An open letter from members of Coal Aston & Dronfield Against Fracking to residents of S18.
Part 4 of 4 (intended in part as a response to the contents of Natascha Engel’s letter in the Dronfield Eye/on-line)
(It’s long – no apologies, it took me a good long while to write this!)
Short term solutions
Like the short-term job creation, shale gas is only ever a short term solution, and well productivity declines rapidly after the first few months, necessitating the creation of more wells. This is another reason why HVHF is seen as an extreme form of fossil fuel exploitation. It is difficult to understand why the government are choosing to forge ahead with such a damaging process, when there are other more sustainable methods of generating energy than burning gas.
Recently published Governmental figures for the mix of electricity production shows numbers far from the 7% quoted recently by Ms Engel and Ineos. For UK electricity production, 42.4% is produced by burning gas, 9.1% coal, 21.2% nuclear and 24.4% renewable. The interesting figure to me is that gas. Why are we burning 42.4% gas to produce electricity? We could bring more renewables on line, quickly and safely, and reduce this figure, improving our low carbon generation (essential to keep in line with the Paris agreement) from the 45.6% that was produced last year from nuclear and renewables.
In addition, the same document contains figures of production, export and import that also make interesting reading. The UK generates (produces) 476.7 Twh of gas. It exports 124.8 Twh, but then imports 521.6 Twh. Why? Of this overall figure, 873.5Twh, 307.2Twh is used domestically for heating and cooking, and 295Twh is used for electricity generation. The remainder is used by industry. Therefore, we could reduce our imports by stopping exports, and minimising gas used for electricity generation, whilst investing in domestic energy conservation, energy storage and tidal production.
Regulations and risks
A phrase that is repeated by those who are pro-fracking is “shale gas extraction process poses a low risk to human health if properly run and regulated”. We have already seen Ineos’s attitude to safety at their site at Grangemouth, and what happens when industrial waste is discharged into a shipping canal (Cuadrilla, 2014). Following this incident, the Environment Agency then changed its regulations on the designation of fracking waste, but only after the mistake was made, and pollution created. The regulatory processes are being adjusted as they go along, to cope with issues that arise, but should this technology be used at all? There is too much at stake, and after all, regulations do not control the behaviour of high pressure fluids in faulted underground strata.
Are we to wait for other mistakes to happen, in order to ensure that the regulations are tight enough to protect us on this island? Where are the inspectors to come from? Or are we to trust the firms’ self-regulation? Why, when many countries are banning this process, or having moratoria, is our government deciding that we can be the next set of guinea pigs to test out where the “gold standard” level should be set to?
And if we are to be the guinea pigs, then why are companies avoiding doing a proper Environmental Impact Assessment each time? Why are they not made to do one? We cannot see the effects of a process if we do not take a baseline measurement and continue to measure throughout and beyond.
Where will the funding come from for essential independent baseline monitoring – recent experiences with target sites Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road shows us that each site has been monitored very differently by the BGS purely due to funding, with only Kirby Misperton being tested for radon baselines.
What does this promise for Marsh Lane and Harthill and beyond? Radon is a known risk in this area. PHE said further research was needed to monitor radon levels in the gas, in people’s homes and in groundwater around fracking wells, so why aren’t these agencies being funded to provide that monitoring and that reassurance that this process is safe?
There is a rising community of people across the UK and worldwide who are determined to stop this polluting technology being used, and are working together to support each other in our fight against the imposition of this extreme fossil fuel extraction method. If fracking is absolutely safe, then show us the evidence. Otherwise, the precautionary principle must be used.
Ineos, you have not proved to us that fracking is safe or even necessary, other than to fuel your plastics production.