Cameron’s American Style Fracking Revolution in Somerset

In the Western Daily Press on the 9th June David Cameron lauded the West Country saying:

“The West Country is one of Britain’s greatest assets. Beautiful countryside and coastline …  From du Maurier’s Cornwall to Hardy’s Dorset, with the mysticism of Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor, there’s no end to what this region has to offer.”

Then a couple of sentences later he says:
“We are legislating so that Britain can get the roads and the energy supplies it needs – unlocking our North Sea resources and developing shale gas, so that Britain is less dependent on foreign countries for its resources.”

Energy security is a serious matter but then, as he points out, so are the assets of the West Country’s beautiful countryside and cultural heritage on which so many local livelihoods rely.  There is no coal or shale in Devon or Cornwall so he must be thinking of the prospect of unconventional gas in Somerset where the existing licenses stretch in a 20 km wide strip from south Bristol to “mystical” Glastonbury Tor passing mystical Stanton Drew on the way. He has also said that opponents to fracking are “irrational”, “religiously opposed” and “ideological”. However, in pushing for an American style shale gas revolution in Somerset the Prime Minister seems to want to have his West Country asset / shale gas (or coalbed methane) cake and eat it.

Considering that 450 sq km of Somerset is under threat of coalbed methane (CBM) development and that American coalbed methane experts Geomet Inc have calculated that 400 sq km of Somerset can accommodate up to 300 CBM wells,  are local residents being either “irrational”, “ideological”  or “religiously opposed” when they know that in America an “American style” coalbed methane revolution looks like this in the forests of the Black Warrior Basin in Alabama (white dots are CBM gas wells) :

Black Warrior Basin, Alabama

Black Warrior Basin, Alabama (Landsat 8, May 2014)

Or like this in the wilderness of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico:
CBM San Juan Basin, New Mexico

CBM San Juan Basin, New Mexico, (Landsat 8, June 2013)

Or in Australia like this in the Kumbarilla State Forest in Queensland:
Kumbarilla State Forest, Queensland

Kumbarilla State Forest, Queensland (Landsat 8, December 2013)

These examples are all recent satellite images of 20km by 20km (400 sq km) blocks of coalbed methane gas fields which have regular patterns of hundreds of wells between 400m and 800m apart.
Rather than the uninhabited forests of Alabama and Queensland or the wilderness of New Mexico the coalition government wants to impose a similar revolution on Somerset (and a huge chunk of the rest of the country), not in wilderness or forests but right inside our communities. Cameron can’t have it both ways. Let’s make sure that Cameron doesn’t put an end to what the West Country has to offer!