Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

My final word on Fracking?

with 30 comments

Professor Iain Stewart presenting one of his many excellent TV programmes (this one about the north-west of Scotland).

(Probably not!)

Herewith appended below is an email I sent today to Professor Iain Stewart (and copied to all those named in it).

However, please note that I have just found the BBC TV programme to which it refers has now been posted on You Tube (also appended below).


Dear Professor Stewart,

I wanted to express my appreciation for the sensitive way in which you handled the issues in last night’s Horizon programme and for all the facts, figures and research findings it contained.  I was particularly interested in the evidence that shale gas has escaped from poorly-constructed wells in the USA.  Even if the UK can improve on the 6 to 7% failure rate in the USA, 100% success (i.e. no failures) is highly improbable.  Therefore, if fracking must be pursued (for whatever reason), this would make it imperative that the British Geological Survey establish baseline monitoring for methane as soon as possible. Would it be possible to get a copy of the transcript of the programme (or a list of References)?

Given my geological background and my MA in Environmental Politics, I have written a great deal about Fracking and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on my blog.  However, having started out very much opposed to both Fracking and CCS, my position has evolved as a consequence of ‘exchanges of views’ I had last year with Professor Peter Styles (Keele) and with Professor Robert Mair (Cambridge/Royal Society).  As a result of these exchanges – summarised or linked to here on my blog – I would agree with Peter that we probably need shale gas.  However, I believe Peter also agrees with me that we probably cannot afford it*.  I also understand that the remit of the Royal Society specifically excluded the long-term sustainability implications of pursuing fracking.

Nevertheless, this leaves me wondering whether you could encourage the BBC to do a second programme to address the consequences of humans burning all the Earth’s fossil fuels simply because they are there; and/or the need for ‘Western’ per capita energy consumption to be drastically reduced?  Having read David MacKay’s book, Sustainable Energy: Without The Hot Air, I think our biggest problem is that most people do not think holistically about the problems we face or, even worse, they seem to think concepts such as ‘ecological carrying capacity‘ are just [eco-Fascist] propaganda.  However, although it would seem that CCS is now going to be essential in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), I think it is also the biggest obstacle to getting politicians to take decisive action to decarbonise our power generation systems.

Even if such a second Horizon programme is not likely, I remain very appreciative of all you have done – and are doing – to raise the profile of ACD as an Earth Science issue that should be of concern to all.

Kind regards, [etc]

* If fracking becomes the new energy boom, it is very hard to see how CCS will ever be able to be rolled-out on a global scale to keep pace with unabated CO2 emissions.


30 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Fracked minds frack Earth, souls in a fractionary fracas. Fracktually the 1000 ppm CO2 fractionally poisoned atmosphere project.

    Patrice Ayme

    21 June 2013 at 02:35

  2. This raises the question, ‘Is mankind really hell-bent on destroying this planet and himself with it?’ I cannot reach any other conclusion. Merely to do the “do-able” for the sake of a few more Dollars or Roubles does not justify the combustion of anything combustible. But all this “development” creates jobs! The new mantra is being preached; make your obeisances!

    Thomas Foster

    21 June 2013 at 07:54

    • Thanks Thomas. I have to admit, however, that I had to look up ‘obeisances’ in a dictionary.

      Martin Lack

      21 June 2013 at 09:41

  3. “I would agree with Peter that we probably need shale gas. However, I believe Peter also agrees with me that we probably cannot afford it […] I think our biggest problem is that most people do not think holistically about the problems we face”

    I agree we cannot afford shale gas, and I believe that we need it like we need a hole in the head. That we’re pursuing it strongly suggests that this hole is already present.

    Does this constitute holeistic thinking?


    1 July 2013 at 07:55

    • It is certainly better than the a-hole-istic thinking that most libertarian politicians are doing…

      Martin Lack

      1 July 2013 at 10:11

      • … is that my cue to use the ‘plonker’ word, or will that incur the wrath of the LART again?


        1 July 2013 at 23:48

        • Your ability to come up with acronyms IMANHOB (i.e. I may actually not’ve heard of before) is amazing.

          Martin Lack

          2 July 2013 at 18:20

        • ICWYOEWTI*. Have I not mentioned that I am a major geek? (My geekiness has been geekily measured by Innergeek as being 43.35793%. Not as high as some; higher than others. There’s not much I can be proud of in this life; I hope — somewhat wistfully — for more in the next… but that’s another tale).

          It Comes With Years Of Experience With The Innerwebz. HYENTATTRAILIH**?

          ** Have You Ever Noticed That Abbreviations Tend To Resemble Ancient Indigenous Languages? I Have.


          2 July 2013 at 20:21

        • Nope, it’s no good, I can’t work out what that first acronym is either.

          Martin Lack

          2 July 2013 at 22:07

        • Ah, my bad, I missed out an aspidistra. Sorry.
          PS pedant!:)


          3 July 2013 at 19:29

  4. Another pointer to dangers in fracking, something else Francis Egan would not want us to know:

    What Cows Can Tell Us About The Dangers Of Fracking.

    No wonder they continue with their devious plans: Cuadrilla admits Balcombe planning application “legally ambigious”,

    and that was in The Telegraph – agents provocateur?


    Top civil servant Jeremy Heywood met Cuadrilla chief straight after Sussex fracking announcement .

    Also, in Colorado wells have been covered in floodwaters and nobody knew what was going on under the surface.

    No matter how well regulated, and that is a big question whenever has a fossil fuel extraction industry been properly regulated, there will always be leaks, blowouts, contamination of water supplies, damaged streets in quiet areas fro traffic with materials such frack-sand, engineering plant, fuel for working the sites and more.

    Lionel A

    20 September 2013 at 12:11

  5. Another article on methane leakage has appeared on CP More Bad News For Fracking: IPCC Warns Methane Traps Much More Heat Than We Thought

    We learned last month that the best fracked wells appear to have low emissions of methane, but that study likely missed the high-emitting wells that result in the vast majority of methane leakage. Back in August, a NOAA-led study measured a stunning 6% to 12% methane leakage over one of the country’s largest gas fields — which would gut the climate benefits of switching from coal to gas.

    Paterson, Osborne and Cameron take note, you may have fooled yourselves but you are not fooling us.

    Lionel A

    2 October 2013 at 20:12

    • Thanks Lionel. At nearly 25 times the warming potential of CO2, it only requires about 4% methane to escape unburnt to double the carbon footprint of fracking. Sadly, this is exactly what is happening. See my letter published (on 1 Oct) on the Geological Society website:

      Martin Lack

      3 October 2013 at 12:14

      • Thanks for that link, good for you. I have mentioned the Norwegian halt of CCS project elsewhere here which should be factored into the argument against current UK energy plans WRT shale gas.

        My thoughts are that fracking is not going to make any difference to the price consumers pay whilst an increasing amount of their cash will be required to purchase bottled drinking water because their own sources have run dry or are contaminated, the commensurate effects on agriculture could be dire too.

        Lionel A

        4 October 2013 at 16:36

        • Thanks Lionel. Have I told you about David Hone – Shell UK’s climate change adviser? He runs a blog and a Facebook page/group. The blog uses RSS feed (which I cannot) and so I have joined his Group on Facebook. As I have pointed out to David (and maybe here also?), the negative impact of Norway’s decision to abandon CCS is compounded by its decision to start mining methane clathrates on the seabed.

          Fracking is going to be incredibly costly in the long-term – simply because it will accelerate change and make mitigation and/or adaptation much harder.

          Martin Lack

          4 October 2013 at 17:18

  6. Now the Union of Concerned Scientists have come out with a report, full and summary versions Toward an Evidence-Based Fracking Debate. H/T Union of Concerned Scientists Cites DeSmog’s “Frackademia” Work in Major Report.

    Lionel A

    13 October 2013 at 13:16

    • Thanks Lionel. The UK is not the USA. We could undoubtedly learn from USA mistakes and engineer things better. We also have and independent body doing baseline monitoring and the Crown owns the mineral assets (not the landowners). However, despite all this, pursuing fracking is quite simply insane.

      The research of Mora et al (2013) indicates that:
      — an era of unprecedented monthly average temperatures is now inevitable; but
      — it will arrive sooner if we burn all unconventional hydrocarbons.

      Therefore, although absolute timing is irrelevant; the difference in timing (if we decide not to burn all fossil fuels simply because we can) will be crucial. This is because the cost burden is increased if we are forced to spend the money sooner and faster.

      I don’t know how many times our politicians have to be told this for the message to get through to them but I hope it is now beginning to penetrate their thick skulls.

      Martin Lack

      13 October 2013 at 17:01

      • I am well aware that the UK is not the USA (as indeed I pointed out in a post at Deltoid), however the same concerns apply here. And does not this blog reach other lands? Maybe it would help to identify that independent body. How independent is it? Not the RAS/RAofE report by any chance which was limited in scope.

        Lionel A

        13 October 2013 at 18:02

        • Please forgive me, Lionel, most of my comments were made for the benefit of other potential readers (I know you know this stuff). The ‘independent’ body – the British Geological Survey (BGS) – is actually no more independent (of government) than the Environment Agency or Highways Agency. However, in the UK, at least the BGS is collecting baseline data (i.e. for CH4 in groundwater).

          As I am sure we have both noted before, the RAS/RAofE study deliberately excluded any assessment of the climate change impacts of pursuing fracking. It was simply a dragon slayer… Therefore, as I implied previously, irrespective of any safeguards put in place, pursuing fracking will almost certainly be one of humanity’s last acts of gross stupidity.

          Martin Lack

          13 October 2013 at 19:49

        • Ah! Thanks for that BGS link – useful, one I missed before. So much material to read flying about right now.

          Lionel A

          14 October 2013 at 16:44

        • No probs. I sure can empathise with you on the latter.

          Martin Lack

          14 October 2013 at 18:59

  7. Lest anyone be under illusions as to how fracking is going to be good for us then read here and watch the video:

    Fracking the UK, Fracking Digest Week Ending 1st December 2013

    also visit the picture gallery there.

    Lionel A

    27 November 2013 at 16:05

  8. The present UK administration is the most schizophrenic yet, or is it suffering from Dissociative identity disorder considering the situation covered here:

    U.K. Embraces Fracking, Picks Winners And Losers Among Renewable Energy Industries.

    How much longer before a vote of no confidence? How many failed policies? How many U turns where ‘we told you so’. A bunch of self serving incompetents in charge that is for sure.

    Note Owen Patterson trying to play down the underlying trends in high tides and surges. The records of the incidences of London Barrier raisings give the lie to Patterson’s handwaving.

    This administration is trying to make things worse. When will they listen? Only in opposition I think.

    Disgusted from Hampshire.

    Lionel A

    9 December 2013 at 16:14

  9. Just arrived on the interwebs is a video put up at the Post Carbon Institute site Special Briefing: Attacking Fracking’s Achilles Heel — Economics.

    This being brought to my notice by reading ‘Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future’ by Richard Heinburg, following a reading of ‘Fracking the UK’ by Alan Tootill.

    Lionel A

    21 December 2013 at 16:30

    • Thanks Lionel. Very nice to see Alan Tootill being cited by such luminaries as Richard Heinberg… and to see the focus being turned on economics – rather than (mostly spurious) safety concerns…

      Martin Lack

      21 December 2013 at 20:17

  10. Professor Kevin Anderson on Fracking and more airports at manchester climate monthly via via Alan Tootill’s Fracking Digest.

    Who is exhibiting civil disobedience the protesters or our government leaders? Clearly it is the latter and they should be called to account for defrauding the electorate by reneging on promises. The penalties for lying in public office are…?

    Lionel A

    23 December 2013 at 17:52

  11. […] documentary tonight is Fracking: the New Energy Rush. A blogging friend in the UK, Martin Lack, posted about it last year. SBS1 at […]

Please join the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 351 other followers

%d bloggers like this: