Government’s statutory advisor’s position on the ‘dash for gas’

It is worth reminding ourselves of the position on the ‘dash for gas’ of the government’s statutory advisor on climate change:

“The Committee on Climate Change presents new analysis showing that there are significant economic benefits from investing in a portfolio of low-carbon technologies through the 2020s rather than investing in gas-fired generation.

The report finds that investment in a portfolio of low-carbon technologies could save consumers £25-45 billion, rising to £100 billion with higher gas and carbon prices.

Only if the world abandons attempts to limit risks of dangerous climate change would a strategy of investment in gas-fired generation through the 2020s offer significant savings.

This conclusion is robust when possible impacts of shale gas on the gas price are accounted for.” See here.

Where is David Cameron and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s analysis that the opposite is true? Or have they already abandoned attempts to limit the risks of dangerous climate change? See here. 

Response to David Cameron’s statement on shale gas

The Prime Minister has recently made the case that we cannot afford to miss out on shale gas basing his argument on energy price, jobs, community benefits, safety and myths.

From the local perspective the Chew Valley is almost entirely within the Greenbelt and the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is home to Bristol’s water supply. Most of the valley is also within the Bristol-Somerset coalfield and is licensed for coalbed methane and shale gas exploration and development.

The Prime Minister and local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg are almost lone voices arguing that shale gas will bring energy prices down. The Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, the Committee on Climate Change, Cuadrilla and many others agree that UK shale gas will have a marginal if any effect on UK energy prices.

The Prime Minister argues that shale gas could provide 51 years of gas supply despite the fact that the British Geological Survey says that it is not yet possible to make any estimate of gas reserves.

The Prime Minister argues that shale gas may create 74,000 jobs but this has been described as “wildly optimistic”. Who funded this estimate? Cuadrilla. Who is Chairman of Cuadrilla? Lord Browne. Who is Lord Browne? David Cameron’s non-executive advisor in the Cabinet Office. Jobs created are likely to be short-term external contractors rather than jobs within the community.

The Prime Minister says that communities near exploration wells will receive £100,000, having previously said it was £1,000,000. However the industry’s Community Engagement Charter is dependent on an operator’s membership of UKOOG and the exploration incentive only applies where fracking (not drilling) takes place during exploration and appraisal. So, for example, exploration in Balcombe is not eligible because fracking will not take place at this stage. Test wells in Somerset probably wouldn’t be eligible either. Informed local communities are unlikely to accept financial bribes, even when they are available, in exchange for their environment and well-being.

Unconventional gas exploitation has the potential to cause a host of pollutants both above and below the surface. The Royal Academy of Engineers has said that well failures, leaks and surface spills are common to all oil and gas operations. There is growing international evidence that unconventional gas can cause environmental damage. This year our regulatory system failed to prevent massive damage in the coal industry at the Daw Mills colliery. Regulation doesn’t necessarily mean safety as the coal, banking and offshore oil and gas industries well know.

The Prime Minister says that fracking will not damage the countryside and that pads are the size of a cricket pitch (61.5 sq m). The industry on the other hand say each fracking pad occupies 2 ha (20,000 sq m). Unlike conventional oil and gas drilling coalbed methane requires a dense network of fracking pads. In Australia coalbed methane pads are 800m apart, which if repeated here would lead to a huge industrialisation of the landscape.

The Prime Minister makes no mention of greenhouse gas emissions or that emissions from unconventional gas do not displace more polluting sources, such as coal, but rather add to them because the coal is simply burnt elsewhere. The government does not publish its report on the impacts of shale gas on greenhouse gas emissions until next month.

The Prime Minister makes no mention of the documented health implications of living in an unconventional gas field.

So who is peddling myths? This is a deeply flawed and rushed energy policy which creates problems rather than solutions. We need a sensible low-carbon energy policy supported by the electorate which protects our local and global environments and which provides long-term energy and climate security and jobs rather than a short-term dash for cash. Thankfully BANES has adopted a sensible position on unconventional gas, insofar as it can. It is time the government did also.

Jerusalem in Sussex

Frack Free Chew Valley and Frack Free Somerset (and many others) have visited Balcombe to lend support to their anti-fracking campaign. This was no “knee jerk Nymby response”, rent-a-mob” or “bus of hooligans” – it was a legal, (somewhat) dignified, democratic demonstration having throughly researched the issue. This Balcombe video says it all:

In Chew Valley and Somerset we are dealing with UK Methane and Shale Energy PLC  (who say we need ‘educating’ and who think Nigel Lawson’s bonkers views are newsworthy).

Oh – and isn’t William Blake’s Jerusalem set in Somerset?

Cuadrilla Starts Drilling in Balcombe, 2nd August 2013

Balcombe Header

Cuadrilla Starts Drilling in Balcombe

On Friday 2nd August 2013 Cuadrilla started test drilling in Balcombe, leafy Sussex, with a view to developing shale oil in the area.  This process may in due course involve fracking and a proliferation of fracking pads and infrastructure across the country.

Frack Free Chew Valley were there to lend support to the Balcombe community and to exercise their right to peacefully protest against this misguided energy policy.

The protest camp outside the drilling site is comprised of Balcombe residents, other local residents from nearby villages, sympathetic support groups from other places at risk of fracking such as the ‘Desolate North’, Wales, Somerset, Fylde –  all a broad spectrum of British society including children of all ages.

The friendly atmosphere changed when lorries carrying waste disposal equipment stopped 200m up the road to be joined by a large police escort on foot. This Juggernaut marched down the road and was met by chanting protesters and flag waving children. When the Juggernaut neared the site gate the crush of protesters between police lines lead to flared tempers, children separated from parents, arrests, shock and tears. The police ensured that the trucks entered the site, before marching back up to road followed by protesters chanting ‘Frack Free Sussex’.

Some might criticise police tactics or certain protesters but this avoids the real issue which is a deeply flawed energy policy being forced by poorly informed politicians (and their unelected advisors and lobbyists) onto increasingly dis-empowered communities. Balcombe is just the start, there are 2,300 other communities across England, Scotland and Wales which fall within the current petroleum exploration and development licenses and more licenses are due to be issued next year. We are grateful to the people of Balcombe (and those who are supporting them) for making a stand against this energy and environmental idiocy. Let’s keep fracking out of the Chew Valley and Somerset and implement secure, sustainable low-carbon solutions for the long-term future.

Caudrilla Site Entrance, Balcombe

Cuadrilla Site Entrance, Balcombe

Peace in Balcombe

Peace in Balcombe

Waste Skips Arrive

Waste Skips Arrive

Caudrilla Waste Skips

Cuadrilla Waste Skips


Balcombe residents watching ‘environ-mental’ truck arriving.

'Environ-Mental' Waste Solutions

‘Environ-Mental’ Waste Solutions


Scuffle, young woman on floor

Young woman arrested for assault

Young woman arrested

Sussex Residents, Sussex Police, Sussex Community

Sussex Residents, Sussex Police, Sussex Community, Lord Browne’s Company

Energy for the Next Generation?

Energy for the Next Generation?

Balcombe - Frack Free Zone?

Balcombe – Frack Free Zone! ?

Balcombe !

You can’t have missed the news from leafy Balcombe where Caudrilla are pushing ahead with test drilling. Caudrilla are perhaps the most prominent of the new unconventional gas companies. Caudrilla’s PR advisors are Bell Pottinger who are keen to tell you about the communication challenges of shale gas. As they say themselves if they don’t gain the ‘social licence to operate’ then ‘it is not going to work’. It seems that they have really got a lot of work to do.

This is the same PR company which put its foot in it by letting on that Caudrilla has done the sums and come to the conclusion that any reduction in gas prices would be ‘insignificant’. Perhaps they should tell our MP what everybody else already knows.

There are plenty of news and internet reports on Balcombe, not least the Frack-Off site.