Frack This

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Here’s the comprehensive Response to the Scottish Government Consultation on Hydraulic Fracturing, May 2017 by Cllr Paddy Scott Hogg, BA Hons P.D.I.S.

Since the publication of the Scottish government expert analyses papers (Nov 2016) on on-shore hydraulic fracturing, new scientific evidence has come to light from leading academic experts across the world. This science ought to be part of the scientific data presented to policy makers before they make a decision about possible ‘fracking’ in Scotland. The scientific information available include the following key points about Climate Change and about ‘fracking’:

• dire warnings are being issued on the current, latent and existential threat from Climate Change which is now far more advanced than many scientists anticipated. There has been an increase in carbon emissions by 60% in the UK since 1990 and despite the Paris Agreement on paper, the real world evidence shows the trajectory for increased global warming is now far worse than hitherto know. (Professor Peter Wadhams, 2017 and Professor Kevin Anderson, 2017).

• Evidence shows far more rapid sea warming in the Arctic and melting of permafrost and ice than was anticipated with the likelihood of methane hydrate leaks being more unpredictable and dangerous within the next years, not far off decades. (Ruppel & Kessler, 2017). For example, on 8th May 2017 an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5, north of Greenland, emitted methane plumes detected by two satellites. Methane levels rose to 1950 pbb (parts per billion) as documented in Arctic News, 21st May 2017.

• Evidence of sea acidification is now at the stage that it has already destroyed around 60% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; something that was anticipated by 2030 is occurring now. The carbon cycle, where a large percentage (around half) of the man-made carbon is taken up by land based trees etc and by the sea, is now showing faster sea acidification than expected. This is likely to have a knock-on effect in the sea ecological systems and have sooner rather than later impact on the food chain. Over half of the oxygen we breathe is created by phyto-plankton in the sea and acidification will slowly lead to the death of such plankton and will lead to our life-sustaining oxygen levels dropping.

• Recent research reveals evidence of around 7,000 large methane land swellings in the Siberian Arctic which show a start to active bursts or bubbles of land which create large crater like holes, when the methane erupts. Again, this has major unpredictable volatility in terms of methane gas release which could hugely exacerbate climate change given that methane is 80 times more dangerous as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

• Evidence that shows ‘fracking’ companies are leaking far more natural gas to the atmosphere in the USA than hitherto known – some up to 17%, from a sampling study by former government scientists. (Too Dirty, Too Dangerous, by Physicians for Social Responsibility, March 2017). It has been proven that fracking as a process can only extract up to 18% of the known reserves of shale gas in the ground and that methane leakage will occur over geological time for the remainder due to the fact that steels pipes rust and concrete around wells tends to crack and break down over time. Satellite images taken over the USA over the last few years have shown repeated examples of methane plumes rising from fracking sites (corroborating the evidence already mentioned) and from areas with old coal mines. Hence, fracking contributes directly to climate change.

• Evidence also shows that all natural gas pipelines in modern cities leak at some point even if this is only small accumulative amounts of gas on a daily basis – as water pipes too often do – but these are rarely detected because they are simply not monitored – hence, as Prof Carl Sagan said, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’!

• Evidence shows that children playing games downwind from some fracking sites in the USA have lung damage causing their lungs to be smaller than most sedentary children. (Physicians for Social Responsibility, March, 2017).

• The reality about fracking and climate warming is that fracking itself is feeding into climate warming by leakage into the atmosphere on scales far worse than the industry suggests and this is deniable because there is no regulatory framework to detect gas emissions by the use of infrared cameras at fracking sites. Given plans to frack in China and many other countries, the situation can only become worse as further undetected and therefore unmonitored and unquantifiable pollution by natural gas is allowed to escape into the atmosphere. Satellite evidence has already shown racking company leaks in the USA. The laws of science apply everywhere on the globe.

Taken together, this science shows that the carbon budget, that is, the amount we believe we still can safely burn that is under the ground, is far less than predicted. Put bluntly, Climate Warming is now far more advanced in the real world (compared to paper analyses) than experts once believed. This is the view from experts in the field such as Prof Jim Hansen, Prof John Bebbington at the Oxford Martin School, Prof Peter Wadhams, and Dr Vladimir Romanosky, University of Alaska at the Wood Hole Research Centre and Prof Kevin Anderson who has been advocating urgent action by policy makers for a few years now.

Specifically on ‘fracking, there is new substantive evidence from American scientists who have done air pollution sampling around ‘fracking’ installations that show the leakage from extant businesses in various states of America vary from as high as 17%, some 11% and the lowest was 4% total volume of gas extracted. Industry experts always argue their leak volume is no more than 1% of gas extracted, despite flairing and venting being used regularly. More disturbingly, this research also pointed out that almost all city networks of gas pipelines are subject to small and regular leaks of natural gas. This was found in every city they examined. So, if this is true of all modern cities with gas pipelines, then gas leaks are the norm for all city networks – even if this is small amounts and largely unnoticed amounts. Hence, with higher yield leaks from actual fracking companies being as high as 17% known to be factual and the knowledge that there is slow accumulative leaks from almost all city gas pipeline networks, it is vividly clear that the net effect on methane going into the atmosphere is far higher than hitherto established. Given that methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas, new calculations are required to establish the real effects upon global climate change. The Paris Agreement was one where world leader agreed on pathways to move away from fossil fuels, not further exacerbate climate change by a technology such as fracking, which is a retrogressive fossil fuel industry that is blocking up the transition to greener fuels and energy.

The substantive new expert commentary from academic groups such as those who produced the Arctic Report Card (Dec 20th 2016) are not alone in sounding the alarm about the real, current dangers of climate change. The short documentary, Climate Change in the Arctic and Model Projections (22nd May, 2017), can be viewed on YouTube. It is shown that models, used by the IPCC, are predicated on future use of carbon sequestration and that the models are far too conservative and out-of-date. Carbon sequestration is tested in laboratories and no proper industrial use exists. CCS is therefore theoretical only. It is conjectured that future generations will find a way of inventing and extracting millions of tonnes of C02 from the atmosphere when it becomes a necessity to do so. This is a shocking gamble with our children’s future and a failure of stewardship in protecting the environment which currently sustains life. Prof John Holdren has argued that climate change due to greenhouse gases is ‘happening faster than anybody expected.’

The evidence coming from increased record warming in the Arctic this winter and early Spring shows that permafrost is warming far quicker than previously thought and that already there is an appearance of what are termed methane craters that have popped or burst. Scientists have located over 7,000 of these potential methane bubbles emerging on land in the Siberian Arctic and to date there is no known data on when, how and if they will eventually burst and release further methane into the atmosphere. Arctic warming is known to be at least double that of net averages elsewhere. Scientists are aware that the Arctic permafrost contains hundreds of thousands of Gigatonnes of methane hydrate, which, if released into the atmosphere, would render all life on the planet extinct. Prof Jim Hansen, one of the leading experts on Climate Change for the past 30 years has went as far as to protest outside the Trump White House and was arrested trying to get these views over to an intransigent flat-earth climate denying President.

Peer Reviewed Academic Research on Fracking is AGAINST Fracking

Strictly on the issue of ‘fracking’, the up-to-date peer-reviewed academic papers collated in the database created by Physicians, Scientists and Environmentalists (PSE) led by Prof Tony Ingraffea, all point to the adverse effects of fracking on human health (known endocrine disruption), the environment and risks to fresh water and the potential damage to climate and pollution. The sum of that peer-reviewed science suggests it is not a bridging energy source and fracking itself poses too many risks for any independent scientist to support. The very topic of fracking in the UK media has been subjected to propaganda brainwashing from the industry itself which projects the image of its own marketing staff as the only balanced people who know what they are talking about and the ‘independent’ academics they have sponsored to buy their support. Too often activists who have demonstrated against fracking in the UK have been branded in the media as eco-terrorists or troublemakers who know nothing of science. The reality, though is that it is scientists like Cornel University’s Prof Anthony Ingraffea, inter alia, who are exposing the false ‘science’ of the Oil and fracking industry.

The first Professor I spoke to in Scotland about fracking was from the University of Strathclyde. She had students sponsored by the Oil industry for postgraduate research which was of course designed to help the Oil industry. She was a close friend of many leading oil industry executives. Her independence as an expert is therefore suspect. Talk of tough regulations were all the rage in the USA when they started their heavily subsidised fracking industry. The Westminster Government view here is that we in the UK would do a far better job at regulation, which would be ‘gold standard’ and other such semantic jargon used to reassure a gullible public into acceptance of the neo-liberal smash-and-grab short term energy policy where some wealthy people gain, while Joe Public pays the clean-up bill. Allowing an industry to effectively self-regulate when it is known that methane gas escapes unseen unless infrared cameras detect the leaks, is a risk too far. Scotland should reject this charade for what it is, a con that endangers people’s health, the environment and adds to global warming in ways hitherto unknown until gauged by scientists recently.

It is time to educate our people in the real current dangers of climate warming and push for increased investment in renewable energy sources and call for an end to the massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, amounting to $5.3 trillion each year worldwide. It is little known that a gallon of petrol creates 19.6 pounds of C02, which is almost a 1:3 weight ratio where the petrol weighs less than a third of the resultant C02 emissions. Hence 11 gallons of petrol creates over 100 pounds in weight of C02. So every day in Scotland we are emitting 1000s of tonnes of C02 as people drive to and from work. Policies from government need to change this form of destruction of our life supporting environment before it is impossible to reverse the damage. The fossil fuel industry is holding up urgent progress we need to make to achieve the possibility of real zero carbon by 2050. The Scottish Governments record to date has been excellent with train electrification projects but consumers may need policy incentives to move quicker towards the use of electric cars and renewable energy for heating. Pollution kills 40,000 people per annum in the UK. Fracking would only add to this pollution and deserves no place in our energy mix.

Science has exploded the myth that natural gas is a clean source of energy. Coal bed methane, given Scotland’s network of old coal mines, would be a dangerous pathway for methane emissions into the atmosphere, given the extreme pressures used to smash up the rock and coal strata to find methane traces. It would lead to land collapse and other dangers given the seams are often close to the surface. The stark reality is that currently the fossil fuel dependency trajectory of modern economies such as ours, is one, that if it is allowed to go on unabated, will drive human kind towards a collapse of modern civilization and possible extinction. Fracking will add to this worsening situation and should, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence, be banned.
May 27th 2017.

Comments (6)

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  1. Mike Fenwick says:

    A factor I have not seen mentioned, (including I believe also an omission from the consultation itself) relate to the insurance implications related to fracking, both as it applies to fracking companies and to households close to any potential fracking site

    Fracking involves risks and it is normal when risks are involved that the financial protection and security against the risks that arise will in all probability involve insurance. The potential risks and resultant costs from fracking could be substantial, and their impact and scale is evidenced by a relatively recent lawsuit in the US against BHP Billiton.

    Also relatively recently, Ken Cronin, head of UK Onshore Oil and gas, the industry trade body, conceded that insurance was an “area of concern”.

    Insurance as it applies to a fracking company can be complicated and can include “self insurance” and arrangements made through a captive insurer. Just how complicated the issue of insurance can be is best understood by reference to the Deepwater Horizon disaster involving BP – Link:

    Insurance as it relates to residents and/or property owners in an area where fracking is to be conducted may or may not be available, and the insurance industry is never slow off the mark to withdraw cover when it becomes apparent it is not a risk it wants to take on.

    Proving a direct causal link between property or environmental damage and fracking may prove far from easy and will be expensive.

    This article provides background on both aspects, and how divided the insurance industry is on providing cover – Link:

    Most commentary, and indeed, I believe, the consultation, seem to ignore the importance of insurance as it relates to the risks posed by fracking. That in itself is a risk.

    It would not be the first time in such risk prone endeavours that the sheer scale of the accrued liabilities and litigation costs related to an incident may eventually lead to the demise/bankruptcy of the fracking company concerned.

    Should that occur the financial and social costs will be borne by individuals, Local Authorities and Governments for which no provision may have been established.

    1. P S H says:

      In terms of proper thorough risk assessment you are absolutely on the money. In total agreement. Then there is the legal case to sue governments who fail to protect the environment and cause damage for the next generation to fix. Two such law suits have been made already.

  2. joe Gibson says:

    Why risk our water supply by contaminating it with fracking, we have an excellend whiskey industry which unlike oil will not run dry but we can ruin it by contaminating our water supply.

    1. P S H says:

      Absolutely right. What a crazy risk to take. There will be climate refugees in the next decade the way Trump is behaving by sticking his country’s butt in the tar sands! It’s like being in a vehicle with a drunk psychopath hell-bent in taking us over the cliff at high speed! We need to get the brakes off immediately and collectively get out of the vehicle before it is too late. Renewables need more investment now!

    2. bringiton says:

      I hate to pour cold water on this but as far as I know,fracking on the Scottish mainland would be confined to the Midland valley where there aren’t a lot of distilleries.
      However,that being where the vast majority of Scots live,could have a big impact on drinking water supplies.
      In any case,do we really need this?

      1. Legerwood says:

        Distilleries in Central Belt: Denston, Glengoyne , Tullibardine at Blackford where of course you also have Highland Spring Water and the distillery at Crieff whose name escapes me just now.

        If you look at the area in which fracking is likely to happen then it would take in the whole of the Central Belt and the Distilleries above are within that area. Maybe not as significant a number as other parts of Scotland but if one area is contaminated then the public’sector perception of the rest is coloured by that particularly overseas.

        The density of the population in the area is, as you say, probably the most important factor. Look at any satellite image of Scotland taken at night and that area appears as an almost solid band of light. The fracking sites would be like mini- Grangemouth. Flares, noise and constant traffic transporting chemicals to the site and water from the site to processing plants to be cleaned up. To say nothing of the movement of the gas itself either by pipeline or tanker.

        The area covered by each site would be quite large and all jammed into the most populated area of Scotland. So major problems for towns etc in the Central Belt.

        There are major reservoirs within the area eg Loch Katrine

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