Fracking Posturing

frackDo Labour actually want to see fracking in Scotland? Looks like it.

Because a fracking free-for-all is the real risk of their pointless political gesture in parliament on Wednesday when they successful tabled an amendment for an immediate fracking ban.

The Tories voted against the amendment and the SNP abstained.

Fortunately the Scottish Government is not bound by this vote.

Scotland will continue to be the only part of the UK where fracking is being stopped – thanks to the SNP moratorium.

I write as someone who has consistently argued against fracking, even when it meant disagreeing with the previous energy minister’s approach before 2015. So my record is a little more consistent on this matter than Labour politicians, who have flip flopped on the subject – of which more later.

The immediate outright ban which Labour’s motion called for would make Scotland more vulnerable to losing a legal challenge from the big fracking companies.

Fracking companies could claim the ban was politically driven, that there was no real consultation, and the evidence the Scottish Government had already commissioned suggested fracking was safe.

That’s the great unspoken.

If we introduce a ban now we will do so having commissioned just one piece of completed work which is not particularly helpful.

I refer to the “Independent Expert Panel” of 2014, which reported around the time of the referendum during the reign of previous energy minister Fergus Ewing.

Fortunately the timing meant that it got little publicity, although the Tories are fond of quoting it, for obvious reasons.

That expert panel did not come down heavily enough on the social, environmental and health consequences of unconventionals.

Several of the members of the panel, who were mainly from a technical background, had associations with the fossil fuel and extractive industries. There was little or no public health, environmental or community input.

frackingscotland_670The panel included Professor Paul Younger of Glasgow University who has been positively gung ho about unconventionals and dismissive of those who challenge that view.

It was clear to me that this expert panel was not going to publish a report that opposed fracking. It didn’t.

So I was delighted when the Scottish Government changed direction in 2015, announced the moratorium – the only one in Scotland – and commissioned five different pieces of research into transport impacts, decommissioning, seismic monitoring, climate change and economic impact. These will be followed by a full public consultation. A public health impact assessment is also being carried out by Health Protection Scotland.

We have a new energy minister in charge, Paul Wheelhouse, whose track record should reassure all those concerned about fracking. As Environment Minister in 2013 Paul worked behind the scenes to ensure that a SEPA license allowing fracking issued to Dart Energy in Canonbie was surrendered. This is not widely known – it should be. I have every confidence, knowing Paul as I do, that he will ensure that the research process is conducted with total impartiality and is as exhaustive as possible.

We have a new energy minister in charge, Paul Wheelhouse, whose track record should reassure all those concerned about fracking. As Environment Minister in 2013 Paul worked behind the scenes to ensure that a SEPA license allowing fracking issued to Dart Energy in Canonbie was surrendered. This is not widely known – it should be. I have every confidence, knowing Paul as I do, that he will ensure that the research process is conducted with total impartiality and is as exhaustive as possible.

So we are in a good place with a good minister. We have a moratorium which has already driven INEOS to move some of its fracking expertise to Yorkshire according to reports this week.

Once all the research is completed, and a full consultation is carried out, the Scottish Government will have a far more wide-ranging block of evidence to defend any challenge to a ban in court. They will also be able to show, through the public consultation, that the people of Scotland are behind them.

This is why the SNP abstained on the vote yesterday. If government ministers “showed their hand” at this stage, before their evidence was gathered, that vote would be used against them in future court cases, should they happen.

In the meantime, we remain frack free.

So Labour’s timing is terrible. Why would they want us to impose a ban before we have the evidence to ensure it is not overturned?

Political opportunism, as always, is driving the increasingly wonky Labour machine. Labour have vacillated on fracking to an embarrassing extent. Just last year their MPs at Westminster failed to join the SNP in voting for a moratorium in the UK.

Tom Greatrex, the former shadow energy spokesman, said fracking could go ahead only if there were “robust regulation and comprehensive inspection”, a similar conclusion to the expert panel.

In a debate in the Scottish Parliament in 2014, Iain Gray MSP described shale gas as a “potential energy source” and argued for stronger planning to make it safe.

Jim Murphy pulled “local referendums” on fracking out of the hat in one of his desperate, failed tricks before last year’s General Election.

What happened to that policy? Why did it change?

Stopping fracking was never Labour’s priority. This vote was about stopping the SNP.

It was gesture politics – to a dangerous degree.



Comments (46)

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  1. John Page says:

    Thank you for that informative and helpful piece.
    Can you please provide some further explanation of the potential risk of a legal challenge to a decision of the Scot Gov to ban fracking.
    Would this be Judicial review by Court of Session? Appeal to the EU Court of Justice?
    On what grounds?
    Would such a challenge still stand if all MSPs (except the Tories) had voted for a ban?
    Do you know if the Scot Gov has actually obtained a legal opinion on this?
    Thank you
    John Page

    1. LU says:

      This is what no-one seems to be answering.

    2. tartanfever says:

      As Cameron has ventured to open a huge chunk of Scotland for licensing which are currently for sale, I would imagine that any fracking company with an intention of getting started in Scotland would wait for a total ban to be announced and then take their case to the UK Supreme Court (which is has authority over all Scottish courts). Keep it all in London, where most corporate / lobbyists / tories are all dying to get fracking up and running throughout the UK I’m sure that making a case for ‘ the superiority of Westminster over Holyrood, with a potential loss of profits argument’ could well win the day. Add some climate denying think-tank documents to the mix and hey presto, a over ruling of a Scottish ban could well happen.

      And after we vote to remain in Europe with the looming spectacle of TTIP coming up, which will put and end to local democracy over corporate power once and for all, with cases being conducted behind closed doors and not in front of judges, but appointed panels, I’ll bey my hat that fracking will start at some point in the next five years in Scotland.

      Just remember, min. alcohol pricing, which is ultimately a public health issue in Scotland, is currently being held very successfully at bay in the EU by the Drinks Industry (mainly Diageo) and their corporate and media sponsors. The argument being used is one of a reduction in profits for drinks companies. So no matter what the detrimental effect to our citizens health and quality of life, if you are a company, you can take the government to court. Future trade agreements will only make the corporate entities more powerful against elected governments.

      1. billy hammett says:

        I asked the UK Supreme Court if they actually could overrule the Scottish Parliament if there was an appeal against a ban on fracking.
        They sent me a six page PDF document in response. The essence of it was that the UK Supreme Court can only overrule a Scottish Parliament decision if it is in conflict with EU Law, the European Convention on Human Rights, or if it was found not to be a devolved matter.
        This means that, as fracking licences are now devolved by law under the terms of the 2016 Scotland Act, the UK Supreme Court will not uphold an appeal against a ban on fracking in Scotland.
        I’m unable to post the PDF link directly on my phone but if you Google the title of the document it will come up for you. The document title is:
        “The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Scottish Appeals: Human rights, the Scotland Act 2012 and the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014”

        1. John Page says:

          Thanks, Billy…….I had thought that was the case. Hence my reference to either the Court of Session or Europe.
          I really would like to hear if anyone does have more information on the legal risk mentioned by Joan in her article
          Thank you
          John Page

          1. MBC says:

            The problem is though surely that energy policy is a reserved matter, even though planning and environment are devolved matters.

  2. Pogliaghi says:

    Of course Labour are being opportunistic. They are nothing other than a party of opportunists. To imply based on this truism that the SNP are being straight however, is an obvious fallacy. The Greens are no fools, nor are they opportunistic so why would they knowingly support Labour in supposedly hastening fracking?

    This is damage limitation tying itself into a pretzel of logic. We now have two (and a half) conspiracy theories for the price of one: someone is going to sue the Scottish government for banning fracking prior to gathering evidence and acquiring new powers, possibly sue them for doing so afterwards if they support a ban now (but don’t implement it), and to cap it all, the opposition is secretly conspiring to enable fracking by publicly opposing it. To maintain faith in the SNP brand, one must have faith in this mythology. The only question is, when will it unravel?

    Here’s a much simpler version: the SNP are on the fence *because they really are on the fence*. Experts tell them fracking is safe because that is generally what engineers and geologists *actually believe*. Since they have zero true principled commitment to reducing fossil fuel dependence in general, and gas is cleaner than oil and coal, the party’s advisers are chomping at the bit, and they can pull it off thus: “If the Red Tories oppose fracking – ipso facto it’s a good idea.”

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      You’re misrepresenting what Joan is saying. She’s not saying Labour are deliberately trying to enable fracking – she’s saying that it’s the likely unintended outcome of their party politicking.

      And this is also why the Greens are supporting Labour’s amendment. The Greens are fundamentally opposed to fracking, and clearly don’t take the threat of possible legal action seriously. So they’re not knowingly supporting a secret bid to hasten fracking either – they’re just being ideological, as small non-governing parties often are.

      Your weird jumble of suing timelines is just bizarre. The point is fracking companies will attempt to get a fracking ban overturned if it is put in place for political reasons. Anyone who doesn’t believe this need only look at the fight to defeat the Minimum Unit Pricing policy, which is still in the courts. If the SNP simply say “we’re banning fracking” without the evidence gathering to support it, then they’ll say that is political.

      It’s similar to when Vince Cable had to be removed from the BSkyB anti-competition case once his ideological opposition was made public. Ministers have to make decisions based on evidence. That’s not a conspiracy theory – it also happens with councillors in planning cases all the time, where they have to excuse themselves because they’ve publicly declared a position against something.

      The SNP clearly want to impose a ban, but they want to make sure it’s done properly. Yes, there are some in the right of the party who think only of the bottom line, but most are against it – including the person Nicola Sturgeon has just made the Energy Minister (and out Energy & Climate Change spokesperson at Westminster made it as clear as possible at conference that the party doesn’t want fracking, but just wants to make sure the evidence is there to put a ban in place.)

      Besides, what’s the point of having a moratorium and then deciding halfway though “actually, we’ll just ban it anyway”?

      But hey, don’t let any of that get in the way of a good SNP bashing.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    The position of the Green Party is consistent and sincere in that they are concerned about the effects of CO2 emissions, which are present in the combustion of all fossil fuels. Whether shale gas is ‘cleaner’ than other fossil fuels has no bearing on their argument. In their view, it will still add to carbon emissions.
    There is the concern about the geological effects of the procedure. These will depend on the geology of the specific parts of Scotland. Because there have been tremors attributed to fracking in some places does not imply that they will occur in Scotland. It is, of course, possible that they will occur. Some kind of testing would be required to estimate the probability. And, there is the concern about pollution of ground waters by the fluids used in fracking. Again, the likelihood of this happening, depends on the specific local circumstances.
    The Conservatives are also being consistent with their free market principles.
    Ineos is a major employer in Central Scotland and a significant contributor to Scotland’s economy. This was demonstrated starkly during the Unite/Labour selection fiasco. There are many people in the Falkirk area whose standard of living depends on a flourishin Ineos. Ineos has, additionally, indicated that it is prepared to share some of its profits with local people.
    Personally, my inclination is to the position taken by the Green Party, but, if the Scottish Parliament is to be a discursive and consensus building forum, then it needs to consider in depth the kinds of arguments I have sketched.
    Sadly, Labour and the LibDems continue to posture because of the intellectual vacuum in which they operate and the cronyist mediocrities who comprise the bulk of their membership.

  4. c rober says:

    If Holyrood define Scottish legislation , so define Scots Law, so can easily tell the courts themselves what is and isnt able to progress as a case. They either do have that power or they do not , theres no middle ground.

    With the Scottish court system protected as a contract condition via the act of union itself , any failure for the Scots courts to follow Holyrood set legislation , say to allow EU or indeed more importantly English courts to superceed Scots legislation , would thus only render Holyrood , as an elected govt , without any power to set any legislation at all – so defunct .

    If prevented by HMG , say by returning fracking legislation to Westminster , or to allow a fracker to use the English courts/law vs the Scottish Govt , then a reason without any referendum at all to renegotiate terms to remain , or to “secede without a need” for another referendum from the Union itself.

    But I would reckon if Fracking legislation was forced on Scotland , when its elected govt said no , then indy would be assured anyway with another referendum , well except for the few that own the land that will be handsomely reimbursed just like in the states.

    The SNP are though choosing the lesser evil , of wait and see , ie watch and learn from others with regard to the impact of fracking , however that may take a couple of generations to see whether in fact it is hazardous to the enviroment , including most importantly methane and toxicity from chemicals into the aquifers.

    However they , Frackers , may try the EU courts route on competition laws etc , where they would only be reminded , or should be , that each state controls its own laws with regard to enviroment , power and taxation. But there is a grey area there for Scotland , its in a union within a union(ish).

    Where this would be important is that if the EU courts find in the favour of frackers , rather than throw the case out at the begining with rights of soverignity. They open up questions on the legitimacy of every EU state members elected govt to set their own legislation , that is if they (the EU courts) are setting a states legislating ability , its laws by proxy , and are totally outside of its powers to do so. Result failed EU.

    This would also open up free for all fracking anywhere within the EU through precedence , assuming its not a reason for EU collapse of course , not something that any state wants , especially so with France – whom keen on selling state owned nuclear throughout the EU.

    Then we can add the ttip to the fire , with protection of American fracking companies from all liability coming to the fore , given their history of biased trade deals , or enviromental disasters like Bhopal , then its not something any EU member state really wants… unless there is a personal stuffed envelope in it somewhere for its elected elite.

    1. tartanfever says:

      You seem to have forgotten the UK supreme court, which is Scotland’s highest court. Yes, that was one of the pay off’s for getting our own devolved parliament in ’99, lose 5,000 square miles of North Sea and the autonomy of our legal system.

      Thanks Blair/Brown Labour etc.

      Remember, Cameron and much of the Westminster cronies/ corporate lobbyists are dying to get started fracking, which way do you think the London based supreme court would vote ?

      1. c rober says:

        I already kind of agreed what another posted as a reply from UK supreme courts , on regarding the jurisdiction on Scottish made legislation.

        However it can be expanded , in that the Scottish courts are a protected condition of the act of union itself , the Uk supreme court has to apply only Scots law not English while hearing cases , with the noted exception ECHR … and any change , without agreement to that , is an ability to secede the union or to renegotiate it. As it stands the Scotland powers acts do not overule said act of union , and can only be presumed that they are legally accepted and ammendments to it – but only if agreed by both parliaments.

        Holyrood being the creator of new Scots law , must also be its protector of established Scots law – or it only renders that power useless – and the parliament itself void. Use it or lose it.

        In their removal of certain rights they too are just as bad as Wesminster , cyclist accident law meaning the accused is already guilty , claires law outwith ECHR again on privacy and presumtion of innocence , removing double jepoardy , reduction in corroboration evidence for going to trial , even named person social work , these are not improvements for anyone but a lawyers income. But then again many of them are partners in legal practices , win win.

        For the SNP that means no more talk , no more whinge , but to use its powers instead , at the very least as a thorn in the side of Westminster with the powers it already has .IE say declaring the tv licence a tax on being Scottish , that is as long as it is not wholly returned for programming creation in Scotland , or if it is not encrypted thus not a licence at all but an unavoidable therfore illegal tax , then they can also declare its collection illegal , thus uninfocible in court.

        Every time Holyrood openly agrees further powers , rather than refuse some of them , they actually lose power.

        I told Mcaskill then that if Holyrood allows English law to operate in Scotland even once without intervention that he was failing the electorate and importantly not doing his job … thus diminshing the independence debate and Holyrood.

        I argued that the DWP/DSS were operating by English law application , sometimes outwith any law both Scots and English , thus depriving Scots claimants of their legal rights on various levels during apeals – especially so by atos , a private co not a HMG governmental dept. His action and reply was not to ask his dept in Holyrood whether I was right , I already know I was , but was to say he had forwarded my letter to the DWP….passing the buck.

        I agree that the landed Scottish Gentry are sitting with open arms ready to use their buddies in Westminster to open up Scotland to fracking , another wealth creation for private landowners , however Scotland has a different geology to England… and only private water supplies use any aquifers , unlike English water. However there is a case for shale extraction in the Clyde mouth and Ayr basin , corect geology , but as long as trident is berthed nearby that will never happen.

        Again in agreement with Blair Brown , North sea and the shafting that was Holyrood’s creation , as a jumped up coonsil of a Government to be more jobs for the red ties… oh how that has backfired. But as I said unless the SNP and Holyrood fail to use , or protect the laws it has , or creates , then they are no better – if not much much worse.

  5. David says:

    Why not just allow it but under Ruth’s conditions: local people have the final say on planning decisions, just like rUK currently get for onshore wind farms, if it’s bad the people won’t allow it, cracking thing democracy.

    1. Nanny Elaine says:

      Councillors have approved an application to carry out fracking in England for the first time in five years.

      The North Yorkshire County Council planning committee voted seven to four in favour of an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas near the village of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire.
      Vicky Perkin, a council planning officer, told the committee there had been 4,375 letters of objection and 36 of support for the application.

      David please explain how this democracy thing works?

    2. Jamie Cossar says:

      Not sure if you’re taking the p*ss. North Yorkshire Council voted for fracking despite there being over 4500 objections and only 36 submissions in favour. A Tory controlled council. That was real democracy in action- Ruthie-style!

      1. c rober says:

        Yep not exactly democracy , and no difference would be made even after a politican change at council level.

        The SNP , are the same regarding listening to the electorate. North Ayshire residents say no to developing famland , Holyrood legislation says no , yet the SNP led council and Holyrood dept approve the LDP as future use for executive housing. Yet a farmer wants to rent out his owned land for a windfarm , prevented.

        Now the Snp much the complainer about the house of Lords also wants an upper chamber at Holyrood , oh how the times change.

        Fracking is something that promises cheaper fuel , though it can deliver it on paper , however like nuclear will have long term costs. Whether we can allow it or not , the SNP in sitting on the fence until the evidence is in is the correct decision , for the moment. But that evidence should be impartial and repeated as in usual science to find the original methodology correct.

        In America seeing as how it has been mentioned the negatives will be , are , hushed. The mighty dollar is democracy , bribing those that own the land to allow fracking for an income works , as does having a senator in your pocket.

        Fracking is something that may appeal to the nimby crowd that dont want their suburban view spoiled with windfarms , will get an income , and are fooled into believing their bills are higher because of them… as energy companies increase prices while gas and oil has been at the cheapest for 12 years.

  6. Colin Mk says:

    “The immediate outright ban which Labour’s motion called for would make Scotland more vulnerable to losing a legal challenge from the big fracking companies.”

    The article states this and then doesn’t back it up in any way.

    This whole thing about doing our own years of research also makes me wonder, why on earth don’t we just invest in the research of other countries? – Certainly worth a read.

    1. Broadbield says:

      Sorry, but I don’t think the article you reference is at all helpful – it’s mainly polemic. I think we need a legal opinion (or two).

      1. Colin Mk says:

        I’d say it’s as helpful as the main article. Neither provides any legal basis of argument. The blogger at least provides some sporadic examples of what she is saying.

  7. Broadbield says:

    Don’t underestimate the determination of the corporate lobby to go ahead. I see something similar happening as happened with the tobacco lobby – lies, smears, intimidation and tame/captured scientists prepared to sell their souls.

  8. Big Jock says:

    Gesture politics to get the MSM excited. The MSM portray this as a defeat for the so called minority government. The uneductated see the headlines and think, great we are beating these nats. When in actual fact the Yoons are just beating themselves.

    Labour finished a poor third because they only do gesture politics. They don’t know how to act like grown ups with sensible proposals. Hence they want to take away the Offensive Behaviour Act. But they don’t offer any alternatives or offer to amend. They just offer nothing.

    They are appealing to the same group of numskulls that Ruth targets. Arch unionists, Sturgeon haters, Yes haters, Rangers thugs. They are fighting for the lowest common denominators in society.

  9. Crowsinger says:

    Political opportunism, as always, is driving the increasingly wonky Labour machine. Labour have vacillated on fracking to an embarrassing extent. Just last year their MPs at Westminster failed to join the SNP in voting for a moratorium in the UK.

    “Tom Greatrex, the former shadow energy spokesman, said fracking could go ahead only if there were “robust regulation and comprehensive inspection”, a similar conclusion to the expert panel.

    In a debate in the Scottish Parliament in 2014, Iain Gray MSP described shale gas as a “potential energy source” and argued for stronger planning to make it safe.

    Jim Murphy pulled “local referendums” on fracking out of the hat in one of his desperate, failed tricks before last year’s General Election.”

    Watch and listen to this video from 2.20 onwards and draw your own conclusions

  10. david kelly says:

    My only qualification for writing this is 40 years working in major project development in the oil and gas industry. I have spent quite some time reading and thinking about this in a Scottish context. I have extensive experience working at Grangemouth. It is impossible to start this analysis without discussing that plant.

    The site is often called “The Grangemouth Refinery” – this hides an essential truth, what looks to the casual observer like one facility is in fact a refinery AND a chemicals plant. You need substantial knowledge of the industry and the plant to tell which huge pipe-laden structure belongs to which business.

    In very simple terms the refinery needs liquid feedstock (i.e. crude oil) and the chemicals plant needs gaseous feedstock (i.e. “natural” gas) – there is quite a lot of overlap, for example one big power station provides electricity for both, one emergency fire fighting team etc. But it is conceivable that one or other of the businesses could close and the other continue operating.
    Grangemouth is owned by Ineos – a privately held company, largely owned by Jim Radcliffe a tax-exile domiciled in Switzerland. Ineos is a chemicals company, NOT an oil refiner. They own the Grangemouth refinery not through choice, but because BP sold the whole site. Making petrol, diesel and other fuels (e.g. aviation) is a vanilla, innovation free business. Despite the brand differentiating adverts, petrol is petrol is petrol. The margins are low, there is no new product to sell with the “early bird” first-to-market extra margin, it is is an unexciting low margin, very capital intensive business that nobody wants to enter. The chemicals business is quite different, there is a turnover of products, albeit a slow one, there is varying demand for product that changes margins and allows for clever forecasters to make extra money.

    The Northern sector of the North Sea no longer produces feedstock for the chemicals plant. There is a new giant gas field coming on-stream in Shetland (which would provide all of Scotland’s needs for 20 years) and I am sure there is good (i.e. financial) reason why it is not being sent to Grangemouth- but that is not how the chemicals plant will obtain its new feedstock.

    A new terminal has been built at Grangemouth to receive fracked gas from America. This means the chemicals plant has a long term future. It also means that the struggling (every refinery in the world operates on a shoe-string budget) refinery has something to share some of its overheads (e.g. power) with. This is a good thing.

    Ineos has the licence from the Westminster government to frack throughout Central Scotland. Clearly the HUGE monies that would be collected in Petroleum Revenue Tax equivalent would go straight back to Westminster. The only regulatory control the Scottish Parliament has is over planning permission. That could – until of course we sign up to TTIP – prevent fracking in Scotland.

    There are two environmental issues that give fracking a poor reputation:

    The planet does not need another source of carbon to burn.

    No argument about this really, but in a Scottish context if we fracked gas in central Scotland it would not be burned. It would be made into plastics, fertiliser, pharmaceuticals. Of course a properly enabled Scottish parliament could indeed legislate for exactly that.

    The hydraulic fluid used for fracking is poisonous.

    Absolutely. The complete absence of any recognisable HSE standards in the American fracking industry is a matter of professional shame, and it makes this the first question that must be answered successfully before we frack. Our First Minister has repeatedly said that fracking will not be allowed unless and until it gets an environmental clean bill of health.

    Managing to get hydraulic fluid into the water supply with Central Scotland’s geology would be beyond stupid and careless, and pretty much require deliberate sabotage. I am certain our professionals could do the job properly. BUT we may not need that debate at all. Indeed the vested interests could well be planning to avoid that conversation.

    Electric pulse fracking uses no poisonous substances. As a technology it has not been deployed other than in test installations. How is it going? You will have better luck finding out how Apple is progressing with its electric car. Secret? A technology that promises to reduce fracking costs by a half, and reduce well completion time by the same amount, and use no polluting chemicals is revolutionary. Will it work? Well General Electric for one has set a billion dollar budget to find out.

    My guess

    In ten years time there will be electric pulse fracking in Scotland that will feed the Grangemouth chemicals plant. The Scottish government will ban (insofar as they can) hydraulic fracking just as soon as they know electric pulse works.

    What should we do?

    Nationalise Grangemouth.

    That makes the whole debate, end-to-end, OUR problem/opportunity.

    1. John Page says:

      Thank you for that informative piece. Do we know if the gas to be fracked in Central Scotland is methane or ethane. Ineos at
      their stand at last autumn’s SNP conference in Aberdeen told me only ethane is a feeder for petrochemical products……methane is only capable of being used as a fuel……and Ineos said they did not know
      John Page

      1. david kelly says:

        Good Question. There really isn’t an answer without drilling. Almost certainly both. Methane is the “cleanest” carbon fuel. Ethane is amongst the worst greenhouse gases.

        Replacing fossil fuels is achievable. It will be harder to replace to plastic! Ethane is the cheapest, cleanest starting point.

        This is a very important debate that simply should start with the science, not the tribal politics IMHO.

        1. MBC says:

          The cracker plant at Grangemouth processes ethane, ethanol, not methan, methanol. This is what makes it so valuable to Ineos apparently.

          Ineos do NOT own all of the Grangemouth plants. They have a 50.1% stake in the refinery but own the petro-chemical plant 100%. Jim Ratcliffe is a chemist, that’s his background and interest, that’s what makes money.

          The other partner in the refinery is PetroChina. They own 49.9%.

          Yes, that’s right. The Chinese Communist Party owns half of the Grangemouth refinery. How was that allowed to happen? Funny we hear very little about that…

          Further, please note that the Grangemouth complex did NOT depend on Scottish oil and gas.

          The refinery goes back to the 1920s, when it was called Scottish Oils, and was based on the local shale oil. The industry developed between the wars and then post-WW2. It ceased using the shale oil, started refining imported oil from the Gulf. Grangemouth is a port. Oil tankers brought the crude in. Long before the advent of North Sea oil.

          My point being, the industry that makes money for Jim Ratcliffe is based on the skills and knowledge base of the local work force, not the proximity of local supplies. It is immaterial whether it is locally available or imported by tanker. Sea transport is a cost, but a low cost compared to the profits to be made through the local labour force.

    2. florian albert says:

      Thanks for the contribution which is so much more informative than most on the subject of fracking. It is a subject of which I know little and tend to distrust those making hyperbolic claims.

      You write that the ‘hydraulic fluid used in fracking is poisonous.’ Is it not the case that – if used with sufficient safeguards – fracking can still be carried out safely and that it is carried out safely in the USA – albeit mostly in under-populated areas such as Dakota ?

      I distrust experts but would put my trust in Professor Paul Younger ahead of Joan McAlpine.
      How do you explain his support for fracking ?
      The knee-jerk response, that he is compromised by involvement with energy companies, does not convince me.

      1. Broadbield says:

        You’ve just answered your own question. The tobacco lobby provides a salutary example of what happens when an industry is determined to carry on in the face of public opposition, governmental legislation and scientific evidence. We see the energy industry already on this road. There’s the lies, the false dichotomies, the scare stories, intimidation, rubbishing of research, character assassinations of those who oppose, bucket loads of money being provided to make their case lobby government and the media and of course the captured/tame academics who will take their money and produce the “evidence” the industry wants. All this, and more, the tobacco industry did in their determination to maintain their profits and fat salaries. Eventually they were rumbled, (not before some researchers were nearly driven to suicide) so now they’re concentrating on “developing” countries.

        In principle, I would be highly sceptical of any scientist with connections to the industry s/he is researching.

      2. Fracking is carried out safely in the USA. Interesting sentence.

        1. florian albert says:

          ‘Interesting sentence.’

          Yes and, broadly, an accurate one.

          The SNP government asked an expert to look at the evidence for and against fracking. He concluded that, subject to proper safeguards, it can be carried out safely.
          I wrote that I would trust the judgement of Professor Paul Younger over that of Joan McAlpine.
          Similarly, I would trust his judgement over that of the editor of Bella Caledonia.

          1. Broadbield says:

            Yes, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) found no “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water from fracking. Except the EPA SAB (Scientific Advisory Board) “is concerned that these major findings as presented within the executive summary are ambiguous and appear inconsistent with the observations, data, and levels of uncertainty presented and discussed in the body of the draft Assessment Report.” So looks like more bad science.

            I haven’t read many of Prof Younger’s work, but the few I have are more polemical than academic and John Robertson over at Newsnet recently critiqued his attack on Sturgeon’s fracking stance. He’s also a supporter Underground Coal Gasification, potentially the most dangerous of all unconventional gas extractions.

            But we don’t need fracking. We need renewables, and a hydrogen economy built on surplus green energy. Scotland could be a world leader in both, if we invested now, before we are overtaken again.

  11. Onwards says:

    If it turns out that the technology is found to be safe, then I don’t see the problem with it – at least in certain areas. Perhaps at first, drilling from the coast could access offshore reserves in the Forth or Clyde estuaries.

    The Greens would be against it regardless, but the Greens are against ANY fossil fuel industry and would shut down the entire North sea today if they could.

    I reckon what will happen is that it will be a big success in England, and after a few years of safe operation any remaining protesters will be looked upon as lunatics.
    And you can bet that a large percentage of English onshore gas and oil revenues will be going straight to local councils. They won’t make the mistake Scotland did of putting it all into the UK central government pot.

    Personally, I would like to see some tests done to find out what sort of reserves are there.
    There have been some very substantial estimates quoted for offshore coal gasification. It would be easier to make decisions once we know what is there. If all the hassle and controversy would be for something marginal, or if there are big numbers involved that could contribute billions towards public services and ultimately make it easier to vote for independence.

  12. Nanny Elaine says:

    Just read this, the Q&A is with A lawyer specialising in environmental law.

  13. john young says:

    Just look at fracking in the USA it is horrendous and don,t tell me it couldn,t happen here,money has no borders.

  14. Brian Watters says:

    The big problem we face with many Scientific and Engineering experts views on whether Fracking ‘is safe’ is that they only examine the technical, geological and processes involved in Fracking. They almost all ignore the pressure to make profits and the resulting bad practices and corner cuttint by Operators. We all know the Oil industry CAN be safe 95% of the time but with sloppy regulations and bad practice and profit invariably coming before environment accidents have happened and will continue to happen.
    Scientists can ignore that reality but our Government cannot

  15. w.b.robertson says:

    comments have provided much needed technical information instead of more hysterical scare stories. In the 1960s Scotland still had a huge coal mining industry. There were fears back then of a rundown. Yet I recall Derek Ezra (who became Lord Ezra) then head of the NCB, telling me that coal was being wasted. The real value, he predicted, was not in burning the stuff – but using it to develop chemicals. He revealed that his boffins at that time were already planning how our huge reserves of coal/gas/shale etc could be extracted without men having to go crawling about down below. What a future for Scotland if our politicians and pressure groups stopped playing games – and Ezra`s vision could be developed big style.

  16. Cal Maclean says:

    labour all over – futile gestures that may have an adverse effect in the future.

    labour don’t think they jump at any cause they think may be populist and they can ride on its coat tails.

  17. Lawrence Anderson Burley says:

    Very helpful informative article, thanks! good for Bella, in fact I am moved to send you a little for your kitty. This is what we need in our media space.

  18. Peter lynn says:

    Putting fracking on the shelf by having a moratorium is just how it should stay, the Labour party wants it banned, for it to have its day in court, look at what happened in the north of ENGLAND when it was judged on. they will now have fracking, ineos & dart oot in grangemouth might want fracking to keep the plant open but oor wee bit hills & glens r different to the vast planes of america, I dont want my children & grandchildren to have to drink water full of chemicals so if u care for scotland u should support the snp government at least on this & keep this on the shelf for years.

  19. Alistair says:

    “Fortunately the Scottish Government is not bound by this vote.”

    Had there been any danger of that they would have voted instead of abstaining, rendered the British Labour Party in Scotland posturing redundant and emphasised the fact that there is almost no scenario in which this SNP Government will not win a vote.

    Every effort BLiS make to show how relevant they are merely emphasises the opposite – no matter what their journo buddies publish in the mainstream medja! The SNP abstention in this case only reinforces the fact.

  20. Kenny Smith says:

    It was a useless vote, it meant Jack Diddley to anyone apart from journalists. Some who wish to believe will believe but most will roll their eyes at how useless Slab really are. When you think they can’t go any further they pull another one that does them more harm than good, ie drink at football etc. As far as fracking goes I am against it. I work in part for the oil and gas industry so I can see the economic benefit to companies and individuals but my concerns for the environment outweigh any plusses. I and others could just as easy transfer our skills into renewables and have a stronger cleaner future. Bottom line who wants to live next to these wells? Do we really trust directors of big companies enough to think they put our communities interest before that of share holders. I’m not a green supporter but I believe in a lot of their concerns. Humans have been a plague on planet Earth and as a father I want my children and grand children to have a clean, secure space to live in and enjoy as sustainable and sensible as possible. Fracking will divide opinion but I would be confident that the majority of Scots given the choice would reject it. I heard Norway is throwing some oil fund money at ideas for a grid to Europe powered by renewables, we will be 25 years if not more behind them.

  21. John Mooney says:

    “Scottish”? Labour really are pathetic,they just keep “fracking” a bigger hole for themselves with this stupid stunt,do they not realise the circus has moved on and left them stranded in their incoherent inchoate blustering with regard to fracking.What a contemptuous husk of a once mighty party this bourach of nonentities has become,”Scottish”? Labour, the comedy that just keeps giving! :o)

  22. florian albert says:

    When the SNP government set up an enquiry into the safety, or otherwise, of fracking, they did not ask me to carry it out. (If they had, I would have had to say; no. I was waiting to be offered the manager’s job at Ibrox.) I strongly suspect that the job was not offered to Joan McAlpine, the editor of Bella Caledonia or Broadbield either.
    Instead, the task was given to the Rankine Professor of Engineering at Glasgow University; that’s politicians for you.
    He came down – broadly – in favour of fracking being permitted.
    Sure, there are those who oppose it. There would hardly have been an enquiry otherwise.
    I remain of the opinion that Professor Younger’s credentials mean that his view carries greater weight. After all, if he were in the pocket of commercial interests, what would this say about those who picked him ?

  23. Cloggins says:

    Just never slam a door shut if you do not know what is behind it. You might want to open it again one day. As for the fracking itself, the discussion does not become imminent until it is economically feasible. That is far in the future, if at all.

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