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Week Ending 12th May 2013

Significant week for the fracking war

The week started off quietly, with Scottish Lord Smith pushing the country as a new fracking hub. His chairmanship of energy company SSE seems at odds with his chairmanship of the Green Investment Bank which was set up to promote investment in environmental preservation and improvement, however his outburst today made it clear where he stands. Not that he comes with any respectable reputation. SSE was fined 10.5 million for misselling energy. Lord Smith kept his chair, CEO Ian Marchant tookl the fall, although the 15 million golden handshake must have been some compensation.
Baron Smith of Kelvin is not to be confused with Baron Smith of Finsbury, who heads the Environment Agency. This other Lord Smith was also in the news this week, reported as saying that fracking should be left to the EA and the government should consider taking planning away from local councils, who were otherwise likely to derail the fracking industry. Another indication of just how hard the government's own major regulator is likely to push fracking at the expense of local communities, and how likely they are to resist strict regulation.

On Tuesday Bath and North East Somerset Council and city MP Don Foster joined forces in expressing concern about fracking and the possible effects on the springs. Later in the Week it was reported that DECC recognised Bath as a special case. A pity they don't see the whole of the country that way.

The main happenings of the week, however, started on Wednesday, with the announcement that Cuadrilla planned to go ahead with drilling at Balcombe. Cuadrilla were at pains to say they had no plans for fracking, but it is hard to see how they can retain any credibility, with their poor record of PR disasters, including a recent "secret" meeting with Balcombe Parish Council.

This was only the start. After Cuadrilla had opened up a second front in Sussex, IGas stepped in with a barrage of press releases announcing their plans to move ahead with exploration, and makinmg one of the week's most significant revelations, that they saw flaring as an essential part of the exploration process. Cuadrilla also admitted they would be flaring. Another hole shot in the frackers' claims of green fuel. And another string objection to them obtaining planning permission for test production.
Coastal Oil and Gas also pitched in, with two new planning applications for Wales.

Southport MP John Pugh muttered his support for fracking with a request for benefit to th local community, but the main push came from a heavyweight of the pro-frackers. Peter Lilley used the week to launch a new assault on truth, the environment and environm,entalists. His talk of no "surrender" to the "Greens" made it clear that we had entered a new stage of the war against fracking, and a war it indeed was. The Telegraph picked this up to announce that the fracking argument had notched up a level or two. The Guardian and spectator noted how important Lilley has become in defining the Tories' policy. Meanwhile the Mirror revealed that an aide close to David Cameron, Lynton Crosby, had serious links with the energy industry, infcluding fracking companies, and questioned how much lobbying he was doing on the industry's behalf. The Mirror noted that "The PM dropped curbs on booze and fags after hiring the lobbyist whose firm works for alcohol and tobacco giants".

Meanwhile another top energy and climate advisor, Ben Moxham, quit as adviser to Cameron amid speculation he was exasperated by lack of progress on climate change commitments. Speculation was that he would be replaced by Tara Singh, a former Centrica executive.

Reports of planning applications pending in North Warwickshire fuelled fears that imingham's green belt was in the fracking firing line. News that Shell and Oxford University were doing a new deal prompted uproar. Reports announced that a new Canada/EU agreement would give oil and gas companies rights to challenge fracking bans. And the Independent reported a brain-drain of renewable energy scientists from the UK because of the lack of funding.

The week brought little to cheer the UK anti-fracking movement, but may have stiffened resolve and heightened the awareness that the Camp Frack in Lancashire to be held at the weekend needed to focus on action. Some scraps of comfort came from abroad, two north American companies pulled out of fracking exploration in Poland, another report worried that the US shale bubble had burst, bur more news signalled the Obama administration's willingness to allow fracking on federal land, and the US industry's readiness to challenge regulation.

To round the week off Francis Egan, now dubbed "Mr Frack" it seems, attacked the anti brigade as fearmongering. "Things have become ridiculous", he iwas quoted as saying. And "‘We can say that we have 200, 300 or perhaps a thousand trillion cubic feet of gas in the ground in this country". Is his posing becoming manic?

Any opinions here not quotes from the week's news reports are my own. Alan Tootill

News As It Came In with hyperlinks to original stories

Monday

Scottish energy and green banking hypocrite Lord Smith rallies support for fracking

Tuesday

Nimby Bath MP and local councils speak out against fracking

Wednesday

Reuters report Cuadrilla to drill Balcombe
Mid Sussex Times report
G4S to provide security at Balcombe
FT report
Keith Taylor on Balcombe drilling
Guardian reports first drilling in home counties

Obama administration to reveal regulations for fracking public land
PA survey Shows fracking communities suffer from stress

Thursday

BBC report on Balcombe
Mail reports Balcombe drilling news
Cuadrilla say going for oil
Vine threatens all possisble means. Avoids oil issue.
Another Sussex local report
Guardian take on local Balcombe reaction

Grealy elevated to pro-fracking sainthood, claims to be an environmentalist and more nonsense

Southport MP on fracking

Peter Lilley on the offensive
Tory bloggocks - more from the Lilley school of stupidity

DECC "Unique situation in Bath"

Reward fracking communities with extra police officers, says IGas
Coming to sites across the UK soon – IGas fracking flares

Protestors' appeal only partly successful

Two N American companies quit Poland
Fracking debate stirs in U.S. House
US firms fight regulation

Friday

Coastal Oil and Gas apply for two more permissions in Wales

David Cameron aide's links to fracking firm revealed

Key climate change adviser resigns from Cameron post
Speculation mounts over exit of key Number 10 climate adviser

Shale gas: green groups condemn Cuadrilla and Igas methane flaring plans for wells

IGas say less hot air, let us drill and find what's down there
IGas and Institute of Directors say shale gas is green. Greenpeace says no.

New Oxford University/Shell partnership sparks anger

Shale Bust: North America Natural Gas Production set to Seriously Decline

EA boss Lord Smith says government should stop local councils blocking fracking

EU-Canada trade agreement threatens fracking bans

Recognition that the war is now on

Saturday

Telegraph says fracking debate heats up

Spectator highlights Lilley's dire impact on Tory energy and climate change policy

Coalition faces an exodus of energy experts as funding for renewables is held up

BBC reports Camp Frack and adds in Cuadrilla lies about reserves
ITV reports Camp Frack with a couple of pictures

Could Fracking be about to begin in Birmingham’s Green belt?

Sunday

Egan rants against the opposition, ups the fracking overhype

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