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« Taxing Air | Main | A life propagandic »

Fracking roundup

There's quite a lot of newspaper coverage of fracking this morning, which will no doubt be of interest to readers.

In the Telegraph, Robert Mair, who headed the inquiry by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering into the technology, gives a level-headed summary of the risks - such as they are - and the responses.

Neil Hamilton, the eccentric Tory turned UKIP bigwig, has a green-bashing piece in the Express

So Green MP Caroline Lucas was arrested in vain? Not at all. Facts and logic don’t feature in her campaign to return us to a pre-Industrial Revolution nirvana. Sadly, Lucas has no sense of history either.

Meanwhile, at least one Tory MP is getting nervous.

George Hollingbery, a parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has warned that he will be “manning the barricades” if there is any danger posed to water supplies by shale gas exploration.

Mr Hollingbery, the MP for Meon Valley in Hampshire, warned that gas fracking could be “disastrous” in his county because of the area’s fragile water supply.

A more level-headed response to the scares put around by the greens would be a calm examination of the risks. This would put the minds of sane people at rest. Of course in the rarefied world of politics it's more effective to scream and join in the panic, so Mr Hollingberry's response is hardly surprising.

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Reader Comments (46)

How much of Hampshire's water does come from aquifers that overlie shale beds? Or is this just another scientifically illiterate poli jumping on the bandwagon?

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

The problem here is that the greenies have a number of public funded bodies coordinating opposition to fraccing, but the pro camp have basically the commercial interests, who prefer to keep a low profile, and no organised campaign to present the real facts. For instance, if Mr Hollingbourne were sent a copy of Josh's scale cartoon perhaps he'd have a different perspective?

Given that the PR for the IPCC meeting has already been written and is being set up for blanket coverage at the end of the month, (no doubt this mornings R4 propaganda piece is part of that softening up process) unless there are people willing to make a cooncerted effort to present the alternative view, it ain't going to be heard. But that needs dosh and clout.

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Not only do the powers of reason and sane analysis have to battle with loons who will not listen [Lucas], we have the likes of Hollingbery jumping on the anti-frac' bandwagon, maybe he's worried about his Parliamentary seat - who knows.

But the BBC leading the chorus of naysayers - there is little chance of reason, objective debate resonating in peoples heads - which is just what the EU requires - they don't want fracking, from - France's nuclear industry to the Russian bear - all have more influence in Brussels - than the British peasantry.

End of.

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

In the Commons Register of Members' Interests, it lists Hollingbery of, inter alia: "Renewable Design Company, which designs and installs heat pump systems. (Registered 12 June 2013)"

i wonder if shale gas will affect the development and use of heat pumps....

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Hollingbery's claim that fracking has polluted water supplies in America is a lie. The EPA has zero documentary evidence of that ever happening.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Fear is always a winner in politics. Suppose the Left found a "report" that "linked" silica, under certain circimstances, to the spread of the Ebola Virus and demanded controls. They'd claim the virus attaches to silica and enters the lungs via this "vector". All that's needed is any "sort of" fact that is "near" plausible and off you go into the land of vacinations which cause autism due to dust picked up on the shipping crates that traveled through a fracking zone. Pump up the BBC with somber reports and you're just about guarunteed a full blown hysteria.

How the Greens win is the effoct even one claim, cleverly thought out, requires volumes of debunking. I.E., the old "it's what's first reported is what's rememberd" works. Imho, the classic is Silent Spring which has made Rachael Carson the most revered mass murderer in histoy.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

What irks me about the fracking debate is the suggestion that if you want to frack in my neck of the woods I might be happy to let you go ahead but I want lots of wonga for letting you.
To my knowledge this sort of bribery (with our own money!) never happened before until government started throwing cash at the windmill manufacturers and they started offering silly money to local communities to get them onside.
Bribery really is the only way to describe it.
And still nobody is prepared to call out the liars (sorry, your Grace, but let's call a spade a spade for once) like [self-snipped] who in any decent society would not get anywhere near parliament since his attitude is patently,
"Fracking will have an adverse effect on my business and therefore I will use whatever means I can to prevent it."
"What about the people of your constituency? You are supposed to be representing their interests, not your own."
"Eh. You're having a laugh, aren't you?"
The HoC has far too many of that stripe working for themselves and not their constituents. Long past time their local associations told them where to go.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:39 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Hollingberry's comments are worrying. Surely if fracking is government policy, its MPs should have been given the facts in a level headed manner.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Timely reminder of what we (sceptics) are up against.
Lecture by Michael Crichton.

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

AGW advocates are luddites.

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Registered Commenterstanstendera

In other earth-shattering (couldn't resist the pun) news, the BBC fail to link last weekends' two earthquakes near Blackpool, with fracking.

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

@ Snotrocket Aug 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

"I wonder if shale gas will affect the development and use of heat pumps...."

Absolutely. Natural gas used for heating is far less expensive than the electricity used to produce heat via a heat pump.

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

"we discover that George Hollingberry has a financial interest in a company which sells heat pumps and biomass systems"

Quelle surprise! Is there any green-supporting member of either house who hasn't a vested interest? One with a genuine reason, in other words (however misguided)...

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:32 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The honourable members interests are a bigger threat to Britain's fuel supply, prosperity and well being at this time, than most other considerations. For the sake of Britain's future we should rid ourself of this pestilence.

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

In other earth-shattering (couldn't resist the pun) news, the BBC fail to link last weekends' two earthquakes near Blackpool, with fracking.

Aug 27, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public


No surprises there, Joe. The last thing they want to reveal are natural earthquakes that could dilute the 'fracking causes earthquakes' scare.

They'll be keeping their earthquake powder dry until fracking begins, then it'll be 9 on the Richter scale every week.

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

Hollingbery's interest was registered in June?

Coincidentally, that was the month when what The Telegraph calls his "outspoken comments" against fracking were made to his local newspaper.

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

Some interesting conversations arising around the Syrian conflict in that the Russians are threatening some dire consequences if the UK, France and US attack Syria.

I wonder if one of those is to cut off european access to russian gas and oil. OUCH. That'll teach them a leason but will the greenie beenies learn? NO

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Mair ignores the fact that if there is methane leak there will be risk of fire/explosion . Drilling crews do not want uncontrolled gas leaks as it could kill them.

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

"It really is quite remarkable how so much media energy, and the serried ranks of the commentariat were last week focused on that infantile little ruckus over fracking in the Sussex village of Balcombe. But virtually unnoticed recently was a very odd and much more significant event in the fracking drama, which shed further disturbing light on the curious workings of that system of government which now rules our lives much more than most people realise"

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Chris M; as far as I can judge, that Meon Valley constituency is served by Portsmouth Water while the broader territory all around is served by Southern.
According to their website, PW gets almost all of its supply from the local aquifers.
SW does have some river and reservoir supplies but, in the west of their area (hampshire) they are heavily groundwater-dependent too. They also cover much of Sussex and, ironically, the water supply to Balcombe comes from a river further south.

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:55 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Caroline Lucas vehemently denied seeking publicity when asked on the BC Today programme the day after she was arrested at Balcombe. Did the BBC not realise they were providing the publicity or was it intentional?

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterVic Shorrocks

Hollingbery's claim that fracking has polluted water supplies in America is a lie. The EPA has zero documentary evidence of that ever happening.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:12 AM | John Marshall

That turns out not to be the case.

I refer you to Robert Myer's review paper. Follow his links and you will find a number of documented cases, mostly from prosecuutions by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental protection.

Aug 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Recently a BBC journalist interviewed a farmer somewhere in the United States who allowed some of his land to be used for fracking. Obviously he got paid by the company concerned, just as he would have been paid for allowing wind turbines to be put up on his land. The BBC journalist accused him of being "a cheer-leader for tracking."

How often have BBC journalists used the expression "a cheer-leader for wind turbines" when interviewing land owners who have allowed their land to be used for wind farms?

Aug 27, 2013 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Less already with the Myers rubbish.
The only academic — and one very much with his own agenda— who claims evidence of polluted water supplies based on one EPA employee at odds with his employer.
The EPA has found no evidence of water pollution resulting from hydraulic fracturing.
Get over it.

Aug 27, 2013 at 5:45 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Meanwhile in neighbouring Dorset is western Europe's largest onshore oilfield - Wytch Farm. It is loctaed a couple of miles North of Corfe Castle. The oil wells extend 10km across Poole Harbour / Poole Bay. The extracted oil is then piped 91 miles to the oil terminal at Fawley. Drilling has been going on in this area since the 1930s. Very few people visiting the area around Corfe Castle would be aware of the existence of Wytch Farm - proof that drilling for oil and gas can exist in an area of outstanding natural beauty without ruining the countryside.

Aug 27, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRogue

More in the HuffPost

Speaking to his local paper The Daily Echo, Hollingberry said: “Any threat to the water supply here would be utterly disastrous – every single person and business relies on that water."

“I don’t pretend to be an expert, but we do know of examples in the United States where there has been an impact on the water supply from fracking.”

“I’m not suggesting there is any threat to the chalk acquifers of Hampshire, but – if there was – I would certainly be manning the barricades.”

Admits that he is not pretending to be an expert and then proves the accuracy of his words by repeating the oft quoted anti-fracking lie about water supply contamination.

And we are relying on these people to run the country sensibly?

Aug 27, 2013 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRbravery

There is an excellent website on the geology & history of drilling in the Wessex coast area of southern England from a Southampton University geologist:

Aug 27, 2013 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRogue

Michael Jackson

Dimock was rather more than one employee.

Note particularly the second link, a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Cabot Oil and Gas were cited for defective casings and defective cementing, wastewater spills and natural gas release to groundwater. They paid a $120,000 civil penalty and the cost of providing fresh water to Dimock until their water supply was passed fit once more. They were also shut down until the EPA were satisfied that they had remedied their problems.

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

It will be interesting to see what happens to the companies which use fracking for purposes other than oil and gas.
An obvious example is the Eden geothermal project which has been mentioned here before.
Also, in the US, "hydrofracking" is widely used to improve the production from water wells (to be fair, it is a much milder process).
Unintended consequences......

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:55 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Against whom in the USA, does Obama think he will use 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition & 2,700 mine resistant vehicles in the name of Homeland Security? AGW sceptics?

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterperry

Instead of 'hydraulic fracture stimulation', we should have called it 'hydraulic sustainability enhancement.'

The sustainable solution for a low cost ecofriendly future.

Aug 27, 2013 at 11:42 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Totally O/T but I feel the need to share - H/T Steve Milloy

God complex.

King’s dream did survive him, and, some might argue, in the election of Barack Obama, witnessed its apotheosis, though not its completion.

Whereas the civil rights movement was trying to undo a terrible multi-century-long moral wrong, the challenge for climate science activists (the future-generations rights movement?) is that we are trying to prevent a terrible multi-century-long moral wrong. That mission will require even more eloquence, even more commitment.

That's some esoteric conflation.

Joe Romm

Aug 28, 2013 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Here in Australia, it's common to have large amounts of methane in water aquifers. What farmers do is pump the water into a dam, as it comes out of the ground hot. I've seen several of these pumps with a permanent blue flame above the water spout.

Aug 28, 2013 at 1:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bradley

I, for one, could do without the support of Neil Hamilton and without his badly written rant. The man is a still wrong un' (if not so much of a wrong un' as he was frequently painted) and I would not want him on my side even if I thought he was sincere in what he was saying rather than jumping on a bandwagon.
We are judged by the company we keep, Neil but please now shut up and go away.

P.S. It is nevertheless nice to contemplate that there actually is now a bandwagon to jump onto. Five years ago it felt very different.

Aug 28, 2013 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Entropic Man
They paid a $120,000 civil penalty and the cost of providing fresh water to Dimock until their water supply was passed fit once more. They were also shut down until the EPA were satisfied that they had remedied their problems.

From that I take it the problems were resolved and the water is OK now? A bit like having your car recalled to fix a potentially dangerous fault, once fixed you continue with many happy years motoring?

Aug 28, 2013 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

You are conflating two separate matters.
Let me refer you (and anyone else who is interested) to your Aug 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM comment on the "Fracking far away ..." thread and my reply at 6.50 PM.
"The examples you quote are the result either of bad practice or possible equipment failure, neither of which is unique to fracking. The surface spills are not the result of fracking per se and if you're going to argue that if it weren't for fracking they wouldn't have happened then the answer is that you can make that claim about any human activity."
The only case you mention that relates to directly to fracking, as opposed to drilling or securing the well or proper materials handling on the surface which — I repeat — would apply to any operation for mineral working, was dismissed by the EPA and is the view of a single employee.

Aug 28, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Like Jack Savage, I think we could have done without Neil Hamilton's contribution, not least "... the high-pressure water jetting will actually be carried out underground" ... which shows his superficial understanding of the issue, making him a disciple rather than a knowledgeable supporter. In another article I read there was mention of "high velocity" water.

In an article featuring George Hollingbery, a parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May, he says .. “I don’t pretend to be an expert, but we do know of examples in the United States where there has been an impact on the water supply from fracking.”

In the same article, Anne McIntosh, who chairs the Commons environment select committee, no less, is reported to have said that ... "the process could have an impact on house prices."

If the government was really set on maximising the benefit of fracking, it would surely do a better job of disseminating information to counter the propaganda.

Aug 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK

A big difference between the USA and the UK and Australia is that in the USA landowners own the rights to minerals beneath their land, whereas in the UK and Australia they belong to the government. Which makes USA landowners much more in favour of mineral development. Although they sell their rights to oil and gas companies, they generally retain a percentage of the profits.

In Australia much of the opposition to fracking and coal seam gas comes from land owners who have no legal right to the gas, but are just trying to extort a rent.

Of course the media never tells you this.

Aug 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bradley

If the aquifers in question are many hundreds- if not thousands- of feet above the shale, it does not matter.
Anti-fracking extremists have no need for facts to confuse them.

Aug 28, 2013 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Mike Jackson

You focus too much on the fracking process itself, and not on the associated activities. You should include everything that happens because fracking is going on, which would not be happening if fracking were not proceeding. The leaking tailings pond or the tanker which crashes and dumps it fracking fluid into the groundwater is as much a consequence of fracking as a leaking well..

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


As Mike Jackson points out, most of the aquifer contamination incidents do not result from the movement of fluid upwards from the fracking zones in the shale. They result in leakage from the upper part of the well and spillages on the surface.

Contamination tends to move down into the aquifer from above, rather than upwards from below.

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


If you read my last link you'll see that nobody's really sure. Contaminants such as bromine remain, and some of the other chemicals found in the water have not been tested to determine safe levels.

Once again, this sort of equivocal evidence is not what a company seeking permission to harvest shale gas would like to see presented at a planning inquiry. The industry needs to get its act together and demonstrate that it is safe, something which its experts and PR people have failed to do to date.

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

are people still talking about the facking, which is not happening, in Balcombe? At times you wonder how peoplem such as EM ever manage to cross a road.

Aug 29, 2013 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes


You would be a lot more credible if you didn't rely on Myers for your evidence. It seems he is being rubbished by in the peer reviewed literature by people that actually know what they are talking about.
Myers is a professor of English isn't he?
And reading the EPA reports, they found elevated Arsenic and Manganese in Dimock water. Are you really suggesting that these came from fraccing? Even the EPA thought these suggested contamination was from other sources.

Aug 29, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

No. If you are going to use that argument then you have to apply the same test to oil prospecting, coal mining (deep and open-cast), limestone, gravel or sand quarrying, and even agriculture and horticulture.
Since you are specifically trying to paint fracking black because of these incidents/accidents then you have to confine your argument to the actual mechanics of the fracking itself not peripheral problems that also arise in any other industry.
Your approach is dishonest and, I'm sorry to say, marks you out as no better than the mindless idiots who oppose fracking because they don't want the oil/gas that results. Fracking for them is just an excuse and it looks as if it is for you as well.
And you will notice from ChrisM's post that I am not the only one who thinks relying on Myers dents your credibility more than slightly.

Aug 29, 2013 at 11:41 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

ChrisM, Mike Jackson

The environmental regulations do apply to all the activities you describe, and all have a steady flow of prosecutions following violations of those regulations. I would expect shale gas extraction to abide by the same regulations, and, since it is done by imperfect human beings, to have similar rates of violation.

In Northern Ireland Tambora tell us that there is no chance of pollution when their 150 proposed wells in Fermanagh would probably generate one or two incidents ( based on Pennsylvania's experience).

In the UK a total of the order of 1500 wells would be needed, generating a probable 15 incidents.

What is dishonest is the attempt to paint shale gas extraction as a perfect neighbour, somehow immune to such risks. It would be better to present it as analagous to other rural industrial activities, with comparable levels of damage.

Aug 30, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

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