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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

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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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315500_393800870693304_2100848630_nIt is excellent that someone has had the patience to do this. I have yet to find one reason why the earth could be young and that all the strata were laid down during Noah’s Flood.

At times we here of special pleading but here are 100 arguments while the earth is ancient.

It is important to note that there has been no question that the earth is ancient from the 18th century, with only a handful of naysayers, who rarely, if ever, have any skills in geology.

 

 

via 100 Reasons the Earth is Old

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………….