Fracking watch: Britain figures out what CA hasn’t

May 9, 2013

By Chris Reed

The 13th chapter of fracking watch will be the last installment for a while until some more nations around the world take up the issue of whether hydraulic fracturing is a bad or good thing. For this installment — instead of focusing on a government that has figured out fracking is just another heavy industry — I will focus on a First World nation with a strong green movement that seemed to be in the same stalled situation as California. Until last week, that is.

It’s Great Britain. Like California, Britain has a history as an oil producer. Like California, it has ardent environmentalists who depict fracking as a new and evil technology, not an old technology that has gotten radically better because of information technology breakthroughs that make it far more efficient. But after a heated debate in Parliament and the media, the realization that fracking only become a green evil when it killed the “peak oil” assessment of world energy needs seems to have sunken in. In California, we still have lame media coverage that never acknowledges that the Obama administration sees fracking as just another heavy industry, not the devil. In Great Britain, reality is being acknowledged.

british-flagFracking sanity chapter No. 13: Great Britain

This is from a May 3 story on CNN’s website:

“LONDON — Britain’s government lifted its ban on a controversial mining process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Thursday, allowing companies to continue their exploration of shale gas reserves.

“Energy Secretary Edward Davey said the decision was subject to new controls to limit the risks of seismic activity.

“A halt was called to fracking last year after two small earthquakes in Lancashire, northwestern England, where Cuadrilla Resources was exploring for shale gas.

“The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into shale formations deep beneath the Earth’s surface, causing the fracturing of the rock and the release of natural gas.”

The CNN report says that Britain’s greens seem more worried about fracking causing earthquakes that tainting drinking water. (For the record, the U.S. EPA thinks that’s a crock.)

“The new controls imposed by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change include a requirement to carry out a seismic survey before work starts.

“Firms involved must also draw up a plan showing how the seismic risks will be limited, and monitor seismic activity before, during and after the exploration.”

A ‘turning point’ for Britain’s energy future

But in the end, common sense appears to have prevailed.

“Cuadrilla Resources said Thursday’s decision to allow fracking to resume marked a significant step for Britain’s future onshore gas industry.

“‘Today’s news is a turning point for the country’s energy future. Shale gas has the potential to create jobs, generate tax revenues, reduce our reliance on imported gas, and improve our balance of payments,’ chief executive Francis Egan said in a statement.

“In an interview with CNN, Egan insisted that fracking could be done ‘safely and sensibly’ in Britain and that there are huge reserves to be exploited.

“The company believes there is about 200 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ground just within its license area in Lancashire. To put that figure into context, the United Kingdom uses about 3 trillion cubic feet of gas a year, Egan said.”

So after an intense two-year debate, reason has won out in Britain. If only we could hope for such a logical process in California.

Fracking and climate change: What the reflexive critics ignore

And if only we could see California greens note that the fracking revolution’s success in accessing natural gas reserves is a tremendously positive development on the climate-change front. Some fossil fuels are way, way better than others.

Fred Pearce, a columnist for the lefty Guardian of London, goes where California’s rigid, hidebound greens won’t in an essay headlined “Fracking: the monster we greens must embrace.” His key point:

“The thing is, fossil fuels differ. Coal is uniquely nasty. But burning natural gas produces only half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. So shale gas could be part of the solution to climate change, rather than part of the problem.

“Take the US. From a standing start a decade ago, it now gets more than a quarter of its natural gas from shale. Production is so cheap there that shale gas is replacing coal in power stations; and as a result its carbon dioxide emissions are the lowest since 1992. Low energy prices are even encouraging the manufacturing of some goods to return from China, where they were mostly made using coal-fired energy. What’s not to like?”

Have you ever heard anything remotely as pragmatic from a California green?

Nope. They belong to a religion that encourages people to feel morally superior to those who disagree with them on anything — and to see fossil fuels as evil no matter what. They aren’t part of a movement with a sophisticated worldview. If they were, a lot more would sound like Fred Pearce.

Fracking watch: Previous posts

No. 1: Germany

No. 2: China

No. 3: Russia

No. 4: Saudi Arabia

No. 5: Brazil

No. 6: Canada

No. 7: Argentina

No. 8: Mexico

No. 9: South Africa

No. 10: Poland

No. 11: Algeria

No. 12: Indonesia


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