Category Archives: health

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma – a revue

Over the last few years I have been drawn into the controversy over fracking in Lancashire. Initially I was hostile to it having picked up thinks by hearsay. I was finished off by earthquakes as I found the claims of earthquakes so silly as if a Mag 2.3 could do damage. After that I looked into all aspects and concluded that anti-frackers were like Creationists – either culpably  clueless about science or downright dishonest. I still can’t decide which, but then I can’t for Creationists.

Well, here is a serious “social Science” study of the effect of fracking applications on local communities in Lancashire causing collective trauma etc.

My response may be summed up in this meme

 

Well, here is the paper.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718517300519

Available online 17 March 2017 In Press, Corrected ProofNote to users

Geoforum is published by Elsevier, a highly respected publisher of journals. Among others it publishes The Proceedings of the Geological Association, one of the flagship British geological journals. I was pleased to have a paper published in it some years ago but this has taken the shine off it for me. (My paper was on the discovery of Ice Ages in North Wales in the 1840s)

At present you can download Short and Szolucha’s paper. I shall give some extracts and make comments, which are informed by my close observation of the progress of fracking in Lancashire over the last five years

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma

Under a Creative Commons license

  Open Access


Abstract

To date there have been very few studies that have sought to investigate the crimes, harms and human rights violations associated with the process of ‘extreme energy’, whereby energy extraction methods grow more ‘unconventional’ and intense over time as easier to extract resources are depleted. The fields of rural sociology and political science have produced important perception studies but few social impact studies. The field of ‘green criminology’, while well suited to examining the impacts of extreme energy given its focus on social and environmental ‘harms’, has produced just one citizen ‘complaint’ study to date. It is vital that more social and environmental impact studies become part of the local, national and international public policy debate. To this end, in the following paper we seek to move beyond perception studies to highlight the harms that can occur at the planning and approval stage. Indeed, while the UK is yet to see unconventional gas and oil extraction reach the production stage, as this article shows, local communities can suffer significant harms even at the exploration stage when national governments with neoliberal economic agendas are set on developing unconventional resources in the face of considerable opposition and a wealth of evidence of environmental and social harms. This paper takes a broad interdisciplinary approach, inspired by green criminological insights, that shows how a form of ‘collective trauma’ has been experienced at the exploration stage by communities in the North of England.

 

Keywords; ‘Fracking’; Extreme energyPlanning policyCorporate influenceSocial harm; Collective trauma

 

The key words “extreme energy, social harm, collective” indicate the stance of the authors. To the authors Fracking is a “bad thing” as the authors of 1066 and all that would say!

Vitae

Damien Short is a Reader in Human Rights and Director of the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. His latest book, ‘Redefining Genocide’, was published by Zed Books, 2016. Currently he is researching the human rights impacts of the process of extreme energy.

Anna Szolucha is currently a postdoctoral Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, Norway. She is researching the intersections of energy and democracy in the context of shale gas developments and renewable energy in the UK and Poland. Her recent publications include: a report on the social impacts of shale gas in the UK: “The Human Dimensions of Shale Gas Developments in Lancashire” as well as “Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement: No stable ground” published by Routledge.

The paper takes an “Extreme Energy” perspective and thus is opposed to fracking by definition. They give their objections to it and are dependent on opponents like Moobs, Ingraffea, Smythe and others and do not interact with those who are more positive towards it like the RS/RAE report of 2021 or the wealth of materail from Refine, BGS, EA, and many academics, who are air-brushed out.

however they consider those whom they refer to as experts like Mike Hill or David Smythe, despite their arguments being generally rejected.

They are very critical of the  LCC planning officer’s dossiers and do not mention the activity of Friends of the Earth in Lancashire from 2011, except for the advice taken from FoE lawyers at the hearings in late June 2015. I gave a paper on the history of fracking exploration in Lancashire in Barcelona last year and gave a very different story, particularly on how Friends of the Earth conned and manipulated local communities thus infecting them with collective trauma

Friends of the Earth also sought independent legal advice and, following pressure from the resident’s groups, eventually LCC officials relented and said that such new legal advice could be circulated at the Monday hearing.

This is not what many at the meeting perceived. Many were appalled at the emotionalism and inaccuracy from those opposed to fracking. Further the committee refused other legal advice, which was seen as the committee showing a bias against fracking. I was appalled at their behaviour and reckoned they mocked local democracy, by their refusal to listen to the planning officer, who is maliciously rubbished in this “academic” study.

I give comments on some sections;

6. Exploration stage harms: collective trauma

From our work with the communities resisting the applications in Lancashire it seems that sociologist Erikson’s (1976) work on collective trauma is an appropriate description of the collective harms experienced. Collective trauma, according to Erikson, is ‘a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality’; it ‘works its way slowly and even insidiously into the awareness of those who suffer from it,’ and while ‘it does not have the quality of suddenness normally associated with trauma, but it is a form of shock all the same’ ( Erikson, 1976:154). From the data collected in interviews, participant observation and numerous conversations, and the subsequent analysis it became clear that many particular narratives and descriptions that emerged can be equated to the experience of collective trauma Erikson describes.

It is difficult to take this seriously.  I see induced “collective trauma” reflected in the mantra of one district councillor who repeats on social media “I am frightened”. Well, they would be if they swallowed the false horror stories from RAFF and FoE.

7. Application and Planning Officer report analysis

While the ‘rejection’ outcomes of the Lancashire hearings rightly pleased many in the anti-fracking movement, the process up to that point was deeply concerning on a number of levels, which do not bode well for local citizens who wish to resist future fracking applications. Specifically, there were key areas where the fracking company was clearly favoured at the expense of the views of, and evidence presented, by the local objectors and their expert witnesses. Moreover, the deciding Councillors were effectively threatened with legal action if they refused the application. They were told that to refuse the application would be tantamount to breaking the law, as it would be an ‘unsustainable’ decision lacking evidence, and would expose them to high appeal costs at a time when councils are badly affected by austerity. We will deal with each of these points in turn.

This does not say who threatened the committee, though LCC lawyers pointed out they could be liable if they rejected the PO’s report. The meeting was heated and fraught. however the charge of threatening the committee needs to be substantiated. I saw no evidence of it at the meeting, but I did witness the appalling pressure applied by anti-groups and it was clear that there were fiends pulling the strings.

7.1. The Planning Officer Report

The Lancashire County Council Planning Officer’s (hereafter PO) report published by LCC on 15 June 2015, which is meant to provide an unbiased appraisal to assist the Development Control Committee (DCC) reach a decision was, at best, fundamentally flawed and inadequately researched, and, at worst, biased and disrespectful. Development Control Committees give considerable weight to PO reports, especially when much of an application concerns material that is both highly technical and hotly debated. Thus, the PO bears a huge responsibility to evaluate the application, via a reasoned summary of the best available evidence, in an impartial and responsible manner. Unfortunately, in this case the PO reports fell so woefully short of such standards that they raise the obvious suspicion of undue political and/or industry pressure and influence.

To describe the report as “fundamentally flawed and inadequately researched, and, at worst, biased and disrespectful.” is simply unjust. What the PO did was to weigh up arguments on both sides, which he did admirably. He concluded that the arguments put forward against fracking in Roseacre and Little Plumpton were very flawed.

This alone makes this paper to be totally flawed and showing an extreme bias.

 

8. Conclusion

To conclude, it was evident from the interview and observation data, and can be seen from these excerpts, that evidence from the USA and Australia is having a strong effect on local residents. It is galvanising resistance and allowing people to organise opposition around certain key harms that have been experienced elsewhere. During the interviews it was striking how well informed the respondents were. In making their objections most respondents were aware of recent academic studies and were able to cite their findings. Being able to inform the planning process with evidence-based objections undoubtedly contributed to the successful result – notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s intervention in favour of the applicant. Even so, the whole process took a considerable toll on the local population. It was apparent from the research that a form of ‘collective trauma’ was experienced by the affected communities. This is an under researched phenomenon and we suggest more studies are conducted into the social impacts of, not just sites of extreme energy production, but also areas subject to industry exploration applications. This data should then feed into all public policy discussions around unconventional gas and oil developments.

The need for such studies in the UK is even more critical now than in the past. At the time of writing (early 2017), Cuadrilla have moved in and started work to prepare the PNR site despite pending legal challenges launched by local residents. After the Secretary of State’s decision to override local democracy and approve the applications in Lancashire the residents have engaged in direct action by “slow-walking” the trucks bringing building materials to the site. This has the effect of slowing down the works but also means that the residents as well as the police are present at the site every day, witnessing and reporting potential planning breaches, so far to no effect. This situation will have significant and long-lasting impacts on the local community, contributing to the collective trauma already experienced by the residents living in the vicinity of potential fracking sites in Lancashire.

The political and legal pressures brought to bear on the LCC Development Control Committee highlighted by this research could be a taster of a new normal if the highly controversial EU/US negotiated (neoliberal par excellence) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is resurrected, no doubt through a rebranding, repackaging process, or a post-‘Brexit’ US-UK version drawn up. Indeed, it is deeply concerning that neoliberal austerity ravaged councils, such as LCC, will be under immense pressure to permit fracking operations, despite the considerable risks of environmental and social harms, because under recent government guidelines if they reject an application and lose an appeal they will have to pay costs. On the other hand, if other councils, backed by committed and organised anti-fracking constituents, continue to object it may be that the prospects for a fledgling unconventional hydrocarbon extraction industry in the UK are bleak (Browne, 2017).

I am speechless.

One thing is very clear. The sample interviewed for this study was very limited and almost selected to give the conclusions required.

Why didn’t the two researchers contact a wider cross-section of people?

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

I am afraid this academic paper has not raised my opinion of sociological studies as it demonstrates an extreme bias to the left and simply prejudice against fracking.

It calls to mind some of the crazy things which are highlighted on the twitter account @RealPeerReview

Here are some;

First a Ph D thesis from Salford Univ

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/40411/

The travelling gamer : an ethnography of video game events

 Law, YY 2016, The travelling gamer : an ethnography of video game events , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

Ethnography is the latest sociological study and auto-ethnography is when it is just done by the sociologist doing to be observing. (Check it on wikipedia)

Second is a peereviewed academic paper of an autoethnographic study of worring in a carrel in a library.

***This is the entire paper ***

I had thought Sage Publications published good academic joutrnals

 

Peter Joseph Gloviczki


Qualitative Inquiry

First published date: April-13-2017

Sage Publications

and lastly to get my claws in, a study of nail salons.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1532708614562886?journalCode=csca

If any reader thinks I am cynical about autoethnography or ethnography they might possibly be correct

Whoopee for Roundup! Glyphosate found ‘not carcinogenic’: Key European safety agency joins consensus view on herbicide’s safety

To many Round up or Glyphosphate is the most wicked weedkiller of them all.

It is highly effective and kills everything. Over 30 years ago I was advised to use it by the green experts in Liverpool to clear parts of my garden, so I could then re-seed it. I expressed my surprise as then being a naive greenie I used no weed-killers. It worked !

since then glyphospahte has been demonised especially by the anti-Green NGOs Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

They have been shown to be wrong.

This is yet another example of supposed green NGOs destroying our environment

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

A key European safety agency says glyphosate does not cause cancer, paving the way for the herbicide to regain long-term approval for use in the European Union.

Source: Glyphosate found ‘not carcinogenic’: Key European safety agency joins consensus view on herbicide’s safety

Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

For a longg time I have reckoned Postmodernism is a dead end as it ultimately denies the reality of anything and totally relativises history and science so that one ulimately cannot say creationism is more wrong than evolutionary science.

as Dawkins said “you cannot be a post-modernist at 36000ft” with the cabin door open.

So much of modern discourse leans to Post-modernism with the “science” behind Anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, anti-fracking , climate change deniers etc.

Maybe Trump will be remembered by philospjers as the first Post-post-modernist!

There is much between the lines here

 

 

No one should be surprised that postmodern America chose an antihero to be our next president. Donald Trump is postmodernism embodied.

Source: Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

Simple ways to help wildlife and be truly green, without breaking the law

A useful list of Green ideas from the Wildlife Trusts on simple actions to benefit the environment.

Most are achievable and good to do.

It is a pity so many eco-types focus on unneccesary things rather than strating where they are

 

Source: 30 everyday ways to help wildlife | The Wildlife Trusts

 

At The Wildlife Trusts we’ve been sharing our own ideas for simple everyday actions that people can take, in their own lives, to help wildlife

This list isn’t exhaustive and most of the ideas here are pretty simple. You may well be doing many of these already – hopefully you are. If not, there’s not much here you couldn’t try yourself today. We’d love to hear your ideas too, either by commenting below or use #MyWildLife and join in the conversation.

Getting yourself and others involved with wildlife

  1. Inspire someone else to get outdoors! – share your favourite wild walk or wild place with friends or family (could you pick 5 people to share it with?).
  2. Play outdoors in wild places with children (yours or some you have legal access to!) and nurture their interest in wildlife. Unsupervised play in wild places also helps children to build a bond with nature so consider ways you could help make this happen too. Check out The Wild Network for lots of ideas to help.
  3. Join a wildlife group or organisation – of course we’d say joining the Wildlife Trust for your area is a good starting place but there are hundreds of groups doing great work.
  4. Tell people why nature is important to you – whether it’s your Mum, your son/daughter, your colleague, your neighbour, your hairdresser.
  5. Leave wildlife and conservation magazines in waiting rooms (or the school library). Help spread the message.
  6. Seek out wildlife campaigns and support the ones that matter to you. Read the State of Nature and Response for Nature reports. Check out The Wildlife Trusts campaigns here. If you’re feeling inspired why not start your own or look for people who can help you.
  7. Write about wildlife for your local community or parish magazine – if you don’t have any ideas for articles ask your local Wildlife Trust and see if they have any campaigns, places or projects you could write about.
  8. Contact your local decision-makers like your MP or Council Leader about a wildlife issue that matters to you. You could ask your MP if they support the proposals for a Nature & Wellbeing Act or their views on the badger cull. Ask your local authority if they’re managing land like road verges in a wildlife-friendly way or whether their Local Plan incorporates nature.
  9. Investigate your local wild patch – if there’s a patch of wild land in your local community you’ve come to know and love, find out more about it. Is there a local farmer or land owner you could say thanks to? Is there anything you could do to help keep it that way or make it even better for wildlife? And always report any incidences of wildlife crime too.
  10. Tweet and post for the wild – use social media to share messages about why nature matters and how people can help.

Practical ways to help nature in your home, garden or where you work

  1. Create small-scale wildlife habitats – there’s lots of advice available for doing this in your garden. Key features like trees, dead wood, water, and growing a variety of plants all help to create a range of habitats for different wildlife. Try our Wild About Gardens website for starters. If you own some land (a field, a small wood) look for information online how you could create the optimum conditions for wildlife or talk to your local Wildlife Trust who may have resources that can help.
  2. Set up a wildlife area where you work – could your work help to pay for some pots and pollinator friendly plants and a bird feeder?
  3. Have a ‘cuttings’ day to share bee-friendly plants
  4. Plant a vegetable garden/ patch
  5. Compost your kitchen and garden waste. It reduces landfill and creates habitat for wildlife.
  6. Make gaps in your garden fences to allow wildlife like hedgehogs to move between gardens. Tips on this here
  7. Put up a micro-habitat – bat box, bird box, hedgehog house. Our activity sheets can help!
  8. Rewild your school – If you work at a school could your school grounds be improved for wildlife. Indoors you could set up a nature table at school (or your children’s school). If you’re a parent ask your school about opportunities for outdoor learning e.g. feedback surveys.
  9. Leave a wild patch in your lawn – this simple action helps to create a wider range of habitats in your garden. Flowers are good for bees, long grass helps to shelter moths and small mammals.
  10. Pick up litter – each piece of litter removed from a natural ecosystem helps wildlife and creates better places for people.

Living with wildlife

  1. Buy local, organic, seasonal produce as often as you can. If you eat meat make it as locally-sourced as you can and ask your butcher about how it was raised.
  2. Avoid products that contain microplastics e.g. face scrubs with beads. The two ingredients to look out for (and avoid) are Polyethylene and Polypropylene.
  3. Say no to single use – reduce your impact on the natural world (and the amount of waste going to landfill and litter). Arm yourself with reusable bags and drinks containers and use them.
  4. Buy “Eco” products e.g. washing up liquid. These tend to cost a few pence more but if we all do this the prices should reduce. It’s up to us to make ‘eco’ the normal option. Cheaper ‘own brand’ eco products are sometimes available.
  5. Talk to farmers and growers – visit markets and talk to farmers about how they’re helping wildlife on their farms. If you get a good answer – buy something to show your support for wildlife-friendly farming! A good number of farmers care about the wildlife on their land and they need your support. If you shop regularly at a supermarket ask their customer service team about their food sourcing and waste policies. Customer feedback matters.
  6. Exercise your consumer choice – always buy peat-free compost, buy native plants often (good for insects that have evolved naturallly alongside them) and recycled products where you can
  7. Conserve water – using less water keeps more in our ecosystems. This is especially important in water-stressed areas like south-East England. Fish, otters, dragonflies all share water with us. Use a water butt and other rainsaving devices. Have more showers and less baths. Consider a flushing regime in the toilet (if it’s yellow etc).
  8. Buy MSC certified fish – play your part in avoiding ecosystem collapse in our seas. www.msc.org/cook-eat-enjoy/fish-to-eat 
  9. Avoid using pesticides in your garden – (or if not then make a concerted effort to reduce their use). There are a good number of natural solutions to garden ‘pests’.
  10. Maximise your use of public transport or car sharing – try to minimise single person car journeys for environmental impact.

*who study ferns – check out their fascinating website http://ebps.org.uk/ 

An incomplete history of complaints about Anti-fracking groups to the Advertising Standards Authority

You never know what pensioners get up to these days. Some simply put on their slippers and watch telly. Others are more active and go in for cycling, mountain walking , mountain biking, climbing, kayaking or paragliding. If they are seen hobbling they clearly overdid it the day before. Some even do a bit of their old jobs. They also infuriate yellow-bellied Nanas, who are scared of getting cancer but still smoke like chimbleys!

20140901-114705.jpg

One of us was an  engineer on oil rigs and the other started life as an exploration and mining geologist, so both have a little knowledge of the plethora of issues around fracking. Both had got substantially beyond KS1 in science and thus have some grasp of technicalities. Unlike fractivists they also consult the real experts i.e. not Ian Crane or Gayzer, when they need to understand some technical issue. They actually regard the British Geological Survey, Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineers as having some knowledge of fracking and are worth looking to for expert opinion. 

So here is an account of two outdoor activist pensioners (in the physical sense), Michael and Ken who got utterly fed up with the post-truth ramblings of anti-frackers in various parts of England. Both came into the fracking debate by accident and were initially more concerned at the enthusiastic  inaccuracy of the anti-frackers. In their desire to find out they separately attended anti-fracking meetings at opposite ends of the country. One went to a Frack Free Somerset(FFS) meeting and the other first to a Frack Off meeting near Preston and then to a Residents against fracking;Fylde (RAFF) near Caudrilla’s proposed sites. At that point neither had met, but both the one from a geological background and the other from oil-drilling came to similar conclusions about the systematic misrepresentation and distortion presented by these groups in their talks, films,  and publications. Both, rather than using echo-chambering material from anti-frack groups, we preferred to go to the real experts from the specialist groups mentioned above.

Those with even a little awareness of fracking will know of claims that fracking causes earthquakes, poisons water, pollutes farming land, emits toxic gases, causes serious health problems and so ad infinitum. Separately, we soon found that these claims were at best exaggerated and at worst downright dishonest. Worse, was that these false claims were being widely believed. 

Anti-fracking groups have been active in many places but at present the hot spots are Lancashire and Yorkshire.  They have peddled their false arguments and convinced many locals, as with this sign on Preston New Road.

dscf6015

 

 

For the past couple of years, we have been questioning the supposed science behind many claims made by antifrack groups. Ken has made complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Michael has provided support and put these on his blog. In all cases, the anti groups have failed to justify their claims, and have withdrawn their adverts, on the condition that they do not present them again. This is the usual practice of the ASA. If an organisation does not have a history of making false claims, then they accept a ‘mea culpa’ admission of their error, and this is published on the ASA website. If on the other hand, an organisation disputes the complaint, then this is taken to the ASA committee, and they will make a decision, on a complaint by complaint basis. Please note that we are not promoting fracking. We would like to see the pro/anti arguments be based on facts, rather than pseudoscience. Sadly this is not the case at present The organisations I complained about were.

  • Frack Free Somerset.
  • Frack Free Alliance.
  • Resident Action on Fylde Fracking
  • Frack Free Ryedale

Here is a screenshot tabulating the results of these four complaints.

asa-complaints-results-made-against-ffsffa-ffrraff-by-kwmbr

Now dealing with each in more detail. One is in Yorkshire, one in Lancashire, one in Somerset and the other is not easily located but has links with Lancashire. The links give more information.

1.)Frack Free Ryedale     3 February 2016          1          Regional press            Non-commercial

There have been gas wells in Ryedale  for several decades. One at Kirkby Misperton provides gas for a small generator. Since Third Energy have wanted to expand and prospect for fracking opposition has sprung mostly in the form of Frack Free Ryedale. I won’t go into details but the arguments are the usual ones. However in  September 2015 FFR put an advert into the Malton Gazette and thus a complaint was put into the ASA. The result was an a agreement not to publish the arguments again. 

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/have-frack-free-ryedale-been-naughty/

Here are the details of the complaint

asacomplaintagainstffr

 

 

2.) Frack Free Alliance     3 June 2015     1          Leaflet Non-commercial

In early 2015 the farmers’ magazine The Farmers’ Guardian included a leaflet on the dangers of fracking, which was paid for by a third party. It contain the usual errors………………

My old blog gives some details

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/frack-free-lancashire-gets-it-wrong-again/

Here is the flyer

farmersleaflet-300x264

farmers_fracking_flyer_15-01-15

and the complaint

frack-free-lancs-asa-complaint

3.) Residents Action on Fylde Fracking    7 January 2015            1          Leaflet Non-commercial

Residents Action on Fylde Fracking  (RAFF) Has been active in the Fylde area of Lancashire for several years and got environmental awarded from Friends of the Earth. Soon after Cuadrilla announced their applications for Roseacre and Preston New Road in February 2014 they organised a meeting in Inskip. The presentation was the usual availability cascade. Questions from the floor were met with hostility 🙂 Among the literature given out was a well-produced brochure; Shale Gas:The Facts.

 

raff-brochure-4-page-new-compressed

raff

It was hardly factually and a long list of complaints were sent to the ASA as you can read in this blog

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/complaint-to-asa-against-raff-residents-action-on-fracking-fylde-for-gross-errors/

In January 2015 RAFF agreed to withdraw the leaflet and not use the arguments again.

the-times-raff-victory

4.) Frack Free Somerset   7 May 2014     1          Leaflet Non-commercial

 

Sorry, I can’t provide details but it was the usual list of spurious complaints against fracking

In all of these we see the same old make-it-all-up arguments, which are passed round like chinese whispers. Groups like this seem very loath to check out things with real experts!

Conclusion

This kind of sustained misinformation by anti-fracking groups supposedly concerned for the well-being of local people and countryside is very worrying and symptomatic of our post-truth society where ideology and emotions trumps truth. If it were simply a one-off then it could be seen as that, but this has been a sustained programme from green groups going back to 2010 or 2011.These four successful complaints to the ASA are the tip of a iceberg of a malaise of misinformation which afflicts most green groups, and environmentalists as well as many in the political life of our land. If fracking IS polluting and dangerous then there would be good scientific argument for saying so. But no such arguments have been presented here.

However as I write this on the ninth Day of Christmas, I believe there may well be a volatile epiphany before the real Epiphany on the 12 th day of Christmas. This is the prequel to that

Fracking: ‘Gang plank to climate chaos’ or ‘necessary part of decarbonisation’?

An interesting argument on fracking between Stephen Tindale formerly of Greenpeace and Peter Strachan who claims to be an energy expert and often blocks those who question him on twitter.

020

 

With Alex Russell    from the same university he wrote this hyped-up article http://energypost.eu/delusion -cheap-safe-shale-gas-extraction/

 

A supporter and opponent of onshore fracking went head to head at Westminster yesterday in a debate on shale gas.

Source: Fracking: ‘Gang plank to climate chaos’ or ‘necessary part of decarbonisation’?

 

peter-strachan-and-simon-tindallA supporter and opponent of onshore fracking went head to head at Westminster yesterday in a debate on shale gas.

Professor Peter Strachan (pictured left), of Robert Gordon University, and Stephen Tindale, co-founder of Climate Answers, were giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on unconventional gas and oil.

Professor Strachan, Strategy & Policy Group Lead at Aberdeen Business School, argued that fracking would be banned in Scotland because it failed key tests on energy security, economics, environment and public health, climate change. “We should say no to this dirty fuel”, he said.

Stephen Tindale, who told the meeting he was now a consultant to INEOS Shale, argued: “Shale is a necessary part of decarbonisation”. The former adviser to the industry- funded Shale Gas Task Force (2014-2015) and Executive Director of Greenpeace (2000-2006) added that he was confident fracking would be “well regulated enough” in the UK.

This is what the two men said – in their own words – on key fracking issues:

Does fracking have a social licence?

Peter Strachan

There is no social licence for shale gas north or south of the border. It lacks public support in the UK. The government’s public opinion tracker published in October 2016 found that only 17% of people support fracking. In comparison, 79% of people support renewable energy.

Stephen Tindale

I agree. There isn’t a social licence at the moment. But that can change. One of the reasons I thought it was appropriate for me to try to speak out was because I think too many of the green movement are ignoring the human rights argument but also ignoring the potential role of gas in reducing emissions and the issue of whether shale gas is used in electricity generation is not as bad as coal.

Does importing gas support slave labour?

Stephen Tindale

The Greenpeace 2030 Energy Scenarios  report says 25% of heating should be electric. That is good. That is the right direction to go. That leaves 75% to come from what? The answer is gas. The question then is where does the gas come from?

At the moment, we get a lot of gas from Qatar [25%]. In my view, we should not be getting gas from Qatar, not primarily for climate reasons. More important is the human rights case.

The International Trades Union Congress has done an excellent report on Qatar, which says that however good the direct employer tries to be it is effectively a slave labour economy. To me, supporting a slave labour economy by trading is wrong. So I think the human rights case on importing gas from Qatar needs to be answered.

Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, all these potential places that we could import from, they have very problematic human rights records.

Peter Strachan

I do agree that the UK should take a firm approach to human rights, wherever that should be the case. The UK, however, has fairly strong diplomatic, military and economic ties with Qatar. The trading relationship with that country is worth £5bn a year. Through diplomatic and other means we should be putting pressure on Qatar to clean up its act.

What about our obligation to the citizens of the United Kingdom, to protect them from the threat of climate change?

How much gas do we need?

Peter Strachan

I do slightly object to the point that Stephen and other campaigners take when they start with the question where do we currently get our gas from. I think that’s a mistake.

The specific question we should be asking is how much gas do we actually need in the future? We need to work backwards from that and think about what other low carbon options are available, such as energy efficiency, conservation measures and such like.

If you ask the question ‘how much gas do we actually need?’ you can develop a scenario where we can produce enough gas offshore along with low carbon options onshore.

Stephen Tindale

Shale gas is a fossil fuel yes, but not all fossil fuels are as bad as each other.

Gas is much more about heating than it is about electricity generation. It will remain the main heating fuel for many decades.

It is going to take decades to replace all the domestic heating with electricity and some of the renewables – biomass and biofuels – have very dodgy climate credentials so not everything from renewables is good. That’s why we need other forms of low carbon heating to get enough low carbon electricity to replace not only fossil fuels generation but also oil for transport and gas for domestic heating. So we need a lot more low carbon electricity.

Electricity can’t be used for all heating. Electricity cannot provide heat that is hot enough to carry out industrial processes. So we need other forms of heat, some of which can be from nuclear and some of it should be gas with CCS [carbon capture and storage].

Threat to climate change or necessary bridge?

Peter Strachan

The Committee on Climate Change concluded [in a report for the Scottish Government] emissions from fracking in Scotland would be inconsistent with climate change emissions targets in Scotland.

Research by Nick Corwen and Robin Russell James submitted to the Committee on Climate Change identified another problem attached to fracked gas. Their concern is fugitive methane emissions. These emissions, over the life cycle, make fracked gas two times worse than coal.

Exploiting more fossil fuels is stop climate warming is, in my view, a ludicrous argument. Fracking is a gang plank to climate chaos. The precautionary approach should be adopted.

The climate change issues are significant. By 2030-2035 we will be looking at oil and gas in a completely different way. We might see the end of companies such as Shell, BP. A whole different ethical and moral perspective will dominate. For me it is 100% renewable energy future and until we get to that point we can source enough gas offshore and from Norway to meet any needs that we may have.

Stephen Tindale

Shale is a necessary part of decarbonisation.

Renewables and energy efficiency are the ideal scenario but it is going to take a very long time, even if your objective is to be 100% reliant on renewable energy. It is going to take many decades.

The only country that I am aware of that has a target of 100% renewables for all energy uses is Denmark. Denmark’s target is 2050. They are already a long way ahead of most others, they get about 40% of their energy from renewables.

In my view, 100% renewable is not the correct target because only bioenergy and geothermal produces heat directly.

Carbon capture and storage

Stephen Tindale

The CCS situation is the fault of the UK government* but I very much hope that the Scottish Government will be supportive of calls for Greg Clark [the Business Secretary] to reintroduce the CCS approach because we do need it.

I kind of agree that without CCS gas has no long-term future, certainly in the power sector. CCS in the heating sector is more complex.

I hope the Scottish Government will see fit to support onshore fracking for shale gas

The Committee on Climate Change has indicated that their expectation is that for CCS for gas it is going to be less expensive than CCS for coal. The country that has experience of CCS for gas is Norway and they have been doing it since 1994. They have not been using it in power generation but they have been using it at an offshore gas facility because the gas was not right for generating electricity. They have been making carbon dioxide out of it and they have been successfully storing that since 1994.

In the UK, in my view, the government should focus the CCS effort not on coal but on gas.

Peter Strachan

In my view fracking threatens the climate.  Fracking without CCS is a show-stopper. We shouldn’t even be thinking about it.

Economics

Peter Strachan

Fracking economics just don’t add up. It is a boom and bust industry in the United States. It is also a debt-ridden industry.

The Scottish Government report commissioned from KPMG concluded: ‘If oil and gas prices were to remain at historically low levels it would be unlikely that unconventional oil and gas resources in Scotland could be developed economically’.

If you take the low range estimates [from the KPMG report] of what fracking would be worth to the economy, I was astonished at how little the contribution was. Estimated total spend to 2062: £1.5bn; estimated total value added to the Scottish economy: £0.1bn; jobs created: 470; tax receipts: £0.5bn.

In my view this is negligible.

Stephen Tindale

Will shale gas be economic? I don’t know. Nobody knows because the geology of the UK is very different from the US so it needs to be tested. Is that a waste of money? It might be. The question then is whose money is it? Is it public money? No.

There should not be any direct subsidy or grants to the shale industry. Should there be tax breaks? Yes, possibly, because at the moment there is no revenue from tax so if you reduce the tax rate it might get something. That could be usefully used in Scotland to support local councils.

On economics: we don’t know, we shouldn’t give public money to it but we should be prepared to allow them to proceed if they have their own money.

Impact on other industries

Peter Strachan

Fracking is a direct threat to the renewables sector. Already, as a result of government policy we have seen thousands of people in the renewable sector lose their jobs. In addition, fracking is a threat to the offshore and gas industry. Shale gas will derail our transition to a low carbon economy.

Going on international experience, there is every likelihood that fracking would have an adverse impact on other industries, whether the threat is real or perceived.

Tourism, agricultural, food and drink are heavily dependent on having a beautiful natural environment and water. For UK Plc, fracking will undoubtedly damage these sectors. In Australia, for every 10 new jobs created by shale oil and gas agriculture loses 18 jobs.

The KPMG report [for the Scottish Government] concluded ‘Development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland will also rely on the ability to obtain appropriate funding (debt and/or equity) to support exploration and extraction’.

I don’t think that the banking sector will be impressed by this debt laden industry in the UK.

The recent financial crisis witnessed in the US fracking industry will undoubtedly impact on the $100bn that will be required over a 20-year period to make a UK fracking industry in any way meaningful. That money would be better spent on lower carbon sources. I would recommend that money should be spend on the renewable sector.

Fracking is creating energy insecurity in the offshore oil and gas industry and in the renewables sector.

Steohen Tindale

Energy insecurity in the renewables sector is not being caused by shale. It is being caused by the Government’s flip flops.

Their attitude to onshore wind is inconsistent with their attitude to shale. They’re saying if a local council says no to an onshore wind farm that’s it, no question of calling it in. But on shale if a local council says no they call it in. That inconsistency is not an acceptable basis, in my view, for energy policy. They should both be treated the same. So, shale and onshore wind should be subject to call in because they’re both in the national interest.

Energy security and low carbon economy

Peter Strachan

I don’t think that shale fracking is a solution to the multi-faceted energy challenges that we face in the United Kingdom. Fracking will not help address the 2020 energy crisis we are facing. The shale gas revolution cannot happen quickly enough to address this.

Talking about gas as a bridging fuel is derailing our transition to a lower carbon economy.

Shale gas is the enemy it is not going to help that process.

The SNP 2015 manifesto stated ‘We will not allow fracking or underground coal gasification in Scotland unless it can be proved beyond any doubt that it will not harm the environment, community or public health’.

In my view, the Scottish government can reach only one conclusion and that is to ban fracking in Scotland. Both Westminster and Holyrood must ultimately end their continued fixation with fossil fuels. A better solution is to harness the power of the wind, sun and also the sea of the United Kingdom.

Stephen Tindale

When Amber Rudd [former Energy Secretary] said ‘We are going to shut down coal generation’ she said only if there is energy security, by which she meant only if there is alternatives available installed. So, if there isn’t capacity installed coal will stay open. That is pretty much the worst outcome from a climate perspective.

I completely agree we need to do much more on wind. We need to do much more marine and tidal power.

Environment and public health

Peter Strachan

Fracking fails in a spectacular way on the test of environment and public health. A definitive review of the literature that has been published on shale gas extraction [Towards an Understanding of the Environmental Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development] has results that are quite revealing. 84% of the literature on health revealed public health hazards, elevated risks or health impacts. 69% of the literature indicated positive associations or actual evidence of water contamination. 87% found elevated air pollutants and atmospheric concentration of pollutants.

People should be frightened of chemicals when it comes to fracking. Evidence from the Yale School of Public Health on chemicals used in the fracking process in the United States found significant contamination of water, land and air.

Insufficient weight in the UK and Scotland has been given to the health and environmental issues associated with fracking. … Much of the peer-reviewed evidence is being overlooked.

An argument often given by the pro-fracking fraternity is that we can regulate the risk away.

We’re told that you can regulate away all risk but the problem with regulations is they are not preventative.

If you look at the offshore oil and gas industry. During the past few months for example we have had two major spills offshore. … Just think of the devastation such an oil leak could have onshore.

Stephen Tindale

I agree it is a developing science and I agree it needs to be very strictly regulated and very strictly monitored.

The experience from the US under W [George W Bush] was basically amateur cowboys and so some terrible things happened. Yes, Obama has tightened up the regulations, quite considerably, and I think in the UK they [the oil and gas industry] have a good regulatory record. So I think there are grounds for confidence that it would be better regulated in the UK – that’s not hard – and that it would be well regulated enough to minimise threats to public health. Not down to zero but everything has some risk.

I am confident that the risks from fracking are low enough to be worth taking.

However, it must be very heavily monitored. … If when there are some well operational, if the evidence shows that the impact is much greater than anticipated then people like me should be prepared to say ‘ok, the evidence suggests that we have to stop.’

As well as evidence-based policy-making – we don’t see much of it but we hear a lot of talk about it –  there needs to be evidence-based campaigning and at the moment campaigning is not sufficiently in this area evidence-based.

Other comments

Evidence-based campaigning

Point raised by Kathryn McWhirter, anti-fracking campaigner, to Stephen Tindale

I think you misjudge your opposition. I think campaigning is very scientific and evidence based. You really don’t know what you’re up against. Have you not seen research by University College London shows that shale gas can’t be seen as a bridging fuel? The consensus on fugitive methane in the US is that it makes it worse than coal. Anything over 3% makes gas worse than coal.

Stephen Tindale’s reply

Fugitive emissions are the major climate threat from fracking and the Committee on Climate Change had recommendations, particularly on what you need to do to cap wells when they are closed down.

Debt and doubt

Ken Cronin, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, to Peter Strachan

On your comment on the industry being debt-laden, I think you could make an argument about renewables or new nuclear. You could, if you wanted, create that argument for many industries. I have campaigned against polarising the debate. I come very much from the view point that we need more energy.

‘Beyond any doubt’ that is very, very strong language and I was wondering if you could find another industry or industrial activity that you could pin point that you could say risks and hazards are beyond any doubt.”

Peter Strachan’s reply

The First Minister of Scotland made the statement. I think the person you wold need to ask that question to would be the First Minister directly.

You can look at the pros and the cons of many different industries. On every occasion, I would argue for a 100% renewable energy future. We are already seeing the development for example in Norway where they have said by 2025 they will have electric only cars.

The evidence is clear, Shale gas is a dirty fuel. There are significant harmful effects to the environment, communities and public health if you look at the peer-reviewed literature.

Offshore fracking

Graham Dean, Reach Exploration, to Peter Strachan

In the last five years, I think about 15 wells have been fracked in the Scottish sector of the North Sea. Is it right to frack in the North Sea?

Peter Strachan’s reply

The whole environment onshore and offshore are completely different. The public health and environment issues offshore are completely different to onshore. I don’t think under any circumstances should we be looking to do this onshore.

Onshore, the shale industry in the US is effectively a boom-bust debt ridden industry. The North Sea industry has been in existence for 50 years. The North Sea will be in production for another 30-50 years.

* In November 2015 the then Chancellor, George Osborne, cancelled a £1bn pilot CCS project

Updated to correct Stephen Tindale’s name

Which is better; Grass-to-Gas or Fracking? Is someone taking grass?

At the end of the 19th century fuel for transport was causing two serious problems in Britain.

First, the emissions from vehicles was unacceptable as the streets were piling up with horse shit faster than allotment holders could remove it.

Secondly, an ever increasing amount was needed to grow the fuel needed for the engines of the vehicles, otherwise known as fodder.

For longer journeys another carbon-based fuel was used -coal – but that caused problems too.

Then a cleaner fuel was found – petroleum!

Yet today the so-called green electricity provider Ecotricity reckons grass would provide the gas needed to provide all we need! Really to heat homes for 80% of houses and fuel vehicles?  I am sure someone has worked out the area needed on the back of an envelopes and taken into consideration the winter months when grass hardly grows.

Perhaps Dale Vance is taking Grass or something else to suggest this

 

Even those whose livelihood is developing biogass regard this idea as unsustainable, but, of course the Guardian disagrees.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/18/could-gas-from-grass-rival-fracking-to-heat-uk-homes

But some biogas plants cause local problems

http://www.pore.org.uk/

Here is a good assessment from Lancashire for Shale , a groupwho consider all forms of energy and not just one!

Ecotricity has been granted planning permission for an anaerobic digestion plant in Hampshire. We take a look at its plans for 5,000 of these “Green Gas Mills” around the country.

Ecotricity’s ‘green gas mill’ at Sparsholt College in Hampshire

 

It’s an attractive proposition: taking an endless and abundant supply of grass and turning it into gas to heat homes across Britain. Ecotricity says …

Source: Grass-to-Gas or Fracking? – Lancashire For Shale

Here it is.

Ecotricity has been granted planning permission for an anaerobic digestion plant in Hampshire. We take a look at its plans for 5,000 of these “Green Gas Mills” around the country.

 

It’s an attractive proposition: taking an endless and abundant supply of grass and turning it into gas to heat homes across Britain.

Ecotricity says gas from grass has the potential to provide the needs of 97% of Britain’s homes by 2035.

It’s founder, Dale Vince says: “We now have a more than viable alternative to fracking, which people have been fighting tooth and nail up and down the country to prevent. It’s not too late, because fracking hasn’t started yet.”

Is he right? Could grass-to-gas eliminate the need for fracking and, if so, how feasible would it be in practical terms?

On balance, it doesn’t look like it.

Even if it proves technically valid – and it seems that’s doubtful – Ecotricity’s plans would likely meet just as much local opposition as fracking because of visual and traffic impacts.

The site for which Ecotricity has obtained planning permission is 12 acres in area, or 4.8 hectares. That’s over twice the size of a shale gas pad.

But once constructed, a shale gas well site will be much less visually intrusive than an anaerobic digestion facility with its permanent and industrial-looking tanks, reception hall and silos.

Additionally, a producing shale gas pad will not require a constant stream of lorries to deliver feedstock and take smelly byproduct digestate away to spread on fields, unlike an anaerobic digestion plant.

According to Ecotricity’s planning application, the main road by which heavy goods vehicles will enter and leave the site will see an average of 27 vehicle movements per day from June to September on the northern section and 21 per day on the southern approach.

So that’s a total of 48 vehicles a day for four months or over 3,800 in total – and higher than the average traffic movements that would stem from bringing a shale gas site into being.

But in the case of the Ecotricity site, those traffic impacts would be evident for every year of operation whereas a producing shale gas site will be responsible for very few traffic movements.

It’s taken Cuadrilla over 2 years to obtain planning permission for a single site in Lancashire that would be less visually obtrusive and responsible for significantly fewer lifetime HGV journeys, and so it’s hard to imagine it being much easier for Ecotricity.

It submitted its original application in January 2016, which was turned down in April. It tried again in July and obtained planning permission in October – taking 10 months in total.

To build 5,000 of them between now and 2035 would require Ecotricity to construct over 2 plants a year, every year, which given the time it takes just to navigate the planning and permitting processes involved seems implausible.

Then consider the cost – £10 million each if the Hampshire site is anything to go by – bringing the total to an eye-watering £50 billion which, according to Dale Vince, would only be possible with public subsidy, which is why Ecotricity is lobbying the government to let it cash in on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). It’s quite unlike the £33 billion EY say it would cost to build a mature shale gas industry and which would be funded entirely through private investment with no subsidy.

Putting all other arguments aside, you’re then left with the question of why do it in the first place.

If there was an urgent need to find a better way of dealing with unwanted grass, then turning it into energy like we do with food waste and farm slurries would be a great idea, because it would essentially kill two birds with one stone.

But there’s no such problem with grass.

So what other benefit would there be to industrialising the countryside with 5,000 of these cumbersome looking facilities?

It wouldn’t do anything to decarbonise home heating because the gas it produces is still methane, and still contains carbon that would be released to the environment from the exhaust of central heating boilers up and down the country. So there wouldn’t be any net benefit for the climate, in fact, it would arguably be worse because of all those extra truck and tractor movements needed to harvest and transport grass and then take away the biosolid residues.

A smarter move would be for Ecotricity to team up with the fracking industry and co-locate shale and biogas sites in the same locations, sharing the risk of planning and permitting and cutting down on the costs of the infrastructure needed to get the gas to market (such as grid connections) and making grass-to-gas more commercially viable with fewer sites – moreso if the biogas plants could also accept food and farm waste from rural communities.

It looks like grass-to-gas could be a companion to shale, but it couldn’t be a competitor.