Thursday, 14 August 2014

Fracking: "smoke and mirrors"

Fracking is proving very contentious, throwing up all sorts of other issues, such as its potential impact on the environment, whether or not it is actually a viable energy source, the invasiveness and scale of the technology and the possible effects on local residents:
Futures Forum: Fracking in National Parks and AONBs? ... "Questions remain about whether the American shale revolution can be replicated in the UK "
Futures Forum: "Allowing fracking companies to drill on private land without first requiring a landowner’s permission." ... or ... "Neighborhood Environmentalism: Toward Democratic Energy"

The latest news concerns possible subterfuge:

Want to know how fracking will affect you? Sorry, that's a state secret!

Geoffrey Lean is Britain's longest-serving environmental correspondent, having pioneered reporting on the subject almost 40 years ago.
August 11th, 2014

612 Comments Comment on this article

Another week, another fracking fiasco. The Government has just published a report on the likely effects of the drilling on Britain's countryside communities – including its possible impact on house prices – that is so heavily redacted it might instead be devoted to a military assessment of options for intervention in Iraq.

Rightly or wrongly, it can only raise suspicions in Middle Britain that ministers and the industry have a lot to hide on how fracking will affect its vital interests. And this would make it even harder for them to get the “social licence” of public support that they acknowledge will be essential if the exploration and exploitation of shale oil and gas is to succeed.

The report – Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, published (if that's the word) by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – accepts that “large numbers of rural communities may be affected by the expansion of shale gas activities in the North East, West and southern regions of England”. But it then effectively treats how they will be impacted as top secret.

The extent to which the report has been blacked out is almost paranoically Putinesque. Some 58 passages appear to have been redacted in just 13 pages, entirely emasculating some sections. Three paragraphs out of six seem to have been cut from the section on effects on house prices, two out of four from the one on those on local services.

The report's conclusions are reduced to eleven lines – overwhelmingly devoted to the financial inducements ministers and the industry are offering councils and communities that accept fracking – surrounded by 16 redacted passages. Most ludicrous of all, the report says it has examined a third “major social impact” besides the impacts on property prices and local services, but refuses to tell us what it is, let alone what was found: the section's title and all its 12 paragraphs have been entirely excised.

Want to know how fracking will affect you? Sorry, that's a state secret! – Telegraph Blogs
From polls to protests, the shale gas industry is its own worst enemy - 14 Aug 2014 - James' Blog: a blog from BusinessGreen.
Fracking impact was censored 63 times in 13 pages, Defra reports | Mail Online
Government slammed over fracking 'cover-up' as it releases heavily-censored report - Manchester Evening News

With comment locally:

Govt attempts to cover up fracking impact?

Monday, 11 August 2014 2 Comments by Claire

Below is a BBC story about an apparent attempt by the government to cover up the impact of fracking in rural areas - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28739374

A Green Party MP has accused the government of having “something to hide” after the publication of a partly redacted analysis of the potential effects of fracking for shale gas.

Speaking on the Today programme, Caroline Lucas said the report “would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because there is just so much of it that has been blacked out”. The only conclusion you can draw from looking at this report is that the government has something to hide and I think we need to know what it is,” she added.

Key parts of an official analysis, examining how the controversial technique might affect rural areas, including the effect on house prices, were redacted before publication.

In a statement, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs told the BBC: “There is no evidence that house prices have been affected in over half a century of oil and gas exploration in the UK or evidence that this would be the case with shale. The government believes that shale has a positive part to play in our future energy mix.”


1. At 04:40 pm on 11th Aug Sandra Semple wrote:

The USA is about 40 times bigger than the UK and much fracking takes place in more isolated areas. US house prices are more stable than UK house prices as, when you take out a mortgage, you get a fixed rate for the full term and, because, generally US homes outside cities are larger than UK homes and on larger plots so people move less often and extend their homes more frequently.

So, to compare the UK situation to the US situation is like comparing EDDC with the Nobel Prize institution - you can’t.

2. At 10:59 am on 12th Aug Paul wrote:

The redacted report can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337654/RFI6751_Draft_Shale_Gas_Rural_economy_impact_report.pdf
and the accompanying letter at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337645/RFI6751_Economics_of_Shale_Gas_Redacted.pdf

For me the issues are about the impact it will have on the local residents and NOT about house prices which are only a reflection of this impact.

Govt attempts to cover up fracking impact? - Claire Wright
BBC News - Green MP: 'Government has something to hide' over fracking

Meanwhile, there has been another argument over what exactly is what:

Fracking backed by majority in the UK, gas group says

11 August 2014

Results from test drilling for shale gas at Barton Moss, Salford are being analysed

Extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - enjoys widespread support, according to a trade body representing the UK oil and gas industry.

A survey carried out by the research group Populus for UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) found 57% were in favour. The poll of 4,000 people found that 16% were opposed, and 27% where undecided about the controversial process.

But Greenpeace said the survey was flawed because it was not independent.

The survey found that nearly three fifths (59%) of people would be willing to see natural gas from shale production go ahead as long as it forms part of a mix that includes renewable energy sources, with only 12% disagreeing.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: "More than four out of five of us heat our homes with gas, and Britain's shale resource gives us the opportunity to become less dependent on foreign energy supplies, create tens of thousands of jobs and support our manufacturing industries. Shale gas and renewables are complementary, and our survey confirms that the public would like to see a balanced mix that includes both sources of energy," Mr Cronin said.

'Smoke and mirrors'

But a Greenpeace spokesman said: "Surely it's no coincidence that the only survey out there showing this level of public support for fracking has been commissioned by the industry lobby. All independent polls show less than half of Britain backs shale drilling. This is just more smoke and mirrors to hide the obvious fact that fracking remains a highly controversial industry, far less popular than clean and safe alternatives like wind and solar."

Earlier this year, a similar-sized poll carried out by the University of Nottingham found that just under half of those questioned supported fracking, while 31% were opposed.

BBC News - Fracking backed by majority in the UK, gas group says
Shale gas has support of majority - Telegraph
Share the bad news – and the bonanza – on fracking - Telegraph

... with another opinion poll, commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change contradicting these same findings:

Government survey finds support for fracking has fallen to 24%

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 By Jemma Collins

Photo: greensefa via Flickr

A survey released on Tuesday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has contradicted findings from a trade body earlier this week. The new poll found less than a quarter of Brits said they support shale gas extraction, a decline since the previous survey in March.

The DECC public opinion tracker ‘wave 10’ also found continued high levels of support for renewable energy and a drop in support for nuclear power. When asked about fracking, almost half of respondents were neutral on the issue and 24% people were opposed to it.

This contradicts findings from a survey commissioned by a trade body for the UK oil and gas industry on Monday. They found over half of respondents support shale gas production. The Populus survey was commissioned by UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) and asked respondents,“From what you know, do you think the UK should produce natural gas from shale?” after a detailed briefing on the benefits on shale gas production. UKOOG results were also in contrast to poll results from Nottingham University that suggest support for fracking is declining.

The government argues hydraulic fracking, or fracking is needed to secure Britain’s energy for the future, however many environmentalists have voiced their opposition as it has been linked to earthquakes and water contamination.

The process involves blasting water at shale rocks in order to release shale gas. The practice is controversial and just this week campaign group No Dash for Gas announced thousands are planning to protest against fracking in Lancashire.

Data from the DECC was collected between June 25 and 29 and fieldwork was conducted by the research company, TNS BMRB. Over 2,000 households in the UK were surveyed and environmental groups welcomed the results.

Greenpeace UK chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr said, “Less than a quarter of the British public now support fracking generally, and there is even less support when drilling happens locally. Shale drilling is far less popular than clean alternatives like solar and wind, yet it enjoys preferential treatment from ministers.  The government’s official numbers contrast sharply with the dubious figures from the industry released [earlier this week], and cannot disguise how Cameron’s ‘all out for shale’ push is turned into a politically toxic mix of hype, spin, and secrecy.”

Photo: greensefa via Flickr

Government survey finds support for fracking has fallen to 24% - Blue and Green Tomorrow

It does seem to be a matter of presentation:
Public back fracking . . . depending on how you ask the question | The Times

Here is another spat over who has the right to say what:
Scientist who gave evidence against fracking site accused of claiming false qualifications - Telegraph

In fact, there is quite a 'media war' going on:
"Fair And Balanced": Fox News Leans Towards Fracking | Blog | Media Matters for America

Here's an attempt to look at the picture in a fair and balanced way:
Arguments for and against fracking

Meanwhile, anti-fracking protests are now gathering in Lancashire:
BBC News - Cuadrilla fracking protest camp set up in Little Plumpton
Fracking protesters set up camp in Lancashire | Granada - ITV News

A report from the BBC today highlights how the issue will affect next year's elections:

Fracking threatens tremors in general election

14 August 2014 By Emma Bishop Political reporter

Related Stories
New fracking land rules proposed
Q&A: What is fracking?
Fracking protesters at PM's home

"Every time ministers open their mouths to claim that fracking must start everywhere around Britain, and not just in carefully selected and remote areas, they lose thousands of Tory votes."

These words, from George Osborne's father-in-law Lord Howell in May this year, go some way to explaining why fracking - the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock - is already one of the issues to watch out for in the run-up to next year's general election.

The coalition government has thrown its support behind it, with an Infrastructure Bill containing measures to change trespass laws to facilitate fracking, incentives offered to local communities for accommodating fracking, generous tax breaks for the fracking industry, and a new oil and gas "licensing round" which has opened up almost half the country to the potential of exploratory drilling.

Although the government's position is clear, it is less so within political parties...

BBC News - Fracking threatens tremors in general election

The issue is not so clear on many fronts. Here are some of the many
Wind farm 'needs 700 times more land than fracking site' - Telegraph
A new look at what's in 'fracking' fluids raises red flags
There’s Still a Lot We Don’t Know About Fracking Chemicals
10 Years Into the Fracking Boom, Wildlife Effects Still Unknown | InsideClimate News

Perhaps a little satire will help:

Fire Water Burn:

Completely Sane Colorado Republican Explains Fracking Perfectly Fine, Since Water Has Always Caught Fire

by Doktor Zoom Aug 12 4:29 pm 2014

Colorado state Senator Randy Baumgardner and his epic Mustache of Justice may have failed in their quest to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall — as it turns out, Baumgardner didn’t even qualify for the primary — but that doesn’t mean that the man and the mustache have any intention of letting liberals run rampant with their fakey stories about fracking being bad for children or other living things. In fact, he told Wonkette’s favorite disgraced former chaplain Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, there is nothing unusual about tapwater smelling like an oil well or catching on fire, because according to Science Facts that he happens to know real good, it’s all perfectly natural.

In an interview aired on Klingenschmitt’s “radio” show, Baumgardner explained the real true and natural science of kitchen sinks that burst into flame:

“They talk about methane in the water and this, that, and the other,” Baumgardner told Klingenschmitt, “but if you go back in history and look at how the Indians traveled, they traveled to the burning waters. And that was methane in the waters and that was for warmth in the wintertime. So a lot of people, if they just trace back the history, they’ll know how a lot of this is propaganda”

As an indication of just how vast the liberal cover up of this basic and true historical fact is, you won’t find any similar description of “burning waters” anywhere on Google, except of course in articles on Randy “Mr. Doubtfire” Baumgardner.

Some people complain to the government or call for oppressive, job-killing regulations when their kitchen sink starts shooting out flammable gas. Randy Baumgardner, apparently, hangs a dreamcatcher and thanks the Great Spirit. We’d also like to ask him if he also opposes treating municipal drinking water with chlorine, since that robs people of their natural right to slowly build up an immunity to bacteria.

Completely Sane Colorado Republican Explains Fracking Perfectly Fine, Since Water Has Always Caught Fire | Wonkette
RWW News: Fracking Is Fine Because Having Methane In The Water Is Totally Natural - YouTube
CO Republican: Fracking is okay, it’s natural for water to burn. ‘Indians’ used it for warmth.

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