From the TUC

The rational anti-fracking movement of Balcombe

24 Jan 2014, by in Environment

The exploitation of any new energy source should be based on sound science and economics. The Prime Minister may come to regret his remarks that some people are “religiously opposed” to shale gas, declaring this “irrational.” In a 3,500-word submission  to the House of Lords inquiry into shale gas fracking, the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association responds: “Some politicians label us ‘irrational’. But we in Balcombe have been soberly studying fracking for the past two years.”  They draw on “peer-reviewed science, our experience of Cuadrilla operating in our village, and on personal contact with North Americans and Australians whose land and lives have been severely damaged by this industry.” Balcombe residents expressed disbelief at Cuadrilla’s claim yesterday that they have no intention of fracking in the village.

This is a brief extract of FFBRA ‘s compelling report:

  • Community sweeteners: “The potential costs to health, environment and livelihood are too great.” The money would not go far in any case – FFBRA cites US road-mending data that show the costs of improving and repairing roads exceed any compensation.
  • Longer-term costs: Wells once drilled will be there forever. Evidence from the USA shows that around half of all wells will fail or leak within a few years. How long will Cuadrilla’s insurance be valid, a company with apparently a six figure negative net worth.
  • Cheaper energy: “Gas prices will not drop this side of the Atlantic for industry and hard-working families.” Virtually all the experts, including Lord Stern, are now agreed on this, but the government still repeats this myth. We are part of the European regional gas market, and any local extraction will have minimal impact.
  • Hyped job figures: An Institute of Directors, Cuadrilla-sponsored study (including non-peer reviewed, industry data) promised 74,000 jobs. An official DECC-funded study by Amec predicted a range of 2,500 – 32,000. Yet government and industry still quote Cuadrilla’s figure.
  • Climate change: Peer-reviewed scientific papers published recently in the USA provide powerful evidence of high levels of methane emissions in the air around gas sites, at levels that would undermine any claims that shale gas could result in lower greenhouse gas emissions if gas were to replace coal.
  • Industrialisation of the countryside: fracking will ‘result in unavoidable changes to the countryside’. We are threatened with thousands of wells. Oil or gas flow declines sharply in shale wells, possibly by 70% over the first year.
  • Inadequate on-shore regulation: adequate regulation “is impossible for on-shore shale gas exploration.” Baseline air and water quality data has been lacking. Companies have opposed public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing – well over 600 chemicals have so far been used in fracking fluid across more than a dozen states – including hazardous air and drinking water pollutants, and known human carcinogen. No long-term study has been done anywhere in the world on the public health effects of chronic exposure of human populations to the emissions from shale gas/oil extraction. But extended exposure to the radioactive and chemical emissions typically associated with shale gas/oil operations poses a serious mortality and morbidity risk and this should be made clear.
  • The Environment Agency is increasingly understaffed and underfinanced. Setting a pattern for the future, last summer, Cuadrilla were allowed to self-monitor, self-report, and self-regulate.
  • Conflicted role of government: The government is now caught between its reassurances about what it claims is a ‘robust regulatory regime’ and its promise to industry of ‘clear, streamlined regulations’. But ‘streamlined’ carries the implication that the oil and gas industry will influence the democratic process, dissenting voices will be ignored and that evidence pointing to dangers of grave environmental damage will be sidelined.
  • Reflux: Around half the fracking fluid comes back up to the surface through the well. More fluid (or gas) can emerge elsewhere at unpredictable times and locations. Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University, David Smythe, has examined the issue of rock faults acting as conduits to take such hazardous material back up to our immediate environment:  ‘A leaky fault is a fast-track back to shallow groundwater and to the surface for methane and other gases”

Looking ahead, Celtique Energie has said it wants to explore for gas and oil at five sites in Sussex. Frack Free Sussex is similarly examining the complex scientific and environmental implications of a transient industry that will leave a permanent footprint.

Or, from this:


To this? (Wyoming)

Fr Wyoming

7 Responses to The rational anti-fracking movement of Balcombe

  1. Has the TUC gone nuts? | Tim Worstall
    Jan 26th 2014, 1:34 pm

    […] Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re for the workers etc but seriously, has the TUC now gone entirely doolally? […]

  2. john77
    Jan 26th 2014, 5:09 pm

    Your link is NOT to a peer-reviewed scientific paper but to a LETTER in a journal “Climatic Change” which uses some debatable assumptions and has a massive flaw in comparing shale with coal using energy produced in combustion instead of electricity produced as the denominator. Relative to electricity produced – even on their other debatable assumptions – GHG produced by shale gas would be at least 20% lower than coal over a 20-year horizon and far lower over a 100-year horizon.
    Secondly ascribing all pipeline losses to leakage instead of theft is ludicrous. The scandals of the pollution of the Niger delta due to oil stolen from Shell pipelines and Gazprom cutting off gas supplied to the Ukraine because so much was stolen are just the headlines. Theft is endemic in the USA just as it is elsewhere.

  3. Fred Z
    Jan 27th 2014, 4:34 am

    It’s not so much that you are a liar, as it is that you’re a fool.

    There is to be no fracking near Balcombe, so why are you driveling on.

    Your images of the UK and Wyoming are fraudulent. Different scales, different topography, different seasons and different climate. The land is bare because the land is bare not because of anything the oil industry did.

    Lying putz.

  4. fake
    Jan 27th 2014, 9:57 am

    Americas enviromental laws are often non-existant, we will be imposing strict rules, as well as Fred Z comment about different scales, topography, climate.

  5. Shaun Cohen
    Jan 27th 2014, 11:05 am

    I was agnostic about fracking, however I am increasingly becoming concerned about the apparent lack of scientific validility in regard to environmental impact and particularly the economic benefits.
    Also Iam wondering if the latest attack on so called red tape will provide an excuse to loosed environmental laws.

  6. Philip Pearson

    Philip Pearson
    Jan 27th 2014, 11:19 am

    Reply to John 77:
    Hi John,
    Yes, I take your point. The Balcombe submission to the House of Lords cites a 10 page academic letter by Howarth and others cited in the journal, Climate Change. This is not itself a peer reviewed paper. The authors evaluate the GHG footprint of natural gas extracted through fracking from shale. They state that their estimate of production and downstream methane are “within the range of those reported by most other peer-reviewed publications inventories. Despite this broad agreement, the uncertainty in the magnitude of fugitive emissions is large. Given the importance of methane in global warming, these emissions deserve far greater study than has occurred in the past. We urge both more direct measurements and refined accounting to better quantify lost and unaccounted for gas.” Their research paper/letter is supported by some 40 references.

    In my blog I wrote:
    “Peer-reviewed scientific papers published recently in the USA provide powerful evidence of high levels of methane emissions in the air around gas sites, at levels that would undermine any claims that shale gas could result in lower greenhouse gas emissions if gas were to replace coal.”

    The paper by Hayhoe and others cited in the letter is an example of peer reviewed inquiries into the issue of coal to gas substitution, which examines the short and long term effects. Much work of this nature is going on in the scientific community.

    The TUC’s position on the UK’s energy mix seeks to ensure that we meet our national and global GHG reduction targets. The IPCC’s latest work on carbon budgets suggests that time is indeed running out to prevent dangerous climate change. At this point in the UK’s energy history, we argue for the global development of CCS technology for coal and gas. We are concerned, as is the Ctee on Climate Change, that the government is promoting a dash for unabated gas power. We currently argue that the government’s main priority should be a focus on a balance of low carbon generation – new nuclear, CCS for coal and gas, and renewables. As you may have seen, the TUC’s precautionary approach reflects concerns that shale gas extraction will not deliver lower energy bills nor a jobs bonanza, nor is the evidence on ghg convincing, and there are wider and profound issues concerning long term water pollution and landscape destruction.

    Another recent study argues that CO2 emissions are the key to anthropogenic climate change, and substituting gas reduces them by 40% of that possible by conversion to zero carbon energy sources. Gas substitution also reduces the rate at which zero carbon energy sources must eventually be introduced (Assessing the greenhouse impact of natural gas, L. M. Cathles).

    I hope this helps explain our position, and thank you for your comments.


  7. Pam Barber
    Feb 2nd 2014, 10:02 pm

    I am so disappointed in this government who seem to be doing the same as their forbears i.e. taking short-term measures with regard to solving energy problems!