Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Laughing Gas Emissions Red Herring

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…

Yet more climate change denial from UKIP South West MEP Julia Reid

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:

South West MEP Julia Reid repeats climate myths (again)

We have also commented on the spooky correlation between climate change denial and Euro-scepticism:

Flat Earth Politics

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.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Muddled View on Carbon Emissions & Renewables

Concerned constituents have written to their MP Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg about Hinkley Point nuclear power station and the need to decarbonise our power sector in a cost effective and timely manner maximising the use of non-nuclear renewables.  Regarding renewables Mr Rees-Mogg responded:

I also understand that some people would like the Government to spend more money on renewable energy instead of nuclear power. It is important to remember that the United Kingdom produces approximately only 2% of the world’s carbon emissions. It is, therefore, more important that the UK Government ensures that the most vulnerable people in society are protected rather than producing renewable energy that, even though it may be greener, is nonetheless unreliable and would raise energy bills for everyone. Households are already estimated to be paying £60 per year which may rise to £226 by 2020 owing to subsidies for renewables. I have included an article explaining this potential rise for you reference“.

Giving this Telegraph article as evidence.

It sounds reasonable but what lies beneath this logic and evidence?


It is true that the UK only produces about 2% of the world’s annual carbon emissions but it is our cumulative emissions that define our climate change impact.  As the UK was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution we have a head start on the rest of the world and we come 7th  in the world’s cumulative emissions ranking after the USA, China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany.  On a per capita basis the UK has historically produced more CO2 emission than any other country in the world.  That is quite an achievement.  This places a heavy moral responsibility on the UK to take a lead in reducing our national and per-capita emissions considering that we have already hogged such a dis-proportionate slice of the world’s safe carbon budget.  See National contributions to observed global warming


Fulfilling this moral responsibility (to both the rest of the world and to future generations) to reduce emissions is not mutually exclusive with fulfilling our moral responsibility to help those in our society in fuel poverty.  Presenting it as an either/or choice is a false dichotomy.  Those in fuel poverty can be helped with energy efficiency measures or by putting the costs of developing renewable energy onto general taxation rather than on bills, so that those who can pay do pay.  This does not preclude also dealing with climate change. Similarly, dealing with climate change using renewables doesn’t mean living in caves – another of Mr Rees-Mogg’s false dichotomies.


What of Mr Rees-Mogg’s assertion that renewable subsidies on household bills “may rise to £226 by 2020”?  In a nutshell Mr Rees-Mogg has cherry-picked a confused and incorrect journalistic article (from a paper he writes for) rather than referring to the transparent analysis of the government’s statutory advisors.  He also ignores the vastly larger subsidies that are given to the fossil fuel industry

So, Mr Rees-Mogg i) misrepresents the UK’s contribution to global warming, ii) makes a false moral argument about fuel poverty based on i, and iii) uses a set of incorrect statistics to exaggerate renewable subsidies whilst ignoring fossil fuel subsidies and readily available credible estimates from authoritative sources.

Chapter & Verse

Mr Rees-Mogg quotes from an article by the Telegraph’s deputy political editor Stephen Swinford (19/3/2015) who says “Green levies on energy bills will treble by 2020 because of renewable targets, official figures suggest”, attributing the figures to the Office of Budget Responsibility, although Mr Swinford gives no source for the figures which seem impossible to verify, including by climate sceptic bloggers.  Mr Swinford adds “Separate figures published last year show that the policies account for 5 per cent of energy bills at present – equivalent to £68 a year – to 15 per cent of an annual energy bill by 2020, equivalent to £226”, quoting the Telegraph’s energy editor Emily Gosden (6/11/2014) in Green levies on energy bills to double by 2020, official estimates show.

However, Mr Swinton isn’t quoting Ms Gosden he is miss-quoting her and has taken the estimated 2030 subsidy and moved it to 2020 creating not a doubling but a trebling of the subsidy by 2020.  As presented in Ms Gosden’s article the correct figure for 2020 is £141, not £226.

Mr Swinton ploughs on regardless and quotes from a report by the Centre for Policy Studies (18th March 2015) saying “Scrapping the UK’s green energy targets in favour of gas-fired power plants would save consumers £214 a year by 2020, the report suggests – despite ministers’ insistence that the total impact of the policies will be only £141 per household by then”.  So having replaced the government’s 2020 estimate with the 2030 estimate, as reported by his energy editor colleague, he then mistakenly uses another report referring to 2020 to erroneously justify the mistake he has made whilst also mentioning the correct figure for 2020 of £141.

This is seriously shoddy journalism on the part of the Telegraph, but it gets worse.

What is this Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) report, what does it say and who wrote it?  The report’s main message is that “ditching the renewables target and returning the sector to the market would save households around £214 a year, assuming gas replaces renewable power” and that “This option would depend on securing a permanent opt-out from the EU renewable directive”.  The report concludes, “ditching renewables and encouraging shale fracking is better economics and more effective at reducing carbon dioxide emissions”.   These conclusions are based in part on work by Professor Gordon Hughes for the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) and emails to the CPS report author.  Professor Hughes has produced reports on wind power for both REF and Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).  Both REF and GWPF are climate sceptic and anti-renewable energy, although this may not be immediately obvious to the casual viewer of their web sites.  The GWPF has been a relentless promoter of hydraulic fracturing. The director of REF is GWPF’s energy editor and has recently joined the GWPF’s, so called, Academic Advisory Council.  Professor Hughes’ work on wind for these organisations has been robustly debunked by the late by Prof David MacKay of Cambridge University, by Imperial College and by the UK Energy Research Centre.  CarbonBrief also comment.

In her Telegraph article reporting on the CPS report Emily Gosden said the DECC points out (but Swinton ignores) that “The figures in this report don’t add up and ignore the urgent need to cut our carbon emissions.” DECC unusually published a rebuttal of the CPS report saying “The report today by the Centre for Policy Studies ignores the reality of the energy market. It wrongly suggests that we can ditch renewables for gas, with no explanation of where we would source that from. It also appears to suggest that we should row back on the tremendous gains we have made in the fight on climate change. Given the dire consequences of global warming this is not an option”.

The CPS report was written by Rupert Darwall who is a prominent climate sceptic and who has published with the most prominent climate sceptics some of whom have been outed as being paid by the fossil fuel industry.

What do the various renewable subsidies actually mean for household energy bills?  CarbonBrief provided a clear explanation of what these figures mean (7th November 2015).


CarbonBrief.org graphic of the same data, showing how bills are predicted to be lower with renewable policies than without – including support for households in fuel poverty and network costs

As we move forward these estimates will change and Mr Rees-Mogg would probably do better to read the government’s statutory advisor’s report Power sector scenarios for the fifth carbon budget  (October 2015) with analysis by Imperial College.  This shows that the likely cost to consumers of renewables in 2020 is £105, not £226 nor £214 or even the £129 in the above graphic.  And for that we get to meet our climate change commitments and deal with renewable intermittency issues and support households in fuel poverty.

Why does Mr Rees-Mogg choose to use unreliable information sources rather than the robust and transparent analysis of the Committee on Climate Change?

Sir Humphrey is up to his Obfuscating Shale Gas Antics (again)


Sir Humphrey ApplebyGCBKBEMVOMA (Oxon)

Having exposed Sir Humphrey’s role in telling half-truths about unconventional gas in the Bath/ Mendip area we wrote to DECC asking them to confirm the other half of the truth – that Coalbed Methane (CBM) is the primary mineral in the area, that CBM isn’t covered by the Infrastructure Act (including it restrictions of drilling depths, other safeguards and restrictions on drilling in protected areas such as the Mendip AONB), that is it done at shallow depth, etc, etc, etc. Sir Humphrey replied and confirmed these other essential pieces of information or carefully obfuscated to avoid excruciating embarrassment.

We also asked what the Government is doing to protect the climate given that climate change and sea level rise is such a massive issue in Somerset and considering that their very own Chief Scientific Advisor had reported to them that “The production of shale gas could increase global cumulative GHG emissions if the fossil fuels displaced by shale gas are used elsewhere” (NB DECC has no way to keep displaced Qatari gas in the ground).

Given the very carful wording of Minister Andrea Leadsom’s letter to Ben Howlett MP we though that we should check Sir Humphrey’s reply, in which he said:

The Government is committed to a low carbon and affordable future for energy. Gas – the cleanest fossil fuel – still meets a third of our energy demand and we will need it for many years to come. As the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in 2013, the UK will “continue to use considerable, albeit declining, amounts of gas well into the 2030s” and “if anything, using well-regulated UK shale gas… could lead to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions than continuing to import gas”. Developing home-grown sources of gas can create a bridge while we develop renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and build new nuclear.

(NB The CCC is the Government’s statutory advisor on climate change)

What the CCC has said about gas is that gas “cannot be regarded as a low-carbon fuel source”. So much for the ‘cleanest fossil fuel’ – let’s call it the least-dirty fossil fuel instead.

But where have the 2013 CCC quotes come from? A report from the CCC to the Government? Err, well apparently not, they seem to have been cherry picked from a note to a CCC blog post.

The first part of the quote does not refer to the UK as a whole but is specific to the “building and industry sectors” in a “virtually” decarbonised power sector supplied by renewables, new nuclear and gas with Carbon Capture and Storage – now effectively cancelled by Sir Humphrey’s own department.

The second part of the CCC quotation seems to have been edited.

The CCC’s words are: “As outlined above, if anything using well-regulated UK shale gas to fill this gap could lead to lower overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than continuing to import LNG.

Sir Humph’s version :if anything, using well-regulated UK shale gas… could lead to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions than continuing to import gas

The word ‘lifecycle‘ has been removed and the word ‘LNG‘ has been changed to ‘gas‘.

The CCC quotation used by Sir Humphrey is about Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) (e.g. from Qatar) not about gas in general. The self-same CCC note shows that conventional ‘gas’ from Norway has lower lifecycle emissions that UK shale (with green completions). LNG has marginally higher emissions than UK shale gas with green completions and about the same emissions as UK shale gas without green completions. The CCC note says “So, at the margin, meeting a given amount of UK gas demand via domestic shale gas production could lead to slightly lower emissions than importing LNG“. Hardly the basis for a national shale gas policy.

Illustrative livecycle emissions of natural gas

Illustrative livecycle emissions of natural gas, Source CCC 2013

The relative emissions from different gas sources is interesting but it doesn’t tell you about cumulative greenhouse gas emissions (what actually matters in terms of global warming) and whether a new fossil fuel source is increasing or decreasing those emissions. If a new fossil fuel displaces an old one but the old one is simply burned somewhere else, rather than leaving it in the ground, then the new source is part of the problem or at best is an ineffective solution.

So there is no justification in Sir Humphrey substituting the word ‘LNG’ with ‘gas’. Nor is there justification for removing the word ‘lifecycle’ because CCC was talking about comparative lifecycle emissions. And of course there can be no excuse for editing the CCC’s note in the first place, presenting it out of context and passing it off as CCC’s words in order to justify the exploitation of shale gas as a ‘clean’ fossil fuel.

Considering that:

  1. Sea level rise is an undeniable and measurable consequence of anthropogenic global warming caused by fossil fuel combustion
  2. Sea level rise and drainage are massive issues in low lying areas of Somerset
  3. That the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor on energy and climate change says that any new fossil fuel will probably lead to further global warming

then the licensing of large areas of Somerset that are vulnerable to sea level rise for unconventional gas or oil exploration is a grotesque nonsense.

We have asked Sir Humphrey to explain his portrayal of gas as ‘clean’, for his cherry picking of CCC blog posts to justify unconventional gas exploitation and for editing and misrepresenting CCC quotations. We have also asked why these self same edited words have been used repeatedly by the DECC Correspondence Unit and by the Minister Andrea Leadsom in a debate in the House of Commons. Amazingly the Hansard transcribers managed to get the “…”s and the ” ” marks in the right place – how does the Minister do that? She must be doing that annoying quotations thing with her fingers as she speaks.

We are looking forward to Sir Humphrey’s reply.

Hacker: Humphrey, do you see it as part of your job to help ministers make fools of themselves?

Sir Humphrey: Well, I never met one that needed any help.




South West MEP Julia Reid repeats climate myths (again)

In the South West we are represented in the European Parliament by six MEPs one of whom is Dr Julia Reid who is also the UKIP science spokesperson. MEPs represent us in the parliament and are responsible for passing European laws, establishing the EU budget, etc.

UKIP policy is not just Euro-sceptic it is also climate-sceptic and firmly rejects climate science and advocates the use of fossil fuels including fracking. In the European Parliament debate on the outcome of the recent Paris Climate Conference, at which the world’s nations committed to act to avoid dangerous climate change, Dr Reid gave a speech in which she repeats a number of well known climate myths frequently used by UKIP and the fossil fuel PR machine.


Let’s see if Dr Reid’s assertions have any basis or if they are well known myths debunked by the scientific community.

Since 1880 the 16 hottest years on record are the last 16 years.

Dr Reid’s Myth 1 – “… there has been no warming since 1997… ”

This is a well worn climate myth championed by Lord Lawson’s fossil fuel lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation quoted in the UKIP policy documents.

The myth cherry picks by using a starting point of a hot El Nino year (it is normally 1998 not 97) and ignores the fact that the land, the atmosphere and melting ice only account for about 3% of total warming with most of the rest being taken up by the oceans.

Source Met Office

From Nuccitelli et al. (2012)

But let’s hear it from a geeky climate scientist:

Not enough?

NB in February 2016 we are towards the end of the latest El Niño event.

To study climate we have direct climate measurements for the past 250 years or so and we also have proxy measurements covering millions of years.

Dr Reid’s Myth 2 – “Current records are all too brief, even 250 years is insufficient time for a meaningful assessment of long term climate patterns

This myth ignores the fact that we have a multitude of climate data sources in addition to recent direct measurements, including ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments, knowledge of orbit variations, etc.

Paeleoclimatology https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/paleoclimatology-data

Let’s hear it from another climate scientist:

The climate has changed greatly over geological time and science has a good idea of why these changes have taken place.

Dr Reid’s Myth 3 – “I don’t dispute there has been climate change, there has been for thousands of years. A thousand years ago we had the Medieval warm period, before that we had the Roman warm period, before that we had the late Egyptian warm period and before that the Minoan warm period.“.

These warm periods were caused by a combination of factors including the Earth’s orbit, volcanic activity and solar output and are understood by science. Science also understands that the dominant factor causing warming now is the greenhouse effect caused by manmade CO2 emissions and that the other natural factors are currently secondary.

Let’s hear it from a climate scientist:

Variations in the Sun’s output are an obvious factor in the Earth’s climate but science knows that a) the current warming is caused by atmospheric CO2 concentrations not the Sun and b) the Sun is currently entering a quite cooling period, not a warming period.

Dr Reid’s Myth 4 – “All these [warm periods] actually coincide with the Sun’s activity. We’ve seen that cooling has actually started to happen since the solar cycle 24 decreased and the sun is very inactive at the moment in fact some solar scientists forecast that we are actually heading for another Maunder minimum

Dr Reid is attributing past warm periods to variations in the Sun’s output whilst at the same time ignoring the fact that despite the Sun currently entering a cool phase temperatures are rising. She rationalises this by denying that temperatures are rising.

Source: skepticalscience.com

But let’s hear it from a climate scientist:

Dr Reid’s climate scepticism is not just her opinion, it is stated UKIP policy. It is also a counter narrative to the global science community’s robust analysis of the full range of evidence which has been accepted by the nations of the world in the Paris Climate Agreement which aims to avert dangerous anthroprogenic climate change.

Are you happy to be represented in the European Parliament by proponents of climate ignorance, no matter what party they come from?

The science videos in this posting are all from the University of Queensland, Australia.

Let’s hear it from Sir David Attenborough:

Alternative views are available:


Jacob Rees-Mogg Timsbury Environment Group Interview

Sir Humphrey’s Role in Somerset Fracking Obfuscation

It has recently been reported in the local press that the Chew Valley, Bath and Mendip will remain free from fracking for Shale Gas. This is based on an announcement by Ben Howlett MP (Bath) following a meeting that he and James Heappey MP (Wells) had with the responsible Secretary of State the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom. Ms Leadsom wrote to Mr Howlett saying that “Bath and the surrounding areas are not located in the British Geological Survey’s ‘shale prospective area’.

NB – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn’t seem to have been invited to Ms Leadsom’s tearoom surgery.

Ms Leadsom’s letter to Mr Howlett is reproduced on his web site and is reproduced below in blue italic.

Mr Howlett commented “As the Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said in her response to me I regret that this situation has been unclear both to me and my constituents and am relieved and reassured by her response“.

However, Ms Leadsom seems to have persuaded Sir Humphrey Appleby GCBKBEMVOMA (Oxon), (a “master of obfuscation”) to draft the letter for her as it is simultaneously both truthful and utterly disingenuous. Let’s see what Sir Humphrey had to say and whether what was unclear is now clear and whether we can also feel “relieved and reassured”.

Sir HumphThank you for attending my tearoom surgery recently. I hope you found our discussion about the shale reserves in Bath and the Mendip Hills helpful and thank you for raising this matter with me.

Not a good start. Why was the conversation about ‘shale reserves’ rather than the ‘coalbed methane resources’ that the gas companies have been searching for in this area for the past 20+ years?

These companies (include Pendle Petroleum in 1985, Union Texas Petroleum Inc in 1995, GeoMet Inc in 2000 and UK Methane in 2014) were all looking for CBM according to the licence applications and relinquishment reports filed in Sir Humph’s filing cabinet.  Considering that these companies all delivered their reports to Sir Humph’s Department saying they were looking for CBM it is odd he didn’t bother have a peek to find out and so save embarresment.

Also Shale Gas ‘reserves’ (what can be technical and economically extracted) certainly don’t exist because the economic value of any Shale Gas in the area have certainly not be calculated. The dextrous use of the word ‘reserve’ rather than ‘resource’ is a careful double blind to hide behind. So they were discussing something that hasn’t been calculated (reserves) for something that isn’t of primary interest in the area (Shale Gas).  Of course Sir Humph knows all about this because his Department has published a note on this very point in order to prevent, rather than create, confusion – Resources vs Reserves: What do estimates of shale gas mean?

And what about the tearoom cake reserves?

Sir HumphBath and the surrounding areas are not located in a ‘shale prospective area’ according to shale resource estimates by the British Geological Survey.

So what? The companies are not primarily looking for Shale Gas. Opps – there is the word ‘resource’ instead of ‘reserve’. This is because BGS has got a map of Shale Gas resources but it hasn’t got a map of Shale Gas reserves – because it hasn’t calculated any.

In addition, Bath (as a World Heritage sire) and the Mendip Hills (as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) are afforded the highest level of protection within our planning system.

The highest level of protection is afforded to hydraulic fracturing for Shale Gas at the exclusion of CBM.  The definition of “associated hydraulic fracturing” and related protection in the Infrastructure Act 2015 is specific to shale and stuff “encased in shale”, which does not include coal – as confirmed in writing to us by Sir Hump’s very own Department.

Sir HumphIn addition, there are currently no active Petroleum Exploration and Development Licenses (PEDLs) in the Bath area. In 2008 the Government issues PEDLs in Bath and North East Somerset, as part of the 13th round licences. In July 2014, three of the PEDL licences in this area were relinquished by the licence holders and another licence was extended for further year until July 2015 but has since been relinquished.

PEDL 227 covering the most prospective area for CBM was not available in the 14th Licensing Round because the previous licence hadn’t been relinquished in time. There is nothing stopping the Bath and Mendip area being licensed again in the 15th Licensing Round if anyone were interested – as it has been in the past. Sir Humph obviously hasn’t looked at the 2008 PEDL licence applications or the relinquishment reports otherwise he probably wouldn’t have even drawn attention to them considering what they contain – a plan to comprehensively extract the entire hydrocarbon resource in the area using a combination of fracking, mining and underground coal gasification.

Sir Humph:  “Even if there were shale gas reserves, the recent announcements on fracking would make obtaining permissions for drilling at the surface extremely unlikely.

Note the use of the word ‘reserves’ again – there aren’t any Shale Gas ‘reserves’ because they haven’t been calculated and nor have the ‘resources’ from which you would calculate the ‘reserves’.

What has been estimated by GeoMet Inc and others is the CBM ‘gas in place’ – i.e. the CBM ‘resource’ from which you might calculate a CBM reserve.

The recent announcement on fracking don’t apply to CBM anyway.

Sir Humph: “Thirteen blocks located to the west and east of Somerset are being considered as part of the 14th licensing round, subject to the Habitats Regulations Assessment consultation. A map of licences being considered in the 14th licensing round can be found here.

Ah, right. Thirteen blocks in west and east Somerset are being considered as part of the 14th Licensing Round even though they are also not in the BGS shale gas prospective area either. Err, so they must be being licensed for something else other than shale gas, something like CBM and Shale (Oil) – as stated in Sir Hump’s list of licences.  So, not being in the BGS shale gas prospective zone is a good thing in Bath, but not in any way relevant in Weston, Frome or the Forest of Dean – based on the same criteria of not being in the BGS shale gas prospective zone (Ed. Has Sir Humph got that right, it sounds like nonsense?).

Sir Humph’s Department has actually licensed 1,200 square kilometres in the Forest of Dean (CBM), Wiltshire (CBM) and the Somerset coast (Shale but not Shale Gas) that is not in the BGS Shale Gas prospective area. So the talk about not being in the BGS shale gas prospective area and the careful use of the words ‘reserve’ and ‘resource’ is just a meaningless ruse that only Sir Humph could articulate to make everything sound OK?

Sir Humph also forgot to mention that the Habitats Regulations Assessment consultation had three possible outcomes all of which resulted in the licenses being issued, no matter how sensitive the area or the consultation response.

Sir Humph: “PEDLs do not give permission for specific operations, such as drilling. Rather, they grant exclusivity to licensees, in relation to hydrocarbon exploration and extraction (including for shale gas but also for other forms), within a defined area. Any licensee looking to explore for hydrocarbons would have to apply for planning permission and various permits in advance of any drilling.

Sir Humph is fixated on only articulating “Shale Gas” at the exclusion of the “other forms” such as CBM and even Underground Coal Gasification. Why would Sir Humph not want to say CBM or “Underground Coal Gasification”?

Sir Humph: “I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this matter with you and with James Heappey MP recently, and hope that this brings assurance that there are no known shale reserves in your area and currently no plans to explore for any.

Phew, so now we know that there are no shale ‘reserves’ in the area (the ones that haven’t been calculated, so how could there be any?). But what about the CBM ‘resources’ – the ones that have been calculated and the ones that UK Methane recently said in their relinquishment report (filed in Sir Humph’s office) were “probably prospective” and which any company can apply for an exploration licence for the next time around.

Sir Humph: “I regret that this situation has in the past been unclear to some of your constituents, and I hope you can take the necessary steps to alleviate their concerns.

Glad that Sir Humph has cleared up that confusing mess by providing a carefully worded explanation of what isn’t significant in this area. Pity he didn’t mention anything that was of primary interest even if it isn’t covered by recent reassuring legislation.

Bernard: “But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know“.

Sir Humph: “No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt; ignorance has a certain dignity“.

Andrea Leadsom Misses the CBM Point

Recent local press reports (Bath Chronicle, Chew Valley Gazette) have trumpeted the news that Ben Howlett MP (Bath) and James Heappey MP (Wells) have been assured by Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, that North East Somerset and the Mendips are not in the ‘shale prospective area’ and that there is “no frackable shale gas to be found” with Mr Howlett adding that “I am delighted to find that Bath and the Mendips do not have frackable shale gas under the surface and is therefore safe from the risk of fracking”.

However these statements miss the point that the primary hydrocarbon of interest to the gas companies in the area is Coalbed Methane (CBM) not Shale Gas. The previous licence holder for BANES/Mendip, UK Methane, said in its PEDL 227 relinquishment report (September 2015) that:

The licence is still possibly prospective for:

  •   Coal Bed Methane in the Westphalian Coal Measure
  •   Namurian Shale Gas
  •   Avon Group (Lower Limestone Shale) – Shale Gas Potential
  •   Devonian – Potential Conventional Play in Variscan structures”

The latest maps of Andrea Leadsom’s own department (updated 21/12/2015) show that  more than 1,000 square kilometres of the West Country have just been licensed for onshore oil and gas exploration including the Somerset-Wiltshire border, the Forest of Dean and the Somerset coast from Clevedon to Minehead despite none of these licenses being in the shale prospective area. At the time of the 14th Onshore Licensing Round UK Methane were still sitting on the Mendip PEDL so it couldn’t be put forward for consideration.

Despite what Andrea Leadsom has said there is nothing stopping the Bristol-Somerset coalfield being licensed yet again in the next licensing round for exploration of CBM. It is worth noting that the safeguards to shale gas fracking in the Infrastructure Act 2015 do not apply to CBM including surface drilling in protected areas such as AONBs and World Heritage Sites and fracking at depths as shallow as 200m.

So this good news story rings rather hollow. Nothing has changed except a larger area of Somerset is now licensed for oil and gas exploration than ever before.