Is London going to be fracked?

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‘Fracking’ exploration could affect 60 per cent of UK

A rather frightening headline in today’s Independent. John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, makes it clear that this claim is not simply a piece of idiocy from a sub editor at the Independent:

Two thirds of England, including large swathes of countryside, is now under active consideration for a risky, polluting, expensive form of fossil fuel extraction.

So, what is the source of the claim? It appears that Greenpeace’s Energy Desk got a hold of a Department of Energy and Climate Change map of potential shale gas exploration, and have decided to wave it around the air to draw attention to how silly they are.

For your viewing pleasure I give you the map.

Fracking in the UK   Google Drive

Now, I am not entirely sure of the makeup of my UK readership, but I have a strong suspicion dear reader that, in the eyes of Greenpeace anyway, where you are sitting is potentially going to be fracked. Not only that, but it would appear that most of London is right in the eye of the fracking Hurricane.

All of this of course is blatant nonsense, but one must ask how Greenpeace, and more importantly, The Independent didn’t realise it was nonsense. Greenpeace had three of their people on this, and I’ll leave leave it to you to decide what this says about the quality of the journalism they claim to be doing.

Significant sections of the public don’t trust environmentalists. Here we have a microcosm of why this is so, and also why it is not entirely unjustified. Greenpeace has a choice between evidence based thinking or dishonesty, wishful thinking and ignorance of reality. I fear however that they will continue to take the latter course.


8 thoughts on “Is London going to be fracked?

    Hengist McStone (@hengistmcstone) said:
    December 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I dont get it. It’s all blatant nonsense because Robert Wilson say so?!
    Their source is a map of potential shale gas exploration from the relevant government dept (the Department of Energy and Climate Change). The picture makes it clear that what we are talking about is under consideration. That doesnt mean Cuadrillla are setting up a drilling rig in Piccadilly Circus. Whats not to like?


      Robert Wilson said:
      December 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Under what possible scenario could the middle of London be fracked? If you believe DECC is considering this you must be credulous beyond measure.


        Hengist McStone (@hengistmcstone) said:
        December 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

        Im not saying the middle of Londons going to be fracked. I wouldnt know. But you havent presented any evidence that the info from DECC is wrong, we can therefore take it at face value.


        Louise said:
        July 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

        so how stupid do you all feel now?


    Clive Bates (@Clive_Bates) said:
    December 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

    A similar map could be drawn for ‘potential’ sites for housing, new towns, roads or high speed rail, wind farms, power transmission, waste incinerators, biofuel plantations, golf courses, giant dairies, etc. Anything that would stir the blood of middle-England and uses land could have map like this. The interesting question behind this tactic is the underlying purpose of Greenpeace – why try to scare people about shale gas? Why oppose it? It is a fossil fuel, but the most cursory familiarity with the data shows that: (a) gas development is a vital strategy in the marginalisation of coal world wide; (b) its generating flexibility is essential to balance high levels of intermittent renewables on an electricity grid, at least unless and until a ‘smart grid’ is implemented with huge demand side flexibility and/or storage; (c) a new ‘dash for gas’ in the UK is now essential for energy security reasons as the acid rain directives shut down coal capacity; (e) having an endowment of domestic gas resources is good for the economy, employment and geopolitical posture,

    We should consider technologies on their merits: that is to be as clear about what we know (and don’t know) about about costs, benefits, limitations, future potential and risks… and then think more about what sort of physical, fiscal and commercial systems could integrate a diverse base of technologies into secure, affordable and steadily-decarbonising networks. For shale gas, some environmental and safety safeguards are needed (as with all industries) but these cannot be insurmountable barriers. On top of that, a sensible approach to planning and reasonable arrangements to sharing the benefits between land-owners, affected communities, the government and those making the investments could make this a positive environmental and economic development from the start.


      Robert Wilson said:
      December 2, 2012 at 11:29 am

      The general question of why Greenpeace is scaring people on this is certainly an interesting one. Their Energy Desk, which claims to do journalism, has been doing a suspicious amount of quite dodgy analysis of shale gas lately. It seems clear that they are afraid of the US shale gas revolution being repeated in the UK. In particular they have spent time trying to show that shale hasn’t reduced emissions in the US. It’s quite clear that their website is just activism dressed up as journalism, and you can piece together where Greenpeace wants to shift the debate.

      I agree entirely on point (b), however it appears to be the case that Greenpeace is in complete denial on this issue. I have read quite a few people from Greenpeace decrying a dash for gas, claiming that 20 GW of new capacity was simply too much. What they seem to not realize is that 20 GW would not be enough if Greenpeace got their way, i.e. the UK was zero nuclear by 2030. The only way to actually stop this “dash for gas” is to build new nuclear plants, which would reduce the need for back up supply. I have never seen exactly what electricity mix they support for 2030, but without having seen it, I can be sure it is completely un-achievable. Similarly I have seen them complaining about potential capacity payments for gas, which is an obvious outcome of the very electricity mix they support.

      Thinking big picture it is clear the UK will need gas for decades to come, unless we get big tech breakthroughs. It has to come from somewhere. My preferred policy would be to put a proper price on carbon, high enough so that carbon capture and storage becomes necessary. Then have properly regulated shale gas development in the UK.


    Andrew said:
    August 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    You lose all credibility when you present evidence that utterly contradicts the views you’re pushing, as is the case here.

    The leaked evidence clearly states the desire to explore fracking across the whole country and lets face it, there are no areas of the UK where fracking would not present a risk to the local communities and wider society.


      Robert Wilson said:
      August 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you Andrew,

      I really appreciate people telling me that my evidence contradicts my view, but don’t tell me how. And also thanks for presenting evidence to back up your claims.


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