Category Archives: friends of the earth

Evolutions in Trust, Part 2: Blockchain (Citizen) Science

The serious problem of citizen science, when so often measurements are made by thosue who haven’t a clue

The Risk-Monger

In Part 1 of this blockchain series, the idea of “blockchain trust” was introduced. We no longer trust our experts, institutions and authorities but will happily get into a car with a stranger or rent out our sofa-bed to people we have never met based on widely shared reviews, believed to be transparent and objective. This is the world of blockchain trust – where everyone is watching and reviewing everyone else forming an anonymous, decentralised consensus (chain) of affirmation. Authority is determined by all parts of the chain who participate (and are allowed) on the chain.

The Risk-Monger has long ago been voted off the island.

As most scientists have also been voted off (or given merely one voice among the chain), we need to focus on how this blockchain trust tool functions for environmental health policy decisions that should be evidence-driven. This is the purpose of Part…

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Fracking debate in Yorkshire, March 2018

  Fracking debate in Yorkshire

Fracking creates a stir in both Yorkshire and Lancashire. On March 8th there is to be a debate in Yorkshire between the local MP Kevin Holinrake and the expert engineer Mike Hill from Lancashire. For a debate you need an impartial chair who is not aligned to either postiion. That chairman is Bishop James Jones, who like me has long been concerned about the environment.
DEBATE EVENT “This house believes that UK regulations make fracking safe”
2 tickets per applicant

“This house believes that UK regulations make fracking safe”
Proposed by Kevin Hollinrake MP
Opposed by Michael Hill C.Eng. MIET
Chaired by Bishop James Jones KBE
Please note that tickets are restricted to 2 per applicant
Organised by Kirkbymoorside Town Council


I first heard Bishop Jones speak on the environment in about 2003, where he was introducing his book
It was good to see evangelicals in Lancashire being challenged on the environment, but I felt he was trying to draw too much out of the gospels.
I have considered environment for decades having read Carson’s Silent Spring in the 60s and when working for a mining company in Africa I could see many problems. In the 70s I found that churches were just not interested and in the early 80s the Board of social Responsibility in Jones’ future diocese of Liverpool ignored my request to put the environment on the agenda!
This is a brief and simple summary of my views on the environment

It was only after the mid-80s that the churches belatedly became concerned about the environment and after 2010 most threw in their lot with anti-frackers and divestment, almost taking the lead of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. By 2014 fracking became the litmus-test on whether you were environmentally sound. I failed dismally, but that is another story.
Today within the Church of England almost all Green voices oppose fracking and support divestment and alternatives with approaches like those  Mark Lynas, late Sir David Mackay, Lord Deben and even groups like DECC, BGS are either side-lined or rebuffed. With the exception of the Fletcher/Holtham report, I have been unable to find church discussions on fracking which do not oppose it. They are also usually deficient in accuracy. This is the case within my diocese of Blackburn
Local news in Yorkshire report the coming debate as here;—facts-and-fiction-debate/

Kirkbymoorside town council is to host a major debate on fracking in Pickering on March 8.
Chartered engineer Mike Hill will go head to head with Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake at Lady Lumley’s School, Pickering at from 7 – 9pm
Mr Hollinrake, whose Thirsk and Malton constituency includes the fracking site at Kirby Misperton, will argue that UK regulation can make hydraulic fracturing safe.
Mr Hill, who has worked in the industry for 20 years, will make the case against this view.
The debate will be chaired by retired bishop, the Right Reverend James Jones KBE, formerly Bishop of Liverpool and as Chair of the Hillsborough Inquiry. Bishop Jones is presently an adviser to Amber Rudd, The Home Secretary.
Kirkbymoorside Town Council has opposed fracking activities locally since December 14.
Fracking has been expected in Ryedale since November 2017, when Third Energy said it was ready to start work at its KM8 well in Kirby Misperton.
Mike Hill, UK Expert Member|TWG Hydrocarbon BREF|JRC/EU Commission said:
“This debate is very important not just for Yorkshire but for the U.K. The Govt. position on fracking is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what unconventional fossil fuel (UFF) exploration means.
The severe risks to the public health, the environment and local economy have not been mitigated anywhere near adequately enough.
The wider implications for climate change are also being “confused” by the government. Fracking is not a bridge to a low carbon future and never was.
It is a bridge to nowhere, a dead end, and is in reality a far “dirtier” fuel to develop, in terms of green house gas emissions, than coal.
Add to that the propaganda being spread that we can somehow reduce our dependence on Russian gas and the entire case of fracking is totally destroyed.”
Kevin Hollinrake, MP, said:
“I welcome the opportunity to have an open debate about shale gas exploration in the constituency and to answer questions.
I believe that shale gas exploration is in our national interest and there are strong economic reasons for supporting it.
However, I do so only as long as we make sure development does not pollute the environment, reduces our carbon footprint and the impact to our landscape and communities are properly managed.”
Kirkbymoorside Town Mayor, Angus Ashworth said:
“I hope that this event will provide an opportunity for residents of Kirkbymoorside and the locality, to hear both points of view on the subject of fracking regulations.
I have every confidence that the evening will be informative to all parties and on behalf of
Kirkbymoorside Town Council
I would like to thank the speakers and chairman for agreeing to participate in this debate.”
Later this month, a Government appointed planning inspector will begin to examine the North Yorkshire joint minerals and waste plan, which will set policy on fracking for the next 20 years.
The day set aside for oil and gas submissions is a week after the Kirkbymoorside debate, on Tuesday 13 March.
The shale gas company, INEOS, is also expected to begin seismic testing for shale gas in its licence areas in North Yorkshire in 2018.

Bishop Jones has been recognised for his work on Hilsborough and has now retired to Yorkshire. He was interviewed for the Yorkshire Post in December 2017, where he also gave his very negative views on fracking
Here Bishop Jones makes clear his opposition to fracking

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If you had to change one thing about Yorkshire what would it be? I would stop fracking in Yorkshire. I am seriously worried that the regulation is not coordinated or robust enough. I worry about the impact it will have on our water. The risks are too high. If the water ends up contaminated it could have a disastrous impact on our health, our agriculture, tourism and the whole economy of Yorkshire.

This needs a little consideration
JJ said; If you had to change one thing about Yorkshire what would it be? I would stop fracking in Yorkshire. I am seriously worried that the regulation is not coordinated or robust enough.
I say; At government departments etc eg PHE, HSE, EA DECC say that the regulation is robust. So why is the Bishop concerned. This concern sounds like an echo from Mike Hill, one of the debaters, who claims the regulations are thoroughly lacking and has convinced many local groups and churches about this.

JJ says; I worry about the impact it will have on our water. The risks are too high.
I say; What grounds? This is the standard anti-fracking argument whichdoes not hold water.
JJ says; If the water ends up contaminated it could have a disastrous impact on our health, our agriculture, tourism and the whole economy of Yorkshire.
I say; The usual scare story put forward by Green NGOs like Friends of the earth, who under Andy Atkins (see below) mounted a campaign in Lancashire. Again no claim could be demonstrated.
I feel here that Bishop Jones has fallen for the usual anti-fracking scare stories, as have too many in the churches.
Now back to Mr Hill.
Mr Hill has long claimed that regulations for fracking are very poor. He also wrongly claims that only ONE of the TEN recommendations in the RS/RAE report of 2012 have implemented, though many have challenged him.
His views are widely accepted in the churches and it is clear he influenced the 2015 report on fracking from Blackburn diocese. This comes from his own website and members of the diocesan committee.
The group claimed to take expert advice but the only “expert” mentioned in Mr Hill. The paper was very inaccurate with a gross bias along with bad theology.
My blog on it is here in which I took advice on many aspects which were beyond my skills .
In 2017 Mike Hill wrote a paper criticising the Church of England briefing paper on shale gas, which is the nearest to the official view of the church;
Shale Gas and Fracking A Briefing Paper from the Mission and Public Affairs Council and the Environment Working Group of the Church of England December 2016
Here is Hill’s   review

Hill makes a lot of charges againon Shale Gas and Fracking is to be found on his website Shale Gas Office.


was used by the Blackburn environment Group to show why the Flectcher/Holtham paper was misguided; Among other things nearly all the references Hill uses are his own UNPUBLISHED papers.
I do wonder whether the Bishop’s concern for regulation comes from Mr Hill

So much for Mr Hill,  back to Bishop Jones and to consider his previous connections with fracking.. Many will know of Friends of the Earth campaign in Lancashire against Cuadrilla. FoE were involved since 2011 and encouraged by their CEO Andy Atkins. Atkins visited anti-fracking groups in Lancashire on several occasions and gave some environmental awards. It culminated with the ruling of the Advertising Standards Authority against their leaflet seeking funds of their work
Andy Atkins was CEO of Friends of the Earth from c2010 to 2015 and encouraged the anti-fracking campaign in Lancashire, yet Jones praises him
“Andy (pictured) has been described as ‘one of the leading environmentalists’ by former Bishop of Liverpool Rt Rev James Jones, who chaired the independent panel on the Hillsborough disaster. ‘He’ll lead not only A Rocha UK – but also the whole Church – to a new level of action towards the earthing of heaven,’ said the bishop.”

Jones along with 3 other retired bishops and numbers of clergy wrote this letter to the Guardian to divest from Exxon-mobil. There is not space here but some of the arguments are contentious and one-sided.

To conclude it is difficult to see Bishop Jones as an impartial chair for this debate as he is clearly anti-fracking and biased against petroleum.
All in all for a long time he has supported a negative view of fracking , repeats their myths and seems to back FoE

To it, does not bode well for a debate like this.

Mark Lynas – On why GMOs are vital to food security in our world


This is an excellent address by Mark Lynas on the value of GMOs

One of the annoying things about the environmental movement today are those who apply heresy tests to anyone claiming to be green.

GMO EU action

and so;

If you don’t regard GMO as frankenstein food you hate the environment


If you don’t only eat Organic food you are doomed to a green hell

If you don’t hate Glyphosphate then you are poisoning the earth and our food

If you support nuclear energy, you deserve the green version of being nuked.

If you don’t support divestment from fossil fuels, you are a shill for the coal industry

If you support fracking you don’t give a damn about climate change and are a shill for Big Oil.


Sadly, I have only taken a little poetic licence there, but sadly these attitudes are only too common. They are essentially the views of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who possibly do more damage to the environment and humanity than anyone else


Anyway ignore my rant and read Mark Lynas


Source: Mark Lynas – Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference 2018

Take the Pro-Truth Pledge (because we’re all fallible)

Not all like signing pleadges like this, but it very relevant today.

LPolitics is plagued by fakenews and post-truth as it seems politicians compete with each other to spew out the most blantant post-truth aka lies.

It is equally bad when science impinges on daily lives. We all know of the post-truth of Creationists, which is often deliberate. But we see the same on GMOs and glyphosphate. On climate change we have the fake news and post-truth from the extreme climate deniers to the radical activists like Bill McKibbin, Friends of the Earth and Christian groups like Operation Noah. I don’t who are the worst

And then there is fracking, and antifrackers have got post-truth down to fine art.

Read and enjoy, but only after you have marked, learned and inwardly digested

Even if you do not sign the pledge, make sure that you carry it out by sharing, honouring and encouraging truth and show no quarter to those who persistently do not

This is another pertinent post from Paul Braterman

Primate's Progress

Pro-Truth Pledge LogoI  learnt about this pledge from the Skeptic Reading Room. And while I generally loathe public pledges (too much virtue signalling for my liking), I am making an exception for this one, in response to our exceptional times. And the fine print makes admirable reading. Besides,  several hundred public figures and organizations have signed it, including Steven Pinker and Peter Singer, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for me. Many dozens of politicians have signed it as well, and one of the aims is to persuade more to do so, and hold them accountable.

Truth matters. Propagating untruth is big business and big politics. The traditional guardians of truth have abdicated, are compromised, or lack traction. By default, the job of protecting truth falls to us. We need to take our responsibility seriously.

We are all drawn towards confirmation bias, group think (our own group, of course!)…

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Scaremongering on health effects of fracking in Lancashire

17th November 2017. Today Gina Dowding and 11 others were found guilty of obstructing the public highway outside the fracking site on Preston New Road in July 2017. Of these 12 3 were various councillors and all argued about their concerns for health and water contamination and appealed to the slogan #wesaidno. dowding said after the hearing that they opposed this “pernicious and perverted ” industry

Here is drillordrop’s  account!!

Dowding has been active in opposing shale gas, mostly on health grounds, for several years, despite her concerns not being accepted by Public Health England and other bodies. Her claims are not upheld by Public Health England and thus were rejected by the chief planning officer of Lancs County Council in 2015. She wrote up her claims for the CIEH in 2014 and here is a brief rebuttal of them. It seems that in the last three years these personal unsubstantiated opinions have not changed.


I find it concerning that a health professional rejects the findings of Public Health England along with her fellow protesters.

It is difficult not to see her concerns as rather hyped and not founded in proper research, but this is the approach of many who oppose fracking  – and the Green Party


Lancashire County Council has recently considered the health impact of two proposed fracking sites. Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green Party councillor and a former NHS health promotion officer, outlines her personal view of the key health risks.

The CIEH’s assessment of the risks is available here:



1. Climate Change
The greatest threat to future wellbeing is climate change. It is now recognised that 70 per cent of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid more than two degrees of global warming. It is imperative that the UK takes the lead on this and concentrates on investment in renewable energy development instead of new fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently issued again stark warnings that urgent action is required now.

A popular and simplistic argument. She does not say which fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and doesn’t point out shale gas is cleaner than coal and thus the best solution now, in the absence of anything better. Further renewables produce only 5% of world’s energy so there cannot be a rapid transition. In the USA use of gas has resulted in a reduction of emissions thus help Climate Change. The IPCC saw an important place for the use of shale gas, so this reflects an incomplete reading of the IPCC reports

This shows how much energy must be produced to replace fossil fuels


2. Air quality
Venting and incomplete flaring of shale gas will lead to the release of benzenes and other known carcinogens. In the US fugitive gas levels around sites have been found to be up to 100 times more than predicted.

There will be no venting and flaring when drilling is complete. She is misinformed here. Further, flaring only happens before production if at all. Venting or flaring is simply losing money. What evidence does she have of benzenes and carcinogens? That sounds a scarestory. On fugitive levels this seems like an allusion to the discredited Howarth paper

3. Water pollution

The risk of well leaks is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix. Studies (such as by Schlumberger published in Oilfield Review) admit that 6 per cent of wells leak immediately with 50 per cent leaking in 15 years – leaving a potential toxic legacy that may irreversibly damage underground water supplies.

This is just nonsense. Out of 2200 wells on the English mainland only a few have had minor leaks. Again much exaggeration

4. Flowback Fluid
The flowback fluid produced by the process contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials. There are concerns about sufficient capacity to treat hazardous: In Lancashire and at peak times one of the proposed sites alone will utilise a major proportion of the available treatment capacity within 100 miles of the site (based on radiation levels and physical treatment capacity).

Yes, flowback is nasty enough not to be put into watercourses, but it isn’t much worse than the Dead Sea for chemical. The radioactive NORMS present are fairly low level Many of us have survived swimming in the Dead Sea!! The flowback from Preese Hall was cleaned to EA standards by Remsol and then disposed off according to regulations. Remsol says treatment is not a big deal.  Cuadrilla have treatments ready for the flow back. This is blatant scaremongering

5. Chemicals
The chemicals used in the Fracking process in the US have been linked to cancers and low birth weight in infants. Breast Cancer UK have called for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing due to their concerns about the potentially adverse health effects.

She is relying on the list of 600+ chemicals which HAVE been used in the USA, rather than the handful of non-carcinogenic which will be used in the UK – Water 99.5%, sand , polyacrylamide, possibly HCl and a biocide. In other words are benign solution despite what Friends of the Earth claimed in 2015  The ASA forced them to withdraw their claims. Breast Cancer UK ‘s report was very dodgy and partially retracted See also Dr James Verdon



6. Transport related accidents
Site visits undertaken in Lancashire show that HGVs with large loads e.g. 40ft trailers for office space and work space would have difficulty safely negotiating the narrow rural roads in proximity to the project sites. But there are long-term traffic implications once drilling is underway. The Lancashire Roseacre Awareness group are highlighting the risk of accidents and the impact of traffic on their rural villages.

This is not the case for Preston New Road and she should have said so. This is despite all the protests at PNR on 2017. This is more of a problem for Roseacre but is not a serious as she implies. Her best argument!!!!

7. Noise
Health effects that may result from community noise are well documented and include interference with communication; effects on sleep, and on the cardiovascular and psycho-physiological systems and noise-induced hearing impairment. Drilling is planned 24 hours a day, including nighttime; it is expected that the noise levels will be continuous for at least 14 months.

This is sheer overstatement. The noise is minimal and can hardly be heard beyond a hundred yards.  Even by the rig, when in operation (I have visited it), you can speak quietly and not find the noise unpleasant. Pure exaggeration. Far worse, is to live on most streets in towns!!

8 Occupational health risks
There is limited evidence on occupational health risks due to cumulative exposure to silica dust, noise and air pollution during shale gas exploration in the UK context. The concern is that there are no specific occupational health standards for onshore oil and gas extraction.

There are plenty of regulations for any industrial process

9. Emergencies
Local residents have anxiety over emergency scenarios. Although emergency planning is a requirement for this type of development, this process has not been ‘visible’ to residents. Anxiety fuelled by uncertainty over this issue could potentially have wider health impacts than the risks themselves

This is grasping at straws as are the worries of anxiety. That anxiety is induced by misinformation like this article. I wonder if any local residents were concerned before they were fed with this type of alleged problem.

10. Inadequate regulation
Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

This is a favourite argument and is put forward forcibly by Mike Hill. Regulations are in place and all aspects are being monitored by the appropriate bodies. Dowding’s paper was written in 2014 and here refers to a report of 2014. By 2015 the Planning Officer using reports from PHE etc concluded there was not a concern here, except demanding that noise levels were reduced. This was carried out by Cuadrilla.

Today 17/11/17 Dowding argued that regulations were still insufficient

Problems of “the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty” were largely inflamed by anti-fracking groups of which Dowding was active in. Of course, people get anxious when fed with plausible scare stories.

As it happens all her possible concerns on regulation were dealt with before  permission was granted by the Secretary of State in late 2016.

IARC bombshell: WHO’s cancer agency ‘edited out’ draft findings glyphosate non-carcinogenic

co5erk4w8aafvlnI need to buy some more round-up as the best and safest weedkiller going. I was recommended it over 30 years ago by conservation groups.

This article and Reuters shows how some groups are manipulating the science on Round-up aka Glysphosphate and throwing in all the Monsanto did this nonsense


The World Health Organization’s cancer agency dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review of the weedkiller glyphosate that were at odds with

Source: IARC bombshell: WHO’s cancer agency ‘edited out’ draft findings glyphosate non-carcinogenic