The main stories - in the frackers' "week from hell"
This week's report may be more bloggy than usual, but factual news has been thin on the ground, being holiday season. However, the pro-frackers are aware that it is a critical time for their crusade to frack rural Britain, and it may be that the decisive battles are fought over the next months to kill their hopes. We can expect a growing propaganda campaign from them, and we make no apologies for strengthening our resolve!
Business Green already by Thursday described it as "shale gas industry's latest week from hell" and a disaster for the monster fracking pr spinners.
The DEFRA Rural Economy Report
The week opened with last week's release of a heavily-censored report on fracking's potential adverse effect on the local community making a big stir. Caroline Lucas led the widespread criticism. The media's attention was caught by a snippet that WAS left in the report regarding the fall in house prices that had been experienced in the UK. Whether this was likely to happen in the UK was censored. A government spokesman said that no house price drop had been caused in the UK in the history of onshore drilling. Whether it has or has not of course we don't know, because no study has been made of prices of houses living next door to wellpads. And of course there has yest been only one well fracked.
What we certainly do know is that the threat of fracking is having an effect on house sales NOW in the Fylde. An estate agent confirmed to me personally that there was purchaser reluctance in the rural areas. And I have been told of failed sales near both the Preston New Road and Roseacre prospective drilling sites.
We commented last week on the report detail. you will find a link above. The DEFRA report is available here.
We have also looked at the reasons DEFRA gave for censoring the report.
"The remainder of the information requested is being withheld as it falls under the exception in regulation 12 (4) (e) of the EIRs, which relates to formation of government policy.
In applying this exception we have had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosure. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosure of information concerning policy development in relation to shale gas. On the other hand, there is a strong public interest in withholding the information because it is important that officials can consider implications of potential impacts and scenarios around the development of the shale gas industry and to develop options without the risk that disclosure of early thinking, could close down discussion."
The problem with the argument is that the government has already formulated its policy on shale gas. It has declared its intention clearly. In January this year Cameron said they would be "going all out for shale". He urged European leaders to sweep away “burdensome” shale gas regulations. He has repeated falsehoods on the potential benefits, in clear conflict with the advice he must have dreceived from civil servamts. Only this week a video ITV produced for release by the Telegraph showed him repeating the claim of 74,000 jobs shale would provide. And that, despite even the unredacted part of the DEFRA rural report only suggesting between 16,000 and 32,000 total (some of which very short lived) over a long period.
This is censorship pure and simple. The government has something to hide. There will be no rural benefit of shale gas. They know it and we know it.
Confirmation of this view came when Defra confirmed that there are now no plans to publish a complete version of the report because it is an “internal discussion document” and as such was never intended for public release.
There was a similar row last year into a DEFRA investigation into wind farms and house prices. As we know, Cameron has set his face against wind power in no uncertain manner.
Last year a DEFRA spokesman said
“It is our role to rural-proof policy. We need to ensure that energy is generated in a way that is sustainable. Sustainability includes the economic as well as social and environmental impacts.”
What are the chances of Cameron's government "rural proofing" shale gas policy. None seems like the betting man's answer. In fact the shale gas horse has already passed the finisihing line. Rural Fylde in particular will be left to pick up the pieces.
Poll scam and the truth
UKOOG the UK Onshore Operators Group issued a press release boasting that according to a study paid for them and carried out by Populus 57% of people support fracking. Media reports centred on comments like "More than half of Brits (57%) back shale gas and just 16% are opposed according to a new poll released today."
This of course is simply not true, if only because you can't extend to that conclusion from one biased survey. Moreover we know 250,000 number of signatures on a Friends of the Earth et al petition asking Cameron to ban fracking, a recent poll in the Manchester Evening News which stated over 75% of its Manchester readers opposed fracking that the survey's conclusions are dubious.
We looked into this survey's methodology and credentials. Firstly the questions were designed to elicit the "correct" response for the client. Unsurprising since they were engineered by Matthew Field, head of the Populus MP panel. His task is to help clients "shape the right questions". He has "spent the last four years working at the political monitoring team at Dods, specialising in energy policy. In addition, Matthew led the team’s political research function." Field's experience includes working for Bell Pottinger, notorious for trying to resurrect, unsuccessfully, Cuadrilla's negative public image.
Secondly, the poll was run over the internet. Populus runs a "panel" of "members" to perform its web surveys. It pays the self-elected panel members for each survey they contibute to. This bputs the lie to any claim that the people whose views were represented in the UKOOG survey were a random selection of the population.
UKOOG made a good choice selecting Populus to do their propaganda work. The founder of Populus took "leave of absence" from Populus to become David Cameron's director of strategy for two years. Just this week the news emerged he has received a life peerage for his efforts.
The UKOOG release was cynically timed to pre-empt new figures produced by DECC. These new government figures show a decline in support for fracking, and continued public support for renewals. The government is showing itself to be incresingl out of step with the public and the pointers from its own figures.
So it's official. Only 24% support fracking.
79% support renewables.
72% support offshore wind, 67% onshore wind.
How many worry about energy bills? Only 35%, but 75% give a lot of thought to energy conservation in the home.
The release of the UKOOG study proved to be a disaster amongst many commentators, who criticised the poll for its methods and leading questions which forced respondents into a corner.
More news of well problems
On Friday reports came in of a well problem at West Newton in East Yorks. It is said that the HSE has confirmed an annular pressure build up between two of Rathlin's well casings. The well has been shut down pending investigation.
The track record of the industry recently is not looking good.
Government challenged on underground tresapass consultation
Greenpeace are challenging the government's consultation on undrground rights after claiming the main document contained misleading and inaccurate informatio.
Meanwhile, the CLA voiced its opposition to the pland to change ownership law.
Setback in Northern Ireland for the frackers
Tamboran lost an important round when their plan to test drill in Fermanagh was thrown out, not only because of lack of environmental data in the application, but as a clear response to the intense public opposition.
Reaction to the decision, by NI's UKIP and Conservatives, made it crystal clear that fracking is not a matter for serious debate about environmental safety or even economic benefit, it has become purely a political issue.
In Scotland, Energy minister Fergus Ewing told BBC Scotland that the government's plan to change the law regarding underground access rights and trespass law. Any decisions should be made at Holyrood, not Westminster.
Texas moves to tighten up frack waste disposal well regulation, whilst North Carolina ignores two of the country's top scientists.
A new study raises scientific concerns about fracking ingredients used in the USA.
New York distillers expressed concern about their fledgling industry if fracking comes their way.
"My concern is not just for my own successful water-dependent business and my employees. It is for an entire industry coming back to life, hiring New Yorkers, paying taxes and drawing tourists. Corporate interests have one concern: profit for their shareholders. When the finite resource is exhausted they will leave, the jobs they create will dissolve, and any boon for economy will end."
China's shale gas ambitions dwindle.
Any opinions here not quotes from the
week's news reports are my own.
News As It Came In
links to original stories
Fracking: Environment Minister Mark H Durkan rejects Tamboran proposals for exploratory drilling in Co Fermanagh
Fracking backed by majority in the UK, gas group says
Fracking campaigners criticise 'censored' report on house prices
The fracking cover-up: Defra censors key report 63 times in 13 pages in move described as 'comical' by campaigners
Anti-fracking protesters welcome rejection of borehole application
'Censored' report on fracking house price falls
Share the bad news – and the bonanza – on fracking
Government Figures Rubbish Shale Gas Lobby's Claims That Most of UK Supports Fracking
Government survey: UK opposition to fracking on the rise
Government survey demolishes industry claims of widespread support for fracking
Durkan stands firm as fracking backers respond
US State Proposes Rule on Fracking Waste Wells and Earthquakes
Duke scientists' fracking warnings meet deaf ears
China’s Shale Gas Bust
From polls to protests, the shale gas industry is its own worst enemy
This fracking poll finding is one of the least convincing I’ve ever seen
A new look at what's in 'fracking' fluids raises red flags: Some compounds toxic to mammals
Fracking is bad for good spirits
Minister opposes change in fracking residential drilling rules
Anti-fracking camp is set up
Government challenged over misleading fracking consultation
Government not respecting property rights over fracking, says CLA