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Post-truth media

In this morning's Telegraph, David Cameron has issued another call for the country to get behind shale gas. message to the country is clear – we cannot afford to miss out on fracking. For centuries, Britain has led the way in technological endeavour: an industrial revolution ahead of its time, many of the most vital scientific discoveries known to mankind, and a spirit of enterprise and innovation that has served us well down the decades. Fracking is part of this tradition, so let’s seize it.

That's all fine and dandy, but take a look at what the BBC has to say in its coverage of the PM (H/T Ron).

Fracking - short for "hydraulic fracturing" - involves drilling deep underground and releasing a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hundreds of chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside.

"Hundreds of chemicals". I don't think so. That is just normal BBC embellishment of the green story line.

Meanwhile Roger Harrabin tweets a link to a story from the Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg, who enjoys a reputation for a less-than-diligent approach to truth and accuracy. Harrabin says that fracking is "the latest thing sucking Texas dry", and the story is about overuse of water:

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry's outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

A shale well uses something of the order of 5 million gallons of water when it is being fracked. Let us compare this to a small farm, let's say of 100 acres (the average farm in Texas is 500 acres or more, but that will include ranches). An acre-foot of water is something over 300,000 gallons, so to water our small farm to a depth of two inches is going to use roughly the same amount of water, and on a regular basis too.

And according to another analysis, water use by shale wells in Texas is less than 1% of total water withdrawls in that state. There may be a case for not fracking in arid regions in times of water shortage, but that's about it.

And they wonder why the MSM is dying.


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Reader Comments (55)

The BBC a once proud organisation reduced to a parrot for the Guardian

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

In Canada, all of the oil sands annual water usage, is about 1/3 the volume used annually by the city of Toronto.

Total oilfield allocation of water in Alberta is about 5% of Alberta's total water usage. That the allocation. Actuall use is about 2 1/2%.

On top of the relatively small volumes used for fracturing, is the fact that while a shale gas well uses about 5 million gallons of water, it produces about 20 million gallons of water when the hydrogen portion of CH4 is burned. Its a net add to the hydrological cycle.

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

I'm fairly sure there are a few mothballed desalination plants that can help out?

Built to deal with the catastrophic climate change droughts........pending I guess...

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

This is rapidly becoming a master class in how to turn a triumph into a disaster.
In the absense of factual information, those who oppose fracking are easily able to spread mis-leading information and create irrational fears amongst the population at large.
Until and unless the relevant government departments are all using the same hymn sheet, the situation will only deteriorate further.

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Maybe Roger Horrible and the British Bucket Company could organize a subsidized supply chain for Texas. A bit of overseas aid.

(I wonder if he was called that at school. Could explain some things.)

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

The Royal Society Report (2012) tells us that the amount of water required to operate a shale gas well for a decade is roughly equal to:
- the amount needed to water a golf course for a month
- the amount needed to run a 1000MW coal fired power station for 12 hours
- the amount lost to leaks in north west England every hour.

Water volumes required will depend on the type of formation being frac'ed, the well construction and the frac operation. But nothing near the amounts needed to run the UK dry given sensible UK regulation of resources.

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterwormthatturned

The environment agency grants licenses for the maximum amount of water that can be taken from the environment for human and business use, without compromising the environment.

They have granted licenses to the electricity industry to abstract around 33,000Ml/d. They only abstract around 12,000Ml/d which leaves around 21,000Ml/d available for other uses. Public water supplies only abstract about 16,000Ml/d.


Aug 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Dave may now be saying we 'must' allow fracking - but only because it has already been decided at EU level.

'The EU also is quietly rolling back its renewable agenda, which EU leaders now recognise has been raising energy prices across the Continent. At their summit in Brussels in May, leaders indicated that they intended to prioritise the issue of affordable energy over cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU summit signalled Europe intended to restore its declining competitiveness by supporting the development of cheap energy, including shale gas, while cutting green energy subsidies.'

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

And take a look at the BBC report's choice of picture.

Aug 12, 2013 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

Actually some Texas towns have twigged on to the fact that fracking does not require particularly high-quality water and have started selling their processed sewage water to the oil companies. Undoubtedly the BBC/Guardian will turn this into another horror story if they hear about it.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered Commentertty
Cameron himself has said categorically that "Carbon Capture & Storage' does not work, so why is he letting LibDem Ed Davey give SHELL OIL £1 billion to 'experiment' with it.
SHELL have been 'experimenting' for ages with this pointless 'technology' which not even the EU will fund.
The answer of course is purely political, Cameron will do anything to keep the LibDems on side for as long aspossible.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

The quantity of water 'consumed' by fraccing is about half-way up a canard.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

The bulletin on the BBC carried the word "earthquake " to the fore. I do believe that this previously trusted organization is rapidly losing the plot - it intends making the news as against reporting it. I am very sad to say this but the time has come for total revision of the BBC or even contemplate its abolition and a new franchise be given out to tender.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefjon

This is rapidly becoming a master class in how to turn a triumph into a disaster.
In the absense of factual information, those who oppose fracking are easily able to spread mis-leading information and create irrational fears amongst the population at large.
Until and unless the relevant government departments are all using the same hymn sheet, the situation will only deteriorate further.


Absolutely correct pesadia. It seems that no part of government is able or willing to come out with any definitive statement about a) the technicalities of fracturing, or b) the regulatory framework. The field is left completely open for alarmists.

All you need for fracturing is water in the hole. A little arithmetic gives me 31,420 litres of water per km (assuming a 10cm diameter hole). The chemical scare is a complete red herring. The chemicals (as I've detailed before) are used in the drilling fluid. All you need for fracturing is water and sand (known as proppant, because it "props" the fractures open).

This really is a case study in total failure of leadership. Apart from beer and pasties, there's very little I miss about the UK. Sigh.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

I wondered when the term de-salination plant might appear (jones). I lived near the largest in the world at the time in Jeddah around 1980...maybe still is the largest? Architects (Weir Group) from Glasgow and built by Germans, who else !!

I distinctly remember the ramblings then in UK about building such plants simply because it would cost a great deal more anytime later. Makes sense..... and we have always needed water. Loads of it around us of the salty type and we might get some more with sea level rise it appears (?).

Anyway, I returned to Scotland in the early 80's and lo and behold Loch Katrine feeding Glasgow had about 6 ft of water in it - if that. Many of the Highland streams were dry. Saudi friends asked me how the rain was in Scotland on return and could not believe my experience. It always rains in Scotland they said ?

A Saudi bank manager mentioned in passing that he financed drilling for water specifically. He also said each drilling operation produced oil...very sadly.

So of course nothing has been done as regards de-sal here in the intervening years. So its loads of leaks and water meters...that'll fix it. NOT

oh... thats why there was no camping/yodelling outside prospective de-sal sites.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterex - Expat Colin

"Withdrawls" in Texas - nice one.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Long

Due to the de-industrialisation of the north-east of England, I believe that Kielder Water is now considered another Government-inspired white elephant. It contains 44 billion gallons of water which is surplus to requirements.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Careful with those gallons. An American gallon is 20% smaller than an Imperial gallon.

An acre-foot of liquid is actually 4046.86 x 0.3048 = 1233.5 m^3 of water.

In American this would be x 264.172 = 325,852 US gallons
In Imperial this would be x 219.969 = 271,328 Imp gallons.

5 million US gallons is 18,927 m^3 of water, about 15.3 acre-ft of water. To water the 100 acre farm to 2 inches requires 20,558 m^3 of water, which is indeed about the same quantity of water.

Aeroplanes (including commerical airliners) have had many a forced landing owing to mixups between US gallons, Imperial gallons and litres (or liters!).!

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

What else can we expect from a corrupt, crypto-Marxist propaganda piece?
(BBC- Broadcasting Bloody Communism)

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Equivalent to:
20,000 cubic meters
8x Olympic swimming pools
500x 40000L tanker trucks
Annual rainfall on about 1km of the 6-lane M1 (around 6 acres) in the Midlands.
Household water used by 300 people in a year.
about 20minutes of London sewerage flow.
about 0.00001% of UK's annual rainfall.
5% of UK annual beer consumption.

I would surprised if almost all of that water couldn't be recovered.

Aug 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobL

As John Brignell puts it:

Because of the trend towards micromanagement by government, people who have never run anything find themselves running everything. The quality of our politicians is at a nadir, reflected in the apathy of the electorate at election time. They are lazy, ill-informed, inept and nest-feathering to an unprecedented degree. They incline to the easy route of going along with the lobbyists rather than going to the effort of forming an opinion for themselves, preferring to stay within their closed environment, isolated from the outer world of evidence and opinion.

The villages of Westminster and Washington are hothouses, insulated from the rest of the human race, where politicians, journalists and lobbyists talk almost exclusively to each other.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Anecdotal evidence (DECC is withholding the actual numbers - shock!) is that in excess of 200 onshore wells have already been "fracked" and I'd guess considerably more offshore wells (maybe in the thousands).

No earthquakes
No radioactivity
No complaints about trucks & noise (that I'm aware of)
No hosepipe bans
No recorded incidents of aquifer pollution

In fact not much of anything negative....

Anybody care to FoI DECC?

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Royal Society report claims that fracking uses the same water as a coal fired power station of 1000Mw in 12 hours. This water is used in the cooling towers and most returned to the river from whence it came and that which evapourates falls as rain down wind so is not actually consumed.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Funny it would almost be, if it wasn't so stupid. Yesterday we were told that a Quango, appointed by Cameron presumably, were holding up permits for fracking on the fragile grounds that there was a public issue problem and more discussion was needed. Today, from Cameron we hear that fracking should go ahead as soon as possible to help the people. Do not any of the mulifarious parts of government and neo government talk to each other? I suppose in this day, snail mail is very slow, but it would help if they would, for once, get their act together.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

Desal to suppliment our water supplies would be a stupid process here, unless you want water as costly as good French wine.

Claim that desal would mitigate sea level rise is not true since all water used eventually ends up in the oceans. It would make zero difference.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

I tried Barbara's link above to the Australian but only got as far as a log-in. For those who would like to read the whole sad story try this:

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon

Derek Buxton 11:36 AM
that quango ... has quite a lot of previous indulging unbridled self interest, unlawfully interfering with all sorts of things and a taste for criminal arbitrariness that takes some believing .... (edit) oh, and making stuff up to support their assertions - forgot that :-)

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Forgive my ignorance but I didn't think any chemicals let alone hundreds where used in fracking. I thought it was sand and water or is this the BBC as usual distorting the truth for its own agenda.

Aug 12, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterStu

Fracking is due to be discussed on BBC Radio 4 "You and Yours" at lunchtime. I expect it will be the usual shallow coverage with lots of contribution from FoE etc.

Aug 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Cuadrilla's statement on fracking fluid in the UK :

"Before fracturing takes place, the Environment Agency must approve the proposed composition of Cuadrilla’s fracturing fluid. The fracturing fluid that Cuadrilla has used at the Preese Hall exploration well site and plans to use at future exploration well sites is composed almost entirely of fresh water and sand. We also have approval to use the following additives:

● Polyacrylamide (friction reducer )
● Sodium salt (for tracing fracturing fluid)
● Hydrochloric acid (diluted with water)
● Glutaraldehyde biocide (used to cleanse water and remove bacteria)

So far, as additives to fracturing fluid, Cuadrilla has only used polyacrylamide friction reducer along with a miniscule amount of salt, which acts as a tracer. We have not needed to use biocide as the water supplied by United Utilities to our Lancashire exploration well sites has already been treated to remove bacteria, nor have we used diluted hydrochloric acid in fracturing fluid. Additives proposed, in the quantities proposed, have resulted in the fracturing fluid being classified as non-hazardous by the Environment Agency."

No "hundreds of chemicals" there, and it needs EA approval before use.

More on their web page at

Aug 12, 2013 at 12:32 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

thinkingscientist writes

Aeroplanes (including commerical airliners) have had many a forced landing owing to mixups between US gallons, Imperial gallons and litres (or liters!)

The Gimli glider -

From Wikipedia ( )

The Gimli Glider is the nickname of an Air Canada aircraft that was involved in an unusual aviation incident. On 23 July 1983, Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-233 jet, ran out of fuel at an altitude of 41,000 feet (12,000 m) MSL, about halfway through its flight originating in Montreal from Ottawa to Edmonton. The crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to an emergency landing at Gimli Industrial Park Airport, a former Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba.[1]

The subsequent investigation revealed company failures and a chain of human errors that combined to defeat built-in safeguards. Fuel loading was miscalculated due to a misunderstanding of the recently adopted metric system which replaced the imperial system.

The Wikipedia article states that the aircraft was able to glide to a safe emergency landing at the disused WW2 base at Gimli. What it doesn't say is that the runway was being used as a drag strip and that a large number of people were at the end of the runway. The collapse of the nose wheel prevented the aircraft from running into this group of people and cars filled with fuel. Loss of life did not happen only through good fortune.

Aug 12, 2013 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTAG


pettifogging I might be ... but I see something divergent in the language - Cuadrillas fluid page says "classified by the Environment Agency as non hazardous" - not *approved* by the Environment Agency for down hole use...

cue "the wrong type of water" :-)

After all - they have already announced it'll take them six months to evaluate the permits ... which is surely enough time to organise their compliant "consultants" to come up with required reports to prove hell is going to freeze over or to insist that only certain brands of bottled water are considered appropriate for this application.

Aug 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Fracking is due to be discussed on BBC Radio 4 "You and Yours" at lunchtime. I expect it will be the usual shallow coverage with lots of contribution from FoE etc.
Aug 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM Phillip Bratby

I've just looked at the headline for this-mornings 'You and Yours', which is:
"The economics of shale gas, and why climate change could be the cause of bumpier flights.'
Hold onto your seats!

Aug 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Stevens.

Mark Stevens. 12:59 PM

fair bet that it'll be more of "up You and up Yours" if previous forays into this subject are anything to go by :-)

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commentertomo

After 3 years of opposing shale, imposing a ban, demanding ever more regulation to slow it and generally doing everything possible to push up energy prices, Cameron's position is "clear" he is in favour of it.

I think this means the focus groups have proven extraordinarily clear that the population support it.

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Les Johnson made a very important point early in the thread.

Burning the gas - or oil - from a fracked well will add far more water to the global inventory than is used in the frack operation.

Further, a good part of the water used is recovered as "flowback". I have seen figures ranging from 30% to 60%. That water is not heavily contaminated so can be easily treated and returned to the system or, as is now common in the US, it can be re-cycled into another frack.

A while ago I read of the "CapWa" project which has reached large-scale trials in the Middle East. It uses membranes to recover water from the exhaust of gas turbine power plants. They were getting about 40% recovery.
I need to check for an update but, if that flies, it will have massive implications, especially for the arid areas which are home to so much of the gas industry. It may not be quite so attractive in Cumbria!

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:37 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

I would never wish to tamper with the BBC's editorial independence (no, seriously!) but I am having trouble getting to grips with its right to take the sort of stand it is evidently taking on shale, and indeed on other related (ie climate change) matters.
Its right not to give air-time to sceptics if the advice it received was genuinely that to do so would be the equivalent of giving air-time to someone disputing the law of gravity or claiming the earth is flat is one thing but to act as cheerleader for those actively opposed to a process which may or may not benefit the wider population but which is reasonably well-established and has been in use for decades with minimal (if any) damage to environment or people seems to be over-reaching itself more than a bit.
Is there no way in which such one-sided reportage can be challenged since it seems to me to be a blatant breach of the BBC's Charter.

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"You and yours" is a bizarre daily cocktail of hand-wringing, tut-tutting, whining and extreme negativity.

Like a bunch of children moaning that "it's just not fair...". No problem is too trivial or too transient or imaginary for this sanctimonious preach-fest.

Even good news can be turned to bad news. I remember hearing that genetic testing so we could screen people for diseases was ... a BAD THING.

In the car the next day I flicked the radio on at midday to hear that smart phones were just SOOO BAD because blind people could not use all the features. Odd because the local paper the day before had shown a queue of blind people outside an Apple store wanting the latest voice recognition on .... smart phones. And there were no blind people on the programme - they just wanted to whine on behalf of someone.

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

This is presumsbly the same PM who proudly announced recently that we 'lead the world' in offshore wind...
Wonder why no-one seems to be that keen to follow us..?
Is it a bit like trumpeting the fact that Britain is 'the most tattooed nation in Europe'..? Sort of - 'Be careful what you wish for'...?

Aug 12, 2013 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Lets not forget that the water used to frac is reusable too.



Aug 12, 2013 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

TAG: My late father was an Aeronautical Engineer and followed air accident reports. The example you cite was exactly the one I had in mind...

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterthinkingscientist

I'd slate Dave as much as the BBC for this manner of reporting: How is adopting a technique that is decades old and has been rolled out on a significant scale in North America innovative and in any way taking a lead on the issue?

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Tomo: the first sentence of Cuadrilla's statement I quoted is:

"Before fracturing takes place, the Environment Agency must approve the proposed composition of Cuadrilla’s fracturing fluid."

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

How much is this in ATSOW*s?

* "Area The Size Of Wales"; canonical ecofascist term for anything they want you to consider unacceptably large

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Cameron is supporting it?

Now we're all fr**ked.

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Tim Farron MP is claiming; "We have already seen the growth in small scale earthquakes as a result of work done near Blackpool." apart from the 2 I know of does anyone here know if there is any evidence to back this claim up?

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenkman


aye ... oh, to be a fly on the wall at Millbank Tower or even at the "Green Cathedral" Horizon House - that frontage looks inspired by the alien musical communications device from "Close Encounters"

I think they'll insist on bottled water with each bottle individually assayed to ensure quality ;-/

Aug 12, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentertomo

The 'hundreds' refrences have gone form the biased corporation site

Aug 12, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Do not forget Graphene folks ^.^
Everything the government is currently doing regarding water conservation is little less than daylight robbery as well as deceitful.
I raised the issue of Graphene filters that can remove salt from sea water cheaply and easily about a year ago but back then the idea was new. I wrote to my MP Dan Byles about it at the same time and as far as I can see he has done nothing with it. Time passes, now Lockheed in the USA are already manufacturing these filters commercially. I know that we are all aware that the Earth is about 66% covered with sea water but do you think maybe the coalition has not noticed yet?

Aug 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I live in Houston, Texas and currently we are using +12000 US Gals per month for a family of four and irrigation of a small yard (garden). In the winter without irrigation this falls back to 6000 US Gals.

Based on my experience the 5 million gallons equates to the water used by 400 houses for one month. In a city of 4 million that's not much at all. The 5 million gallons sounds like a big number, but in reality it's not.

Also don't forget US Gallon are only 84% of a UK Gallon.

Aug 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMD

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