for the kill on fracking, with a (duplicitous) petition , various articles and here an article by their CEO in The Countryman

 

Chief Executive has a column in The Countryman. Here is a recent one on frackingji

 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

This is simply the usual anti-fracking woo which has permeated social media for the last few years. It is long on opinion and very short on evidence and reasoned argument.

Maybe CPRE has gone the way of Friends of the Earth – to keep their finances solvent?

I can understand why some people have concerns about fracking – and these need to be listened to with respect and answered with sound evidence. But CPRE have gone down the route of fakenews and scaremongering’

That is a great shame as their aim are excellent and much of what they strive to is likewise excellent and very necessary. I wonder if they will lose their good reputation. There is so much of rural England which needs preserving

here a few photos of some of my favorite spots in Northern England which need preserving, plus some peat degradation reminding us what needs to be put right

DSCF3172DSCF0118DSCF9119 (1)DSCF0376DSCF8775

 

CPRE are proud of this petition which has got 150,000 signatures, but its comparison of fracking and building a garden shed  is very much less than honest. I cannot see how a group like CPRE could do it if they have any integrity

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/don-t-fast-track-fracking

New government proposals are trying to force through fracking despite mass opposition.

Please drop measures to:

● Treat exploratory drilling as permitted development.
● Include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime.

Why is this important?

From The Yorkshire Moors, to Sherwood Forest, to the Fylde Coast, our countryside – and our democracy – is at risk.

The government has announced plans to streamline the planning process for fracking. If this goes ahead, it will be as easy to drill an exploration fracking well as it is to build a conservatory or erect a fence.

These plans are deeply undemocratic – they twist planning laws to give the government and fracking companies the power to override the will of local people – who have fought relentlessly to halt fracking at every turn.

These proposals could see scores of new drilling sites appear over the next couple of years in the English countryside – with the risk of untold environmental, landscape and climate impact.

This is the government taking desperate measures to make fracking happen and it’s up to us to stop the proposals before it’s too late.

 

They’ve  been going on about this and here is a long weekend read published in Drill or Drop, which I have interspersed with my comments

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

(or why CPRE reckons fracking should be banned)

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

Mark Robinson, Campaigns and Policy Assistant at Campaign to Protect Rural England, argues that radical changes are needed to national planning policy to prevent the threat

He needs to spell out the threat and give evidence why it is a threat.

of fracking to the countryside and the communities who live and enjoy it.

“The issue is the guidance“, said Jim Cameron of CPRE Cheshire, as I asked about his experiences grappling with the local decision-making over hydraulic fracturing.

This was not the first time I’ve heard that, despite the substantive weight of opinion and evidence against fracking

Without any supporting references this is just pure assertion. If there is substantive weight then they must be loads of evidence. But what?

 

, operations were still being approved on the basis of guidelines that robustly defend the industry.

Really, the guidelines and regulations lay down all the predures fracking must follow and agree to follow to get permission. This allegation is empty as it gives no substance.

Having spoken to people across the CPRE Network, and hearing this same point reiterated time and time again, it’s clear that the national framework behind fracking policy is in need of an update.

The shale tide approaches
As a countryside charity, CPRE has been worried about the impacts of fracking since its first brief UK appearance in 2011. Unlike the US, fracking on a commercial scale in the UK would result in drills being constructed much closer to people’s homes.

He has not been to the USA where houses can be 50 yards from a fracking pad as here in Pennsylvania.

Closer proximity of wells to nearby communities increases their risk of exposure to water contaminated by the process

Unless the water is from a local well, it cannot be contaminated as most comes from reservoirs miles away AND fracking is not allowed where an aquifer is used for drinking water. He is simply misinformed at this point and does not know where domestic/industrial water comes from.

 

, health issues

Does he mean the discredited first edition of the Medact report o 2015? The second edition could give no hard evidence

In fact in 2016 Medact admitted there was no data to link the many studies with any health effects, even in the US. The chemicals cited are simply not permitted in the UK anyway. If you can explain to me how Climate Change is within the remit of a UK public health body I would be interested to see that explanation. Quite simply it isnt.
Medact 2016 stated
‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects.’ So even Medact have retracted all their daft claims from 2015. https://www.medact.org/…/shale-gas-production-in-england/

and seismic tremors

Again he seems not to understand seismicity whether natural or that induced by fracking.

, from an industry that continues to prove resistant to regulation.

This is a very dangerous allegation. It is irresponsible if not libellous, for CPRE to make such allegations.

It can only be described as a double whammy that fracking would also stall the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change

This ignores/rejects the argument held by many including Lord Deben of the DCC that fracked gas actually reduces emissions

, the biggest threat of all to the countryside.

Despite these concerns, fracking companies are pushing through their expansion plans with vigour. Just last month, INEOS shale won the right to take the National Trust to the High Court over its refusal to allow seismic testing in Clumber Park estate. INEOS has also taken advantage of government-granted special treatment

This he needs to state, otherwise it is simply scaremongering. What is the Special Treatment?

by appealing for ministers to decide applications which the company felt councils were taking too long to approve.

While companies claim to let communities have a say, local opinion turns out only to be valid when it aligns with that of the applicant.

He needs to give evidence for this assertion, which is a very serious one.

Local opposition is instead mostly met with appeals and injunctions, as the industry turns to a pro-shale government to bypass the democratic process.

He needs to ascertain what the local opposition is, whether it is truly representative of the local population. It is not in Lancashire. Further as with Cuadrilla in Lancs the democratic process was not bypassed as applicants for planning permission have the democratic right to appeal to central government. In fact Ridley’s coal mine was turned down by central govt.

Local authorities are increasingly fighting against these aggressive industry tactics with any available tools at their disposal.

Again, he must give evidence for this and not make an unsubstantiated assertion

Planning guidance offers little substance for councils seeking to oppose fracking applications, so planning committees are making do with whatever they can use.

 

In Derbyshire, councillors voted last month to position themselves against INEOS’s shale gas exploration plans at Bramleymoor Lane on grounds of noise, traffic and impacts on the Green Belt. A week earlier, Rotherham borough council voted unanimously to stand against a similar INEOS application in Harthill, on wildlife and road safety grounds. Three weeks ago, Rotherham refused another application by INEOS for shale gas exploration due to potential wildlife harm and traffic impacts.

However cllrs in Yorks passed it at KM as they did for a potash mine

 

In their recent rejection of an IGas application, Cheshire West and Cheshire Council went one step further. Councillors employed their own local planning policy to claim that testing for a gas well did not address climate change or make the best use of renewable energy

They needs to be a clear argument here

. As Third Energy begins to take equipment off the Kirby Misperton site in Ryedale to deal with its scrutinised finances, North Yorkshire councils are defending a joint ‘minerals and waste plan’ with far stronger safeguards on fracking than the current regulatory landscape provides.

He needs to say why regulation is not sufficient

Yet local authorities can only go so far when the national guidance from which policy is developed favours fracking, given that the government is intent on a shale energy revolution

The primary source of guidance relied on by local government when making decisions on applications, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is vague at best, and at worst outwardly pro-fracking.

According to Kate Atkinson in CPRE North Yorkshire, the industry is hanging largely onto one paragraph (144) in the NPPF to defend their applications, which states that local authorities should ‘give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction’.

All people rely on the products of mineral exploration , whether from the UK or abroad, whether oil/gas, building materials, cement, various metals etc. This is tantamount to saying we should only import minerals – which will, of course, have environmental implications at the place of extraction and dire economic effects in Britain.  This is airy-fairy idealistic thinking, detached from a world where people need feeding , housing and given a reasonable standard of life.

Kate pointed out, quite rightly, that there is no indication that this ‘great weight’ designation is any more important than others, such as the ‘great weight’ given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of AONBs, National Parks, and designated heritage assets.

This is woffle and incorrect. It also ignores the fact that most National Parks and AONBs have been exploited for minerals both in the past and the present.

Furthermore, paragraph 144 also states that local authorities should,

“ensure, in granting planning permission for mineral development, that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment, human health or aviation safety, and take into account the cumulative effect of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or from a number of sites in a locality.”

The key words are “unacceptable adverse impacts” This quote shows that any decision is made by balancing conflicting demands.

But much of this is put to one side as planning officers frequently conclude in their recommendations that approval of shale gas exploration or extraction would not compromise any of the above considerations. Clearly, the paragraph is being interpreted as one where fracking takes precedent.

This assertion needs substantial evidence or else it is blackening the character of planning officers. Note in 2015 Stuart Perigo Planning Officer for Lancashire was pilloried for his report and recommendations. His reports were thorough and balanced and not always palatable to Cuadrilla.

The lack of attention given to climate change in the NPPF is an equally serious issue.
Any fracking operations, currently or soon-to-be approved, have been permitted despite the legitimate weight of evidence claiming that shale oil or gas extraction would be incompatible with the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets – let alone the even stricter targets of the Paris Agreement.

At best there is a division of opinion whether fracking is incompatible with climate change targets. The author needs to acknowledge rather than showing his bias.

 

Kia Trainor, of CPRE Sussex, pointed out how this leads to a burgeoning gap between political rhetoric and policy reality. The government’s new ‘clean growth’ narrative directly contradicts the NPPF’s prioritisation of energy security and the economic benefits of fracking above threats to the climate.

Sweeping statements made without justification

Infrastructure Act

Supporting these NPPF recommendations is a spate of new legal instruments and policy statements Westminster has rolled out since 2013, with the intention of fast-tracking fracking applications through the planning system. Among them is a weak and vague definition of fracking that provides ample opportunity to evade regulations and scrutiny. Fracking is defined in the Infrastructure Act 2015 by the amount of fluid used at each stage of the process – any operations under these amounts can avoid regulatory safeguards such as, independent well inspection and well sealing after use.

As fracking as a process is carried out in a variety of ways it is difficult to give one definition. Extraction from a vertical well in tight gas is “fracking” as is horizontal wells in shale . This shows that so-called horizontal HVHF can use less fluid than an older more “conventional” fracking.

https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2014/5131/pdf/sir2014-5131.pdf#

Yet these definitions would not have even covered the activity that caused the Preese Hall earthquake

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in 2011 that led to a temporary fracking moratorium. Neither would it cover 43% of US wells between 2000-2010 – a country famed for its lack of regulatory safeguards.

Exactly – it is the danger of a definition. Further he should be aware due to his employment that regulations in the USA heve been tightened up.

 

Furthermore, fracking currently defined is allowing dubious activities such as acidisation in the Weald Basin to be classed as ‘conventional’ extraction by operators, despite the very similar risks associated with this activity to those presented by fracking.

“acidisation” has been carried out for over a century. It is also used to clean out water boreholes in aquifers!

Such issues require a much broader definition of fracking and the threats it poses to climate change and public health.

This is such a vague statement lacking any substance. It will convince some opposed to fracking but fails to give any evidence

Return of the planners
If we want to change the game, we need to change the rules by which it’s played.

The revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, pushes the case for fracking even further by calling on local authorities to

“recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons… and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction”.

This is hugely concerning for those already struggling to repel fracking applications using a planning system weighted against them. As a result, the NPPF consultation is perhaps the last opportunity available to call for a more balanced interpretation of the risks and benefits that fracking presents.

The good news is that we have the tools in our hands to get the changes required. Government policy is swinging drastically away from its previously robust pursuit of fracking. The recent Clean Growth Strategy doesn’t mention the controversial technique at all, and a new climate change minister is placing enormous effort into getting the UK back on the international stage as a climate leader. Such a change in government narrative provides ample opportunity to argue, in response to the revised NPPF, that planning guidelines must contain a much healthier consideration of climate change,

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communities and the local environmental impact of controversial activities such as fracking. Indeed, such a change might deliver a decisive blow to an industry which, until now, has enjoyed undue privileges from government despite a torrent of public opposition.

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The ultimate tool we need in this campaign though is our own agency – a self-belief that we can make a difference. The planning committees referred to above, where fracking was decisively rejected, were full to the brim of local people, many of whom spoke one after another with a persuasive combination of individual experience and robust knowledge of the elements of planning policy that would be infringed by such an application being approved.

lcc

 

 

It was uplifting to hear Andy Tickle of CPRE South Yorkshire explain how they had been providing help to individuals seeking advice on the planning system, and how they are soon to host training on public inquiries, with many coming up this year.

Andy also told me how inspired he had been by the mobilisation of communities that had previously not been involved in campaigning:

“In 15 years of working here, I’ve never seen so much anger against a threat to the countryside.”

It was encouraging to hear how CPRE had been engaging with this, whether through drafting objections to fracking applications, mobilising communities to engage in the planning system and forming wide coalitions that sees multiple interests unite in opposition to an unwanted industry.

I hope this momentum will continue this year as many big decisions are made on the future of fracking, and with it our countryside, under threat from a dangerous and unnecessary activity with no economic, social or environmental licence.

Mark Robinson works primarily on energy, infrastructure and climate change. His role is part of a graduate scheme established by CPRE in 2016

Perhaps CPRE need to improve their mentoring of graduates

to support graduates and young workers to get a foothold in the environmental sector. Mark holds an MSc in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh and a BA (Hons) in Geography from Lancaster University.
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Medical risks for fracking from BMJ and MEDACT

In early June 2018 the BMJ (British Medical Journal) published an editorial on the health dangers of fracking. This was immediately taken up by some environmentalists and anti-frackers as confirmation that fracking is simply too dangerous and a risk to health. It was written by two professors of public health; David McCoy and Patrick Saunders, both from the left-wing medical pressure group MEDACT . This is the third foray against fracking by MEDACT. On 30th March 2015 they launched the first edition of Health and Fracking in London.

 

As The Times pointed out it was heavily dependent on the work of a Mike Hill from Lancashire, who is an engineer who has made many highly dubious claims of long experience in the oil and gas industry. The launch was not well-attended but there were three elderly visitors, the late Nick Grealy, Ken Wilkinson, who worked as an engineer on rigs for 12 years, and myself who spent a few years as an exploration geologist. Our questions unsettled the panel, who were not able to give any substance to their claims of fracking being bad for health. They could not cite any health effects of the 2000 oil and gas wells in England. The supposed health effects all involved chemicals that are not permitted in the UK, something the panel did not seem to know.
In 2016 Medact revised the report and toned down their claims.

medact

https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-england/
In their key points they state

‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’.

Having stated that they then go on to contradict themselves saying

‘In particular, there are risks of (i) adverse reproductive outcomes due to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals’

This completely ignores the fact that these are specifically forbidden under EU and UK law as can be seen in paragraph 4 of this link
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2010/9780111491423/schedule/22

Citing chemicals that are not permitted is hardly a public health concern! In full their health concerns are:

Of particular note are: a) the risk of adverse reproductive outcomes due to exposure to endocrinedisrupting chemicals which can be potent even at relatively low levels; b) the risk of respiratory effects resulting from ozone and smog formation, which may affect communities living at a distance from oil and gas extraction sites; and c) stress, anxiety, mistrust, fear and other psycho-emotional effects arising from nuisance impacts, as well as actual and perceived social and economic disruption.

The second two are both tenuous and the third –stress and psycho-emotional effects etc- is particularly tenuous due to the campaigns of anti-fracking groups who play on fears of health issues.

 

When it comes to the BMJ editorial they struggle to give any argument of substance on the health dangers of fracking

“Nonetheless, although shale gas production may not be a population level health threat on the scale of tobacco, sugar, alcohol, or motor vehicle pollution, some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing.567891011”

The words “some evidence” are revealing, especially as they cite the Colorado claims on birth effects , which have been dismissed by Public Health England, who are a statutory consultee on every shale gas application. A summary of the limitations of this evidence can be seen on this blog post.
http://frackland.blogspot.com/2015/01/shale-gas-health-studies-from-usa-are.html

The best they can claim are the postulated effects on Climate Change;

“The greater concern, however, is that shale gas is a fossil fuel that will aggravate climate change.”.

Note that this ignores all the old claims of earthquakes, water and air pollution etc. Probably that is because these claims have been shown to be fictitious. Concern about climate change, (while valid) is not a direct public health issue of concern for either the BMJ, or medical practitioners.

foeadvert

Friends of the Earth give disproved claims against fracking

The editorial also comments about the supposed fracking ‘moratorium’ in Scotland. This policy was a source of discontent for the authors of the engineering report that was commissioned by the Scottish Government. That report in fact found that the process of shale gas extraction was low risk, and that there was no technical reason to stop development. The decision by the Scottish Parliament was a political, rather than a technical or health matter.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11382948/SNP-fabricated-reasons-for-fracking-ban-says-expert.html

The legal challenge made by INEOS was based on the scientific evidence, and in fact, the SNP are now denying that there is such a moratorium or ban. Presumably this is because a judicial review would have be decided on hard evidence, rather than political gestures.
ttps://www.bmj.chom/content/361/bmj.k2397
This BMJ article has been spun in the Westwood-sponsored Talk Fracking
http://www.talkfracking.org/fracking-news/health-climate-fracking-danger/

Text of the BMJ article.

David McCoy, professor of global public health1, Patrick Saunders, visiting professor of public health2
Author affiliations
Correspondence to: D McCoy d.mccoy@qmul.ac.uk

The scale of harm to health is uncertain, but the danger of exacerbating climate change is not

In October 2017, the Scottish parliament voted in favour of its government’s decision1 to extend a moratorium on shale gas production, often colloquially referred to as “fracking,” that had been placed in 2015. This followed an extensive public consultation and the government commissioning six reports on unconventional oil and gas extraction that covered economic effects; decommissioning, site restoration, and aftercare of industrial sites; climate change; seismic activity; health effects; and community level effects from transportation.2
Despite this thorough process, the petrochemical multinational INEOS took the Scottish government to court on the grounds that the effective ban on shale gas production is “unlawful” and that ministers have misused their power and made “very serious errors.” INEOS has also applied for financial compensation.3 Meanwhile, central government argues that shale gas will enhance the UK’s energy security, create jobs, and boost the economy and that “world class regulation” will keep communities and the environment safe.4
Arguments continue between those who advocate the benefits of shale gas and those who claim it is harmful and unnecessary. But who is right?
Like many industrial activities, shale gas extraction will produce waste and pollution, including hazardous matter that can damage both human health and the environment. And although much activity takes place underground, it will affect the aesthetics of the landscape, disrupt the local social and economic ecosystem, and produce extra traffic, noise, and light pollution. It may also lead to seismic activity.
Importantly, the potential harms of shale gas production will disproportionately affect local communities, which is why government and industry have provided various financial incentives for local communities and talked up the benefits of local investment and job creation.
But much disagreement arises from the difficulty in quantifying the risks and potential harms with any precision. The production of hazards and their effects on health and the environment will depend on multiple factors including how many wells are drilled and over what land area; the size and proximity of local populations; how the industry behaves and is regulated; and site specific geological, topographical, meteorological, and socioeconomic factors. The same degree of uncertainty exists for the estimation of benefits.
Evidence from the United States, where there has been the most experience of shale gas production, needs to be applied to the UK with care. The US has different geology, geography, population density, and topography, as well as a different energy market.
Nonetheless, although shale gas production may not be a population level health threat on the scale of tobacco, sugar, alcohol, or motor vehicle pollution, some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing.567891011
The greater concern, however, is that shale gas is a fossil fuel that will aggravate climate change. Although it may offer some environmental benefit if produced and used efficiently, and if it displaces “dirtier” sources of energy like coal from the energy mix, this does not hold true for countries like the UK that have already phased out coal. Furthermore, methane (the main component of shale gas) is a potent greenhouse gas that leaks directly into the atmosphere at different points in the production and supply line, producing an additional global warming effect.
A recent study that integrated the environmental, economic, and social aspects of shale gas production to assess its overall sustainability concluded that the UK’s future electricity mix would be more sustainable with a lower rather than higher share of shale gas.12 Other analyses indicate that shale gas production would be incompatible with the EU’s climate targets.13 Meanwhile, a global rise in atmospheric methane concentrations since 2006 has caused alarm among climate scientists with evidence that the oil and gas industry is a major contributor.14
In short, the argument that shale gas is relatively clean and can assist with our transition to a sustainable energy system is thin, if not hollow. It also implies an unacceptable indifference from proponents of the industry to the global threat posed by climate change. In its 2017 Statement on the State of the Global Climate, the World Meteorological Organisation notes that climate change is already claiming lives and destroying livelihoods and has “eradicated decades of developments gains in small islands in the Caribbean.”15 Around 30% of the world’s population is estimated to live in climatic conditions that deliver potentially deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year,16 and 23.5 million people were displaced owing to weather related disasters in 2016.17
Although we can’t be certain about the scale of harm that shale gas production will bring to local communities and the immediate environment, it will exacerbate climate change. And on these grounds alone, the risks clearly and considerably outweigh any possible benefits.
Footnotes
Competing interests: We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that DM is the former Director of Medact, a public health charity that campaigns for ‘a safer, fairer and better’ world. Both DM and PS were co-authors of two health impacts assessments published by Medact on shale gas production.
Provenance and peer review: Commissioned not peer reviewed.
(References removed see article in BMJ. I apologise for the lack of references but I failed to copy the whole article when it was not behind a paywall)
D McCoy

————————————————————————————————————————————-

The BMJ attracted one response from Ken Wilkinson, who has been adept at debunking anti-fracking claims.
https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2397/rapid-responses

___________________________________________________________

Rapid Response
I am concerned that Medact seem to continue to misrepresent the well-established, and safe practice of hydraulic fracturing. In 2015 they cited clear links between hydraulic fracturing (HF) and health concerns. After many complaints (one from me) they updated their conclusions in 2016 to state ‘based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’. (See ‘Key points’ https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-en…)
The situation is under constant review by Public Health England. They are a statutory consultee for any frack application. They have consistently stated ‘PHE has reviewed the literature on the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction. We conclude that the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites will be low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa… The Medact statement that ‘some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing’ is not supported by credible evidence. The studies that support these have all been rejected as bad science by PHE.
In any case the chemicals that are cited in the US based studies are not permitted in the UK anyway. Only ‘non hazardous chemicals’ are permitted by the regulator, the Environment Agency. This is to comply with UK and EU law. Fugitive emissions are similarly not permitted. As such any (flawed) US studies have no relevance in the UK.
The argument about climate change is not relevant for the BMJ. In fact the Climate Change committee have stated that HF gas is acceptable as long as it displaces imports. Imported gas would have a higher GHG footprint than locally produced well regulated shale gas. The combination of renewables and gas is the reason that the UK (and the US) have dramatically decreased GHG emissions.
Similarly the fact that INEOS is taking the Scottish Government to court is an indication of the poor decision made. After a full scientific review, the expert advice given was that shale gas extraction was low risk. The decision was made for SNP political reasons, rather than technical ones. I am sure that the BMJ would advocate that evidence based science should dictate medical decision making. In fact the SNP have retracted from this position and have declared that there is no ban when the matter got to the courtroom. https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-accused-of-misleading-voters-…
Competing interests: No competing interests
08 June 2018
Kenneth Wilkinson
Retired Engineer and teacher

 

It does seem that the BMJ has allowed Medact to let off another damp squib, in their failed attempt to demonstrate that fracking is a health threat. Perhaps it shows there are no arguments against fracking, unless one takes the most pessimistic view of Climate Change.

 

How to Kill Dialogue

Sadly this is the case for many environmental issues. There is a desire to keep those who ask questions out.

That also applies in Christian green groups……………..

Why do some not want rational dialogue?

The Risk-Monger

Are we entering into a post-dialogue world? When did we stop listening to other ideas? Why are so many resorting to ad hominem attacks rather than engaging with people who disagree?
This post-dialogue world didn’t just happen – it was premeditated.

The third and final part of the Insignificant Trilogy will look at how the environmental activist cults impose their new authority by denying dialogue or a role for expertise. The first part looked at how activist gurus have skewed our understanding of leadership in order to profit from the fear they promulgate. The second part examined how the naturopathic cult populism has created an “entitled elite” who impose an intolerance towards others. This populism would do well to block dialogue, condemn any opponents to the ideology as threats and put a premium on emotional rhetoric. A Jacobin Terror script has been played out in every populist uprising. Part Three…

View original post 5,910 more words

My reasons for supporting fracking as the best but not perfect energy source

I wrote this for the newsletter for retired Anglican Clergy as I was requested to do so. It was written two years ago. I attempted to be conciliatory but the next newsletter had a rant of a response from some retired canon, who decided that I was a climate change denier and generally not concerned by the environment. He was clearly blessed with great pastoral gifts – NOT! A nice chappie!

It is two years out of date but the arguments are the same!!

To Frack or not to Frack; that is the question.

On April Fool’s Day 2011 I sent off proofs for a chapter on Evangelicals and Climate Change, where I was critical of American Climate Change deniers. I never noticed the earthquake caused by fracking at Preese Hall ten miles away. After that I began to hear about fracking and was negative initially, but did nothing until a party political leaflet came through the door (not UKIP!). I liked what I read;-improved cycling facilities, recycling, environmental improvements, etc, but the last paragraph made me stamp my feet causing a Magnitude 0.75 quake! The Preese Hall quake was big and dangerous! As a geologist I knew a Mag 2.3 was trivial. When I worked in a Ugandan Copper mine, quakes 1000 times more powerful were common. The most memorable was at an Ascension Day service causing the organist to miss a note! This election leaflet goaded me into action, or rather delayed action as I had limited time until I retired in 2013. And so I began to investigate.
The usual arguments cited are;
• flaming taps due to methane in water,
• toxic chemicals in fracking fluid
• quakes, i.e. minor seismicity.
• poor geology,
• aquifer and water pollution,
• rampant capitalism
• industrialisation of the countryside

and

  • damaging to climate change . (This is used to trump all and to ignore any other challenges on the above points!!

Cuadrilla

The horrors of fracking in Lancashire from Talkfracking
The University of Google directed me to anti-fracking sites, but I wanted something more reliable. As a geologist, I started with the British Geological Survey, and then the United States Geological Survey. Fracking cropped up on the Affiliation of Christian Geologists and so I contacted friends there, along with more friends in the USGS. It soon became apparent that the earthquake concern was very rare, and low risk, and where larger quakes occurred (Mag3 – 5), these were not due to fracking but wastewater injection. These had occurred since the early 80s, i.e. two decades before (the present style of) fracking started and mainly involved waste water from traditional oil production. That is still the case today. (One friend, who in 1991 wrote the earliest papers on these, took me up a couple of 14,000ft mountains in Colorado and I took him up Ingleborough!) Fairly soon, I realised that problems were caused by bad practice rather than the fracking process itself.
After that I left my geological comfort zone and looked at the other issues. I had a choice of three major sources;
• The plethora of publications by anti-frackers, and ‘eco’ organisations.
• technical material from bodies like the BGS, EA, PHE, HSE, scientific bodies and independent academics
• publications from gas operators.
I focussed on the second group. It took time to grasp the technicalities of fracking. I quickly realised that there was little scientific credibility to the antifrack publications. I used the antifrack material to guide what I should look for and ignored material from firms like Cuadrilla. Delving into all this was frustrating and annoying as I became more and more appalled at the inaccuracies of those opposing fracking, including those in the churches.
The straw which broke the camel’s back was my attending a meeting of Frack Off near Garstang in August 2013. I realised then that this meeting promoted ideologically motivated duplicity and scaremongering. More of that later.
I found dealing with anti-fracking rather like dealing with Creationism, which I have dealt with since 1971 after a visit to Schaeffer’s L’Abri in Switzerland – when I thought I was about to join Servetus in Geneva. At the risk of offending Creationists, their arguments are always fallacious, if not dishonest. Creationist claims on the inaccuracy of radiometric age-dating and other scientific questions were poor science. After many years of checking them out, I have never found any which are valid. It is the same with arguments against fracking, which either universalise from examples of bad practice as with pollution of water supplies in Wyoming, exaggerate, or misquote the evidence..
As a result I was forced to re-assess my long-held views on the environment, not that for a moment I even considered rejecting Care of Creation or environmentalism. For 50 years this has itself in appreciation of the natural world, wildlife gardening, economy of energy use and insulation etc. Not to mention my bike as my preferred means of transport, or driving economically. (I try to get 50mpg out of a Corolla which should only do 44!) I had convinced myself of the Peak Oil argument in 1971, not knowing King Hubbert presented it two decades earlier. Peak Oil came to the fore after 2000 when it seemed that fossil fuels would soon run out. I presumed society would be forced to adopt renewables. Shale gas and oil has changed that and almost certainly fossil fuels will NOT run out before 2100. Rather than adjusting to an imposed fossil-free world in a few decades, the limitless (almost) supply forces choices in relation to the environment. Not being a Global Warming Denier, that means a wise use of fossil fuels. Here for many reasons, gas (increasingly fracked) along with every other source of energy except coal is the best option for both the planet and people and here I concur with the IPCC and what actually came out of Paris in 2015!
I began my journey in 2011 rather sceptical of fracking. It was a steep learning curve forcing me to think more about energy and the environment. I came to the conclusion that fracking was the best, or least bad, option and very necessary for Britain. That put me in agreement with the “best environment minister ever” John Gummer aka Lord Deben, but meant that I went against most green Christians. As I considered the whole fracking debate issue to be important, I began to put my head above the parapet. That was impossible to avoid after Cuadrilla applied for two exploration wells 10 miles from my home in February 2014. Now that changed everything. For two years it has dominated many aspects of life in Lancashire.
In February 2014 I went to Cuadrilla’s open meeting at Elswick and was greeted by anti-frackers at the door. Many had arrived in gas-guzzlers! Inside were various stands and many staff from Cuadrilla and Arup. I did not say I had been an exploration geologist but simply asked questions. They gave very reasonable answers and did not try to blind me with science. I went away confident that they were careful operators. A few weeks later I went to a meeting at Inskip of RAFF (Residents against Fracking Fylde). It was very different as the speakers simply peddled the anti-fracking line. During question time I raised questions about a speaker’s geological understanding pointing out it was contrary to BGS reports. I was surprised that she was supported by a Friends of the Earth worker, as I had always had a high regard for FoE. I became aware of hostility to those who did not support the anti-fracking line. About that time lots of anti-fracking signs appeared in the various villages.
dscf6025

One of many signs near the Preston New road site near Blackpool

 

 

this is fracking

The nightmare opponents of fracking have, but forget that this is not fracking with long laterals but close vertical drills.

 

DSCF2898
Welcome toRoseacre! After this appeared houses were difficult to sell
I took copies of the RAFF leaflet Shale Gas; the Facts, which I found to be grossly inaccurate. I was put in touch with Ken, who shortly had complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about a leaflet distributed by Frack Free Somerset. Before the ASA made a judgment FFS withdrew the leaflet! Ken and I put in a complaint to the ASA against RAFF https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/complaint-to-asa-against-raff-residents-action-on-fracking-fylde-for-gross-errors/ . RAFF tried to answer our complaints but shortly before a judgment was due they withdrew the leaflet. We did the same for Frack Free Ryedale who in Feb 2016 withdrew their leaflet. We await the result over a complaint about Friends of the Earth’s leaflet appealing for donations to fund their work in Lancashire. Some may have seen some of the press coverage of FoE in February stemming from Cuadrilla’s complaints to the Charity Commission https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/how-fiendish-is-friends-of-the-earth/ . At present I am trying to work out what FoE have done in Lancs over the last few years in preparation for a paper to be given at a geological conference. It is clear they worked on local villages and fuelled the local opposition. They also provided training in public speaking in preparation for the June hearings. However those speaking simply repeated the pseudoscientific party line of the antis. My own involvement convinced me that much of the opposition in Lancashire had been fired up by groups like FoE and Greenpeace.

 

foe-leaflet-cover

The substance of the Friends of the Earth leaflet
I also became concerned at the violence, intimidation, and law-breaking from some anti-frack supporters, some of which I observed.
Last autumn, we went on holiday to the USA and as we went to Philadelphia we spent a day going around a fracking area. We were put in touch with the CEO of a local company, who took us on a tour of various wells in hilly woodland. It was more attractive than most forestry commission areas. From the valley the only visual impact was a gas pipeline.

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Trout Run, nr Williamsport, PA. gas pad at top of hill. Forest cleared for gasline

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The “flat hill” is a gaspad with 6 wells. Houseowner happy to have it there

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Well being drilled 2 mls from previous photo
We were sent on a tour on empty roads. I visited one pad and spoke to a couple whose house was only yards from another pad, and they were quite happy with it all.

I spoke to people in the motel, restaurant and shops. One or two had some reservations but most valued the fracking. This was in Bradford county a supposedly grim area for fracking.
My intention from the beginning was to consider “all sides”, and that meant talking to green groups, industry and “official” bodies and academic institutions. One major problem was that many green groups, whether in the flesh, or online, simply wanted no questioning or dealings with anyone who questioned them. I was more fortunate with the other two categories. Academics in the UK and USA sent me technical papers on request, which were often behind a pay-wall. I have had personal dealings with several and have been on geological fieldtrips with others, as I know the Forest of Bowland well. (some of my blogs on the geology of the Bowland Shales have been used by university geologists!) I have got to know staff from Cuadrilla, and they have also allowed me on-site. I have made useful contacts with many connected with the shale gas industry

003

Three Oxford geology profs and D. Phil student looking at Bowland Shales
As can be seen, fracking is both a technical and a social issue and the two are often inter-twined. Often polarisation gets deep and fractious.

So far the CoE has made no official statement on fracking, but many individuals have. Nearly all follow the anti-fracking line and their ‘science’ is poorly evidenced and argued. Most appear to have no technical or scientific knowledge. Doctorates in literature do not qualify one to speak on drilling wells or geology!
This Church Times article https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/6-september/comment/opinion/wanted-a-green-theology-that-probes-fracking is simply emotional, and this discussion paper from the Blackburn Diocese is very inaccurate and biased. The Url http://www.ctlancashire.org.uk/issues/ (go to fracking) gives the paper and my response.

rape
Cartoon to go with Church Times article. Since removed.
My conclusions of my study are;
• Fracking is as safe as any other industry. The regulations are robust. There is environmental risk (as there is with farming!), but has been greatly exaggerated. There may be accidents and minor environmental spills etc, but the key pollution pathways responsible for many of the US problems have been examined by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This has lead to a raft of regulations.
• Local gas will be better for meeting Climate Change targets, provided there is a concerted effort on renewables, energy efficiency, etc etc. The key climate issue is to eliminate of coal, which may kill 1600 people a year in the UK. LNG imports are worse for the climate than locally fracked gas.
• So often environmentalists polemically present the option of fracking OR renewables rather than both.
• If fracking takes off it benefit employment, especially in Lancs and Yorks.
• It will improve energy security and help the UK’s balance of payments, as North Sea oil did for decades.
However fracking alone is insufficient. Other aspects need tackling, e.g. planting of trees, farming methods, peat restoration, energy conservation, etc.
One of the weaknesses of many Greens today is to see everything through a lens of Climate Change, and to see fracking as the biggest evil of all. In fact, Green campaigners and architects of the Climate Change Act, the late Stephen Tindale, and Baroness Briony Worthington see shale gas as the way forward, in progressing to a low carbon future. The myopic anti-frack approach has resulted in polarised arguments which help no one.
This fractious polarisation is often fuelled by certain green groups, who cannot, or will not see the big picture. They constantly chant the mantra #keepitintheground. Sadly, a secondary result of my study of fracking is that many Christian Greens make the same mistake.
Over the last five years the clamour against fracking has not been edifying and the church has made no useful contribution. Many commentators have ignored the mass of scientific evidence from so many professional groups, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, Public Health England, the HSE, the Environment Agency, the British Geological Survey, CIWEM, the European Union, the US Environmental Protection Agency and dozens more. Much of this is on the internet. A good place to start is http://www.refine.org.uk/
They comment on ‘toxic’ chemicals that are not permitted under UK and EU law. They also ignore the hundreds of research papers that confirm the safety of the process. These commentators prefer health studies that are dismissed by health experts, and histrionic reports of pollution incidents that are nothing to do with fracking.
To me it is a matter of great concern whether for the environment, the well-being of people (and planet), and the credibility of the churches. Thus I am one of the many who support a well-regulated fracking for the sake of the environment.
Not all think I am right!

 

Algorithms, bullshit, and the dismantling of democracy; (1) Bullshit

The problem of Bullshit (technical term) in political life. It is also find in most activist-centred groups eg Creationists, Ultra Greens, fractivists anti-vaxxers and the rest of them

Primate's Progress

Bullshit is sticky, and by trying to stamp on it you spread it. Because its appeal is directly to the emotions, rational critique is beside the point, while virtuous outrage is as effective as support in sending it viral.

The term bullshit was introduced in its current sense by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt in 2005, and has been the subject of a rash of books since Trump’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with. I have chosen this particular volume as my jumping off point, because I am familiar with the author’s UK perspective, and because the author himself, as a contributor to Buzzfeed, is part of the revolution in electronic publishing that has made bullshit so much easier to propagate.

Lying is lying; bullshit is different

Lying is misrepresentation of reality. Bullshit is something far more serious. Bullshit invites us to follow the leader into a world of…

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