Fracking: a Study in Stupidity

There is something about humanity that thinks if you can dig up a resource from the good earth, it is free and you can use that resource to enrich humanity individually and collectively. We dig up many resources from coal to oil, and from gold to lithium to enrich ourselves (or some of us) materially with these resources at the same time impoverishing ourselves in ways you cannot judge with mere money.

Nothing is free in this great planet: everything is connected; so if we dig up and burn coal to produce heat and other energy, a by product of digging up coal is to damage our lungs and in some cases to create the deaths of some of those who do the digging as well as those who close to the slag heaps carelessly dumped close to schools and homes.

But people stupidly ignore this inter connectivity of resources in their quest for enrichment, and so has it been with fracking. In theory fracking is a way of getting cheap natural gas from under the earth where it has been stored in shale rock for hundreds and thousands of millennia. Readers of these essays will know that I have always opposed fracking; it has always been clear that the risks to the many are greater than the rewards that the few and the many may reap from fracking.

I have listened to eminent people claim that fracking is safe and will contribute to our energy security by lessening our dependence on imported natural gas by producing home grown energy. I have never subscribed the the view that fracking is safe. I regarded fracking as presenting three major risks in the following order of importance and risk:

  1. Risk of methane leaking into and infecting water tables;
  2. Risk of methane, an insidious greenhouse gas, leaking into the atmosphere and
  3. Risk of causing earthquakes by damage to the rocks from which methane is extracted by explosions.

In the past view days the government has called a moratorium on fracking in this country. An earthquake of 2.9 on the Richter scale seems to have been caused by fracking and the advice the government has got is that it is impossible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by fracking and so it has suspended all fracking until it can know that fracking is safe.

Having suspended fracking on the basis of the third in importance of risk (in my view) I cannot see that racking will ever return to the United Kingdom, where the geology is unsuitable, there is dense population and where so much of our water depends on clean water tables: all rise to all three potential risks are serious and health and life threatening. However, with humanity you can never say “never” as we stupidly continue to pursue our quest for material wealth at the cost of the environment.

Had the government listened to views like mine the money wasted on fracking could have been better spent on benign energy (like wind and solar) preventing the waste of energy and improving renewable energy and preventing the use of unnecessary energy. Fracking was bound to be dangerous and to me this was obvious.

Andrea Leadsom, the UK minister responsible for science, said that the decision to call a moratorium on fracking follows the science. It is a shame that the government did not follow the science and the common sense when it permitted fracking in the first place. Fracking in the UK has been simply a study in stupidity.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Although recent reports indicate that global carbon dioxide emissions are not increasing it is important to bear in mind that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing. The most recent daily average measurement of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa is 406.29 parts per million. This measurement is much more precise than the statistics we are given for global emissions, which are based upon assumptions as much as upon measurements.

The International Energy Agency estimates that global energy related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 due to growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, and structural changes in the global economy. My guess is that overall carbon dioxide emissions are rising, notwithstanding the increase in renewable energy. After all the population of the most intensive creators of carbon dioxide, humanity, is growing very quickly and most humans are living longer than they did in previous generations.

It is ironic that in November 2012 when Mauna Loa reported atmospheric CO2 at 392.81 ppm there was far more interest and general reporting of climate change whereas five years later the issue is hardly reported, except en passant. When I first started writing on WordPress  in 2007 concentrations were around 380 ppm. 250 years ago the concentration was thought to be around 280 pmm.

I told you so

According to a new study published by Chatham House burning wood pellets is not carbon neutral and creates more emissions than burning coal. I told you so and have been telling you so on these pages for many years.
Governments do not listen. I told them so too, but they obviously thought they knew better. The UK government created a Renewable Heat Incentive based around burning wood pellets under which they subsidised the fuel and the subsidies, paid out of our taxes were very high indeed. In fact in Northern Ireland the RHI became a source of income as the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel.  Continue reading

Quite An Achievement

In the Western hemisphere, and now in the Eastern hemisphere each new generation has lived a more prosperous, safer and better life than the preceding generation. But that trend of improvement in life expectation has reversed, and now in many if not most, nations the younger generation will be less prosperous than the generation that begat them, and what challenges will future generations face as a result of climate change, today barely considered and kicked firmly off the back burner into the long grass? Continue reading

The Stuff that Dreams are Made on

The news of a scandal about carbon credits in Russia and Ukraine is unsurprising. The whole system of carbon credits involves paying people not to produce something that we do not want. It is an attempt to create a market in something that is both economically useless and dangerous by bribing industries not to produce the stuff.  Continue reading

The Long Run

In Karachi and the surrounding areas of Pakistan many people are suffering from heat exhaustion and some are dead as a result of very high summer temperatures. Karachi is a city of some twenty million inhabitants. It has poor infrastructural services – electricity is in short supply and clean water is short in summer- and this makes life almost unlivable when temperatures reach 45 Centigrade, as they have recently. The record temperature recorded at Karachi is 47 degrees Centigrade, which it hit in 1979. This is not a pleasant start to Ramadan. Continue reading

Good News that Ferrybridge will close

There was some very good news announced by SEE, the energy provider, today. It will close Ferrybridge, which is a coal burning power station in West Yorkshire, and re-open a  gas burning power station some 50 miles away. Continue reading