The summer solstice in the Chew Valley started with the possibility of the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to change the planning law for shale applications so that “non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development“. The legal definition of “hydraulic fracturing” is very specific and “non-fracking” covers a multitude of sins. However, later in the morning the Queen’s Speech omitted to mention unconventional gas so it seems that this proposed legislation will not reach the statute book any time soon. There is no national or local mandate for it, let’s keep it that way.
It is election time again, so where do the political parties stand on unconventional gas?
The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party would either ‘ban’ or ‘oppose’ fracking.
UKIP energy policy supports fracking and is firmly based in head in the sand climate change denial nonsense. However, there is no UKIP candidate standing in North East Somerset so we don’t need to consider it further.
The Conservative Party policy reiterates David Cameron’s desire to mimic the US Shale Gas experience citing lower energy prices, energy security and carbon benefits of displacing coal. It also states that ‘non-fracking drilling’ will be treated as ‘permitted development’, meaning that planning permission would not be needed.
Geographically England is nothing like the USA and a US style fracking ‘revolution’ is not compatible with ‘maintaining public confidence’ on account of the scale of the operations required to bring about such a retrograde revolution on a densely populated island. Belief that the US experience can be replicated in England is naive and widely recognised as such. Coal will have disappeared from the UK energy mix before fracking may get going so fracked gas will either displace imported gas or renewables, with no emissions benefit.
In the Chew Valley Coalbed Methane rather than Shale Gas is the mineral of interest. The definition of ‘fracking’ in the Infrastructure Act is so specific to shale that it does not cover the development of Coalbed Methane whether fracking takes place or not. Making ‘non-fracking’ drilling ‘permitted development’ sweeps away planning considerations in relation to unconventional gas in this rural economy. The 300 gas wells that Coalbed Methane specialists GeoMet Inc estimated the Chew Valley and Mendip could ‘accommodate’ would therefore not need planning permission! This is the extraordinary policy that the Conservative Manifesto sets out and wants you to vote for.
Whilst there is no extant exploration licence in the Chew Valley area at present it is quite conceivable there could be again in the future.
Position on Developing Unconventional/ Shale Gas
|The discovery and extraction of shale gas in the United States has been a revolution. Gas prices have fallen, driving growth in the American economy and pushing down prices for consumers. The US has become less reliant on imported foreign energy and is more secure as a result. And because shale is cleaner than coal, it can also help reduce carbon emissions. We believe that shale energy has the potential to do the same thing in Britain, and could play a crucial role in rebalancing our economy. We will therefore develop the shale industry in Britain. We will only be able to do so if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected. We will legislate to change planning law for shale applications. Non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development, expert planning functions will be established to support local councils, and, when necessary, major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime. We will set up a new Shale Environmental Regulator, which will assume the relevant functions of the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This will provide clear governance and accountability, become a source of expertise, and allow decisions to be made fairly but swiftly. Finally, we will change the proposed Shale Wealth Fund so a greater percentage of the tax revenues from shale gas directly benefit the communities that host the extraction sites. Where communities decide that it is right for them, we will allow payments to be made directly to local people themselves. A significant share of the remaining tax revenues will be invested for the benefit of the country at large.|
|Labour will ban fracking because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline…[The Conservatives] have allowed fracking in national parks.|
|We will oppose ‘fracking’ because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment.|
|We will introduce a ban on fracking.|
Table shamelessly summarised from CarbonBrief.org. Visit CarbonBrief.org for a full analysis.
Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg MP is well known for his enthusiasm for the unabated burning of fossil fuels, for the reduction of environmental regulation and for his climate skepticism. So it is nice to see him belatedly expressing concern for an environmental health issue – None of us can afford to ignore dangers of diesel, Somerset Guardian (16/2/2017). However, rather than actually addressing the substantive issue (the health impacts of burning fossil fuels) he uses his article as a stick to beat the EU with and he constructs a red-herring fallacy to trivialise the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on climate change.
Mr Rees-Mogg quotes the shocking statistic that air pollution contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK “primarily caused by nitrous oxides that are produced by diesel engines”. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is of course laughing gas (dephlogisticated nitrous air to Mr Rees-Mogg), rather than nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is produced by diesel engines and gas boilers and which causes harmful air pollution.
The policy of promoting diesel over petrol engines was a well intentioned but bad policy based on bad information and lobbying by the car manufacturers. Mr Rees-Mogg blames an “EU green agenda” rather than the criminal actions of the car industry or the lack of regulatory enforcement by national governments, including the UK. The EU is threatening to fine the UK for being in breach of its NO2 limits since 2010, not the other way around.
The motivation behind the switch from petrol to diesel was to reduce CO2 emissions from petrol engines in order to mitigate global climate change – on the basis that companies such as VW were not knowingly cheating the system, which they were.
Mr Rees-Mogg says “The policy was determined because of fears about carbon dioxide emissions and an agreement made across the European Union to reduce them. Petrol creates more carbon dioxide than diesel engines but carbon dioxide does not lead to serious health complaints, indeed it is perfectly safe as a background atmospheric gas for people to breath”.
In these two sentences Mr Rees-Mogg has constructed a logical fallacy that says – because carbon dioxide is not toxic it is therefore harmless, so we shouldn’t be concerned about it and producing more is not an issue. This meme, which is often used by the fossil fuel lobby to misinform, detracts from the real issue which is that emissions from burning fossil fuels, including both diesel and petrol, is a very serious problem that both kills people through air pollution and which is dangerously disrupting the Earth’s climate.
Mr Rees-Mogg has clearly not read the report from the Royal College of Physicians on air pollution (the source of the 40,000 figure) which highlights the co-benefits of mitigating climate change and reducing air pollution.
“Given that fossil fuel combustion is a major source of both greenhouse gases and local air pollutants, if action is taken to address climate change there could be major improvements in outdoor air quality as a result of decarbonisation of power and transport systems, and improved efficiency of energy use. Indeed, the economic benefits of improved health resulting from reduced exposure to fine particles and other local and regional air pollutants as a consequence of climate policies have been estimated to be sufficient, on their own (ie without reference to climate benefits), to justify a range of climate actions being adopted”.
Neither air pollution nor climate change are laughing matters and their solutions lie in both strong environmental regulation and leaving fossil fuels in the ground – two things Mr Rees-Mogg is not the slightest bit interested in.
Rees-Mogg’s red herring…
In June 2013 Frack Free Chew Valley convened a meeting in Chew Magna and invited 20 local parish councils to attend. The next week the Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) tabled a motion to oppose unconventional gas development and this was supported by both the Lib Dems and Labour. Eventually all of the licences in BANES were relinquished and the gas has remained in the ground (where it belongs) not in the atmosphere.
During that meeting a slide was shown of atmospheric CO2 concentrations with time. This graph, produced by the late Professor David MacKay, showed atmospheric CO2 concentrations hovering around 395 parts per million (ppm). In June 2013 it had just been reported in the media that the symbolic 400 ppm had just been touched, although the values varies with the season. A safe concentration is considered to be 350 ppm to avoid the possibility of “seeding irreversible catastrophic effects”.
The World Meteorological Organisation has just reported that the 2015 global average was 400 ppm, pushed past the post by the recent El Niño warming event. These cumulative concentrations are going in one direction (so far as people who are alive today are concerned) and will persist for generations.
Meanwhile, climate change denial remains alive and well in the West of England with UKIP MEPs proud to deny the science, MPs peddling misinformation on renewables, and journalists engaged in extreme cherry-picking (the rebuttal).
Far better to go to someone who knows what he is talking about (and who has got a Nobel Prize):
Here are the resources he is talking about. Have a read!
Julia Reid, MEP for the South West, has stood up in the European Parliament yet again to (yet again) repeat a standard set of climate myths that were debunked years ago, saying:
“We in UKIP deny climate change alarmism supported by green lobbies, often financed by the Commission, …“&c, &c, &c.
When she says “green lobbies” what she means is mainstream climate science which is uncontentious.
We have already covered these tired and debunked myths from Dr Reid before:
We have also commented on the spooky correlation between climate change denial and Euro-scepticism:
It is quite extraordinary that one of Britain’s political parties has a stated policy of climate change denial when the world’s science academies, governments and the United Nations consider it to be the most serious issue of our times.
It is also extraordinary that our MP Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to share these unscientific myths that make up the UKIP energy & climate policy, see Climate change alarmism cause our high energy prices and Carbon Emissions and Climate Change.
On cheap energy Mr Rees-Mogg has said “Hydraulic fracturing may be part of the solution but carbon emission targets will not be” but his figures on renewables are all muddled up and based on bad journalism rather than credible sources.
Far better to listen to our national Science Academy on the important subject of Climate Change:
and follow up with their evidence and causes resources.
NB Science has know about this for well over 100 years.