“Critics of Fracking are ignorant and use myths to play on public fears”
Advocates of Fracking often rely on lazy put-downs, selecting and then countering the most unusual examples like methane in tap water or earthquakes caused by drilling. This narrative (and the referenced documents) provide plenty of evidence to demonstrate that we are well informed and have researched the evidence well.
“The risks are worth taking and we have the best regulated industry”
The risks are being deliberately understated (Ref1), especially the risks to water quality and public health. We need to know what the industry plans to do with the seriously contaminated water left underground or returned from the shale. We need them to be candid with us about the risks if the public is to be persuaded they can be managed effectively. So far the record on this in the UK is very poor. We need regulations that are specific to Fracking and we need one agency (not 2 or3) who deal rigorously with bidders beforehand, on-site, during and long after wells are operational. Ireland and Holland are leading the way. Germany (which depends on Russia for its imported gas) concluded that the risks were too great. Our imported gas is mainly from Norway and is secure for at least a decade.
“The lights will go out if we don’t use shale”
There is a real problem about our power supply dipping below capacity at times of high demand in winter, largely because our famed nuclear and gas powered stations are not functioning very well, but also because of failures to invest long term in renewables (solar, wind and especially marine). Policy can still be shifted to back renewables rather than shale gas. New technologies to store power are emerging but need sustained funding to move to industrial scales. A serious drive against wasting energy is needed. Egs Why are we still building houses that rely so much on fossil fuel energy? Why don’t we have incentives for solar pv panels and triple glazing? We could save energy by adopting year round ‘Summertime’ rather than putting the clocks back from October to March. Street lights need converting to LED units and to be routinely switched off at times when very few are driving, cycling or walking. We could stagger the working day to even out power demand and avoid rush hour fuel waste. But this all requires a powerful, sustained strategy, led by government, not just gimmicks. (Ref 4)
“The UK needs more energy security and shale gas will at least belong to us”
Our gas deficit at present is met largely by Norway but our imports of prime energy do need to be reduced. The energy market is, by most definitions, dysfunctional. Investing fully in marine and other renewable sources would increase our self- sufficiency in energy. Shale gas may have to be exploited by later generations but not by ours when we are battling to contain fossil fuel induced climate change.
“Renewables are too uneven to meet our energy needs”
So the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. But tides, waves and river flows are predictable. We need to invest enough in these rather than surrender to policy based on lazy platitudes. We will soon be able to store energy on a large scale and across peaks and troughs of demand – if we invest in the emerging technologies. The outcome of planning decisions about the Swansea Bay Lagoons tidal scheme are due soon. Funding is secured. Government seems at last to have recognised the merits of the scheme. More similar ventures are needed. The same company is exploring the potential of a 20 mile stretch of the north Welsh coast. MeyGen have a tidal project off Caithness coming on stream 2016.
“Climate change is just green nonsense” or “If climate change is real, we’re stuffed so why bother?”
This sort of response tests everyone’s patience but it is commonplace in some parts of the media. Our generations are privileged to have access to vastly more scientific understanding and prediction than any before – but also an increasing capacity to ignore that knowledge. Shall we all go on cruises through the north-west passage just to check that the ice really is melting? And by being selfish and short-sighted, can we accept that the consequences will be massive population migrations from inundated or dislocated countries towards Western Europe and North America?
“You protesters are NIMBYs, unpatriotic and part of the Green Blob”
As we increasingly touch the government’s nerve, this type of abuse is becoming more common (Cameron 16.12.14 Ref 7). We should be gratified that the Fracking contingent is so desperate about the hostility of public opinion that it is obliged to react so petulantly. It is not in the national interest to conduct an apocalyptic experiment with our water quality in pursuit of the last scrapings of fossil fuels when a positive, enduring set of alternatives – renewables, storage and waste reduction – is within our collective grasp.
“Regulation in the UK is much more robust than in the USA”
This is seriously misleading. USA regulation has been feeble. But the UK is granting clear passage to the fracking companies. Our system is drawn from conventional mining methods. We blocked the EU’s proposals for strong fracking-specific regulation. Our regulation is paper heavy, with minimal on-site supervision. It is split awkwardly between the Environment Agency and HSE, both of which have lost many staff and been given other high priority extra duties (eg flood defences). The ambiguous endorsement of test drilling for fracking the Royal Society was conditional upon a ‘robust regulation regime’. We do not have that. It is not fit for purpose.
“Local Planners can still delay or halt fracking proposals”
The Growth and Infrastructure Act of 2013 and the Infrastructure Act of 2014 give wide powers to the Secretary of State to invoke ‘National Interests’ to overrule Local Plans, bid rejections etc. Local Planning Authorities are required to presume ‘in favour of Fracking’. Trespass laws have been amended in favour of operators. National Parks and AoNBs are not exempt from fracking. If a local authority rejects bids its powers can be ‘designated’ – ie replaced by the SoS. Powers have been reserved to the SoS to overrule and revoke existing Acts (eg to exempt operators from civil and criminal liabilities, as in the USA). Scotland and Wales now have delegated powers to ban fracking. England is left exposed.