CCC report says large-scale fracking ‘not compatible with climate change targets’

i Jul 17th No Comments by
A fracking well-site in the USA. Coming to a field near you?

A fracking well-site in the USA. Coming to a field near you?

The long-delayed report from the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) was finally published on 7th July, 99 days after it was submitted to ministers, and sneaked out in the wake of the Chilcott Report on the Iraq war.

The CCC concluded that shale gas would breach the nation’s targets for emissions cuts unless these three key tests were passed (as described on the Drill or Drop report):

  • Well development, production and decommissioning emissions must be strictly limited. Emissions must be tightly regulated and closely monitored in order to ensure rapid action to address leaks.
  • Gas consumption must remain in line with carbon budgets. UK unabated fossil energy consumption must be reduced over time within levels advised by the CCC to be consistent with the carbon budgets. This means that UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption.
  • Accommodating shale gas production emissions within carbon budgets. Additional production emissions from shale gas wells will need to be offset through reductions elsewhere in the UK economy, such that the overall effort to reduce emissions is sufficient to meet carbon budgets.

A report in the New Scientist, with the headline ‘UK will struggle to meet climate target if fracking goes ahead’ says: “It’s bad news for the UK’s wannabe frackers. Those conditions are going to be very difficult to meet in practice, which means the UK government cannot allow fracking on a large scale if the country is to meet its emissions targets.”

The general tone of press articles on the report was that it was bad news for the shale gas industry, and this was continued in other papers on the day of publication. Here are a selection:

  • Fracking regulations ‘inadequate’, Government advisers warn – The Telegraph
  • Fracking threatens UK climate targets Financial Times
  • Fracking ‘will break UK climate targets unless rules are made stricter’ The Guardian
  • Large scale fracking ‘not compatible with UK Climate targets’, says CCC Yorkshire Post
  • Fracking rules must be tougher, say UK Climate Advisors Energy Live News

snake-oil-front-cover-268[1]The only two sources that appeared to give the report the thumbs up were the pro-fracking Times Newspaper – with a headline ‘Fracking gets green light from climate experts’ – and the BBC, which not for the first time took a very pro-fracking line on all its media outlets, with the headline ‘Cautious green light for fracking’ on its Online News page.

As for the Government, they did their best to spin the report in their favour, saying blithely that all conditions and regulations were already in place and they didn’t need to do anything else, and ignoring completely that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – a requirement by the CCC for one of its conditions – is as far away as ever.

You can read what the Ecologist website thought about the government’s response, the article headline being, “Fracking not compatible with climate change targets, say CCC.”

How this will affect the Judicial Review for fracking at Kirby Misperton, for which the NYCC’s failure to assess the impact on climate change correctly is a key issue, we shall have to see.

Judicial Review sought on KM8 decision

km8 no social licence portraitOn 7th May, Friends of the Earth and members of Frack Free Ryedale applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the NYCC’s decision to allow Third Energy to frack at their KM8 wellsite at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. You can read the official press release by clicking here.

The NYCC decision to allow Third Energy to frack at Kirby Misperton was made by a 7-4 vote of the Conservative-dominated Planning Committee, despite 99.2% of respondents opposing the application. Nearly 100 people gave evidence against the application, including local residents, climate change experts, businesses and ex-Ryedale MP Baroness Anne McIntosh.

For the press comment on the Judicial Review application, please see the relevant articles in the Yorkshire Post, the Guardian, the Gazette and Herald and Drill or Drop.

Four more reports on fracking

i Mar 31st No Comments by

The recently published Medact report on the health impacts of fracking mentions that “There are now over 450 peer-reviewed publications in this
field, consisting of studies, reviews and commentaries. “

Some of the key ones are the December 2014 review of evidence by the New York State Department of Health (already published on this site), plus four other reports not seen here before:

The evidence is very, very clear.

Anybody who ignores it is either:

a) unintelligent, or
b) lying, and
c) doesn’t care about the health of the people or the other negative impacts, which are now very well known and well documented.

Academics cast doubt on shale gas

i Mar 10th No Comments by

Academics from Warwick Business School and University College London have published an opinion piece based on research funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

They advise policymakers that, for continuing economic, social and environmental reasons, the UK’s gas strategy should be developed on the assumption that there will be no domestically produced shale gas.

They say that recovery of UK shale gas (while still keeping within two degrees of climate change)  might only be an option if ten conditions apply.

Summarising, these conditions include:

  1. That there is recoverable shale gas under the UK. (Our difficult geology make make this too difficult or costly.)
  2. That we produce zero electricity using coal after 2025.
  3. That there is widespread cheap technology to capture and store the CO2 that would be produced.
  4. That we are able to measure and manage the methane that is released during shale gas production.
  5. That the fracking industry wins the ‘social licence to operate’ from the people of Britain, because we trust the companies to avoid or control the negative environmental impacts that exist.

Given that Deutsche Bank (and others) is already saying that solar power has won, these conditions seem increasingly unlikely to be met. (In some countries, such as Australia, solar electricity is already less than half the retail price of electricity from the power companies. Within two years it expected to reach ‘grid parity’ in around 80% of countries worldwide.)

You can read more about the academics’ report at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-shale-gas-uk-low-carbon-transition.html

Myths and Facts on Fracking

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

FFR LogoI have been learning about fracking off and on for over a year now, and have been heavily involved in Frack Free Ryedale for just over two months.

I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the key learnings I have made during this time – a summary of the “myths and facts about fracking”, if you like.

I enclose it below, with links to some of the key sources I have found.

I hope it is a reasonably comprehensive and well-referenced source. (And it barely even begins to talk about the health impacts, or the volumes of traffic and water, or…).

Myth 1: Fracking is a 60-year-old, proven technology

Fact: The way fracking is currently being done is a new combination of four different technologies that has only been tried since 2007. There are still problems with it.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/q256zzf
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 2: Fracking is a ‘green’ fossil fuel

Fact: While it is true to say that burning methane (natural gas) obtained by fracking produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal, this is not the full story. During the drilling process, methane is also released into the atmosphere, or burned off by ‘flaring’. If these full impacts are considered, then the greenhouse gas / climate change impact of fracked gas is even worse than coal.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/qy8ewmj
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 3: Fracking is a cheap source of fuel

Fact: The price of solar electricity is falling fast. Citibank, UBS and other banks have recently issued reports advising investors to get out of fossil fuels. Citibank says that solar electricity will achieve “grid parity” even in Britain, by 2020. UBS, the world’s largest private bank, says big power stations in Europe could be redundant “within 10-20 years.”

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/q5vo8mm
(“UBS urges investors to join renewables revolution”, Guardian, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/q8sorn2
(“Oil industry on borrowed time as switch to gas and solar accelerates”, Daily Telegraph, August 2014)
– http://tinyurl.com/kkemuhn
(“Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete”, Guardian, July 2014)

Myth 4: Fracking creates jobs

Fact: Fracking does create some jobs, in the oil and gas industry. These do not benefit local people. Friends in the USA (near the Canadian border) have described how the economy of their small rural town was affected when large numbers of single men moved in.

Fracking also destroys jobs. The main industries here in Ryedale are farming and tourism. Animals and crops in the USA have died after coming into contact with waste fracking water. And you can guess what the impact on tourism would be if there were eight fracking pads per square mile in Ryedale (which is standard, and which was requested in the planning applications for 3,000 wells in Sussex.)

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/l3pqcap
(Website of frack-off (UK), section on Agriculture and Animal Health, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/kawlo87
(“Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers”, Bloomberg, February 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/k7dkeqm
(“Fracking frontline as Sussex has 15 licences to drill”, The Argus, December 2012)

Myth 5: Fluid migration from faulty wells is rare

Fact: Fluid migration from faulty wells is a well known long-term problem, with an expected rate of occurrence. About one in twenty wells fail in their first year of operation. With 8 well pads per square mile, and 6-20 wells per pad, that is a lot of failed wells. After 15 years 50% of wells will be leaking. And eventually all wells fail. A recent report in Pennsylvania listed 243 cases in six years where companies prospecting for fracking were found by state regulators to have contaminated drinking water.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/puo8b7h
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/ouv3pz7  http://tinyurl.com/l76ztgp
(“Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling”, Wall Street Journal, August 2014)

Myth 6: Fracking only uses fluids you would find in most households

Fact: While many of the chemicals used in fracking are probably also found in households, the point is do you want them in your drinking water?

The fact is also that the USA has passed legislation forbidding people from disclosing what chemicals fracking companies use. And when the water is pumped out of the ground it contains a variety of heavy metal salts and radioactive elements that it has picked up underground. When these are pumped back underground they can cause earthquakes and contaminate drinking water.

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/chkk7cn
(Physicians for Social Responsibility website, June 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/q858ulo
(Catskill Mountaineer website, undated, viewed September 2014)

Myth 7: Fracking only causes tiny earthquakes

Fact: The process of fracking does cause small earthquakes. What causes bigger earthquakes is reinjecting the dirty fracking water back into ground, (in the same way that Third Energy is applying for planning permission to inject large amounts of waste water at Ebberston Moor near Pickering).

In Oklahoma, injecting waste fracking fluids is now causing hundreds of earthquakes per year, where there used to be very few. The largest so far registered 5.6 on the Richter scale and caused millions of dollars worth of damage. Could the roller-coaster at Flamingoland or the Temple of Winds at Castle Howard withstand a 5.6 earthquake?

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/mc7luak
(“Why fracking may be responsible for increased earthquakes in Oklahoma”, GlobalNews.ca, May 2014)

Myth 8: Fracking is good for the economy

Facts: The growth of fracking has been financed by debt, not profits: speculators are gambling on a return.

In the meantime, the reality for people who own homes close to actual or proposed fracking sites in the UK is that house values have plummeted dramatically. The value of one woman’s house in Lancashire fell by 70% as a result of a nearby proposed fracking site. When the government was called upon to publish its own report into the likely effect of fracking on house prices and rural communities, it blanked out all of the key predictions.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/kp3dbek
(“Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale”, Bloomberg, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/lyjzp9d
(“Fracking threat wiped £535,000 off my home’s value”, Daily Mail, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/ps99xwj
(“The fracking cover-up: Defra censors key report 63 times in 13 pages”, Daily Mail, August 2014)

And a last-minute addition: on why fracking is a ponzi scheme: http://tinyurl.com/olhwbe3
(“Shale Fracking is a “Ponzi Scheme””, GlobalResearch.ca, September 2014)

And here’s a list of just some of the people and animals harmed so far by fracking:
– http://tinyurl.com/6oz29yq
(“Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Dedicated citizens fighting to protect our most valuable resources”, September 2014)

Example of misinformation on fracking

i Sep 20th No Comments by

Screen shot 2014-09-20 at 09.52.32Just as not everybody says they believe in climate change, and some people say the Earth is flat, not everybody agrees about fracking.

As somebody with a degree in physics from Oxford University I am trained to look at the facts. And frankly I would love it if fracking were as safe and beneficial as some people say it is.

So, the announcement of a study by Stanford University was exciting to me. It offers the promise of an objective comparison of the environmental costs and benefits of fracking as compared against coal, nuclear, wind and solar energy.

Stanford has published an outline to the study here, published 12 September. And the full study is on this page.

Unfortunately, reading the outline, the problems start almost immediately:

“Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking,” said Stanford environmental scientist Robert Jackson, who led the new study. “The key is to reduce the environmental costs as much as possible, while making the most of the environmental benefits.”

This raises a red flag to me. Any true study would be open to the possibility of finding that fracking (or solar energy) was so dangerous that society should shut it down immediately. Surely that is what the study is trying to find out? Any ‘study’ that opens with  a statement, “Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking” has already reached its conclusions before it even starts. This is not a study at all. This looks like the setup for a whitewash job.

But I keep an open mind and read on. (more…)