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.

Fracking and Earthquakes

In Weld County, Colorado, fracking at one well has been stopped by the authorities for 20 days, in order to determine whether the fracking is associated with an earthquake of 2.6 magnitude and an earlier earthquake of 3.4 magnitude. Continue reading

Who Should You Believe about Shale Gas

You cannot believe two different statements when each purport to be the absolute truth and those statements contradict each other. That means you have to chose. I offer some choices.  Continue reading

House of Lords: help yourself to the Pottage

In what is still for the moment the United Kingdom the unelected House of Lords has pronounced (through one of its committees served by the great and the good) that shale gas will bring substantial benefits to the nation and that risks of harm and environmental damage is low, while demanding at the same time a reduction in regulation of fracking enterprises. Continue reading

Wind Turbines Spoil the View But less so than Fracking

Wind turbines do spoil the view. These huge revolving one legged creatures do have an impact on the countryside in terms of changing what people call its visual amenity.  However, power stations have a bigger impact on the visual amenity of the countryside and fracking operations will also have a visual impact on the countryside and they will Continue reading

In The Long Term We Are All Dead

As many people have expected the process of fracking releases much more methane into the atmosphere than official figures credit. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how researchers used an aircraft to collect information about atmospheric methane concentrations and measured them. Continue reading

Cabot Oil and Gas -v- Mrs Scroggins

Mrs Scroggins might be a name that Charles Dickens would have used in one of his novels, perhaps for a kindly nurse. Dickens was good with names. However the real Mrs Scroggins is a retired nurse and grandmother who lives in Susquehanna County which is in Pennsylvania. The name of the county indicates its origins as land once owned by native Americans, long since vanished from the Pennsylvanian landscape, and now other Americans are trustees and guardians of the land.

Mrs Scroggins opposes fracking. She is entitled to oppose it and make her opposition known. The frackers in question are the Cabot Oil & Gas Company and in the course of her opposition Mrs Scroggins has apparently trespassed on the company’s land on eleven occasions and uploaded videos of her visits to YouTube. As far as I know she did not physically damage the land, just took videos of what is going on there, which can hardly qualify as a secret whether of the industrial or any other kind.

The Cabot people however did not like the idea of Mrs Scroggins trespassing on their land and probably liked the videos she took going public even less so they obtained a temporary injunction against her which prevents Mrs Scroggins from

“entering upon property owned and/or leased by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation including but not limited to well sites, well pads and access roads.”

However Cabot leases subsurface rights to more than 200,000 acres across the state, including around 40 per cent of Susquehanna County, which stops Mrs Scroggins for visiting much of the county, including her friends homes, the local grocers, hospital and recycling centre, the latter of which I expect Mrs Scroggins would wish to visit frequently.

It seems that there is some doubt as to whether an injunction can restrain someone from visiting land which have the sub surface leased to a fracking company and Mrs Scroffins lawyers are contesting the injunction, which Cabot claims was sought only to prevent Mrs Scroggins from injuring herself by getting to close to fracking operations.

Of course, Cabot would claim, I imagine, that there is no chance of their fracking operations injuring any resident of Susquehanna County, but the residents will have to take their chances on that as no court will restrain the fracking operations being carried out by Cabot.

However, if you care to view Mrs Scroggins videos on you tube you might find that there is some cause for alarm at the way in which fracking operations are carried out.

I wish the retired nurse the best in her endeavours to educate the people of he neighbourhood about the way in which the fracking operations are being carried out, and hope that the court will show sense and overturn the injunction, although I fear that the interests of business and money over ordinary folk may well continue to prevail.

Pop and Pizza for Bobtown’s Fracking Pop

On 11 February this year an explosion occurred in Bobtown Pennsylvania in a shale formation where Chevron was fracking for natural gas. One work is missing presumed dead and the flames caused by the explosion burned for five days. Continue reading

Fracking and Flooding

In ten years from now, if I am still alive, I shall be able to look over the hills of England and Wales and will see, if the politicians have their way, a series of small gas works, erected to fracture shale rock underground, perhaps a kilometre or more deep, with storage tanks on the surface so that this country may collect natural gas to burn for heat and power. Not many people have imagined this vision; there is a disconnect in our minds between Continue reading

When it comes to the environment humanity has always implemented imperfect solutions.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has said that fracking will boost the United Kingdom’s economy. He thinks that the gas discovered will prove a cheap form of energy which will encourage businesses that need to use large amounts of energy to establish themselves or move to the United Kingdom. Continue reading