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Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss – but as far as the Government is concerned, dissent is unimportant. Photo: Manchester Friends of the Earth via Flickr.
The UK Government’s policy is to frack at all costs, against public opinion and compelling evidence of environmental damage and poor returns, writes Paul Mobbs – a timely reminder that as far as the Government is concerned, it has a God-given right to rule over us, no matter what we think or want.
On my recent travels through London I’ve been trying to get here as it’s a nice place to sit and ponder – with its own unique and prophetic story to tell.
For the past three days I’ve been at the Frack Free South Wales gathering. In Wales I met a lot of people who, just a few months ago, didn’t know about ‘fracking’ and the Government’s project to carve-up the country for hydrocarbons exploration.
Despite an uncooperative and often indifferent mainstream media, we’ve got the message across at the grassroots.
Now I’m trying to get people, especially the ‘fractivists’ carrying the movement, to focus on ‘what comes next’ – to be proactive instead of reactive.
What happens next?
The Government’s strongly anti-environmental / pro-fossil fuels agenda has been coming for some time. As I’ve been talking about for a year or so, we just have to trace the influences on policy to see where it’s come from and where it’s heading.
It started with David Cameron’s recruitment of the Australian lobbyist Lynton Crosby – the architect of Cameron’s new policy to “get rid of the green crap”. That grew into a set of policies which made the environment expendable in order to maintain, forlornly, the great mantra of ‘growth’.
What I’ve tried to get people to understand is that we’ve been here before – where social movements sought to oppose a seemingly insurmountable political agenda.
If we want to understand ‘what happens next’ there are two relatively recent examples we can learn from.
The GMO lesson
Firstly, the campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops, the response of the agribusiness lobby, and how that influenced Government policy.
In 1996 I got a list of the sites across Britain where genetically modified crops were being tested from the Health and Safety Executive – and put it on my web site.
A short while later, spontaneously, people started to pull up the crops. One of the groups I subsequently became involved with was genetiX snowball, which drew many influences from the peace movement.
genetiX snowball was a great campaign… Then came the civil injunctions from the High Court. (more…)
Graphic shows earthquakes in Oklahoma over the past three days; 2c x 3 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 88 mm;
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place have seen a surge in earthquake activity, raising suspicions that the unconventional drilling method could be to blame, especially the wells where the industry disposes of its wastewater.
Fracking generates vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground. No one knows for certain exactly what happens to the liquids after that. Scientists wonder whether they could trigger quakes by increasing underground pressures and lubricating faults.
Oklahoma has recorded nearly 250 small-to-medium earthquakes since January, according to statistics kept by the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s close to half of all the magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes recorded this year in the continental United States.
A study published earlier this month in the journal Science suggests that just four wells injecting massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up much of the state, accounting for one out of every five quakes from the eastern border of Colorado to the Atlantic coast.
Another concern is whether injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures.
Most of the quakes in areas where injection wells are clustered are too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives. Yet they’ve led some states, including Ohio, Oklahoma and California, to introduce new rules compelling drillers to measure the volumes and pressures of their injection wells as well as to monitor seismicity during fracking operations.
FILE – In this June 26, 2014 file photo, Austin Holland, research seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, hangs up a chart depicting earthquake activity at their offices at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place have seen a surge in seismic activity, raising suspicions that the unconventional drilling method, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater, could be to blame. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File) (more…)
Oil and gas giant Shell is not tempted by fracking in Britain.
Shell’s Prelude floating liquefied natural gas vessel destined for Australia. Shell sees really strong LNG growth in the longer terms but little gain from fracking in Britain. Photo: SEOKYONG LEE
Shale gas is likely to play an increasingly important role in powering Britain’s growth but don’t expect the country’s largest oil and gas company, Royal Dutch Shell, to help create a fracking-led energy revolution.
Andrew Brown, director of upstream international business and the man responsible for the main revenue-generating side of Britain’s most valuable company, is sceptical about the potential for shale oil and gas development in Britain.
“At the moment the UK position, you know, is not ranking for us,” Brown tells The Sunday Telegraph in an interview in his office overlooking the Thames. “This is a matter of just being disciplined about where we expect to get returns if our exploration is successful.
“It’s a matter of geology, costs, access, you know, it’s a combination of factors that would mean it’s not yet somewhere we would focus on.
“Capital is tight and we need to be very clear about where we want to spend that discretional dollar.”
Read the full story here.
A GLOBAL survey states deep fracking is ‘not’ a threat to water supplies in the South Downs.
The British Geological Survey states the risk of water supplies being contaminated in Britain is much lower than in the United States because almost all shale oil and gas is at least 650m below groundwater layers.
Many US homeowners have claimed that their water supply has been contaminated by methane leaks from fracked wells.
But companies in the US targeted shale less than 100m from chalk aquifers, which store water.
The distance to chalk water supply aquifers at the Weald basin in the South Downs is at least 650m.
The survey states that water supplies under the Downs should not be at risk from deep fracking, as long as vertical wells were drilled and ‘sealed safely’.
Dr Alwyn Hart, head of the air, land, and water research team at the Environment Agency, said: “We have strong regulatory controls in place to protect groundwater, and will not permit activity that threatens water and drinking supplies.”
Groundwater from the aquifers in the South Downs provide up to 70 per cent of the drinking water in the South East, making it one of the most important natural resources in the region.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was among 25 people arrested at Balcombe in August 2013 during anti-fracking protests.
At court she was found not guilty of obstructing a public highway and a public order offence.
Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The survey is very interesting but we don’t think that it will eliminate the risk to the contamination of water.
“We believe the regulatory system is not strong enough.
“We don’t need to be trying to extract increasingly difficult fossil fuels when we need to be reducing our carbon emissions.” (more…)
As the oil and gas industry has expanded in parts of the US, so have the number of earthquakes.
Massive injections of wastewater from the oil and gas industry are likely to have triggered a sharp rise in earthquakes in the state of Oklahoma.
Researchers say there has been a forty-fold increase in the rate of quakes in the US state between 2008-13.
The scientists found that the disposal of water in four high-volume wells could be responsible for a swarm of tremors up to 35km away.
Their research has been published in the journal, Science.
There has been increasing evidence of links between the process of oil and gas extraction and earthquakes in states like Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma in recent years.
In 2011, a small number of people were injured and 14 houses were destroyed in the town of Prague, Oklahoma by a 5.7 tremor.
Investigators linked it to the injection of wastewater from the oil industry.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has also reported on the question of seismicity induced by wastewater disposal.
This new research goes further, linking a large swarm of Oklahoma tremors with a number of specific water wells, distantly located.
More than 2,500 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 have occurred around the small town of Jones since 2008. This represents about 20% of the total in the central and western US in this period.
There has been a significant increase in the number of tremors in central Oklahoma since 2008. (more…)