‘Why the country needs to back fracking and become energy independent – Charles McAllister
With the right policy support from Government, Yorkshire, Lancashire and the East Midlands could become the UK’s energy powerhouse for decades.’
Charles McAllister is the director of policy, government and public affairs at United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG).
Response from, Heather Stroud.
Here we go again.
‘As the current cost of living crisis hits families across the country hard, it is absurd that we continue to import gas from other countries thousands of miles away while ignoring the gas we have under our feet.
The independent Climate Change Committee has been clear that we will need gas as part of our transition to Net Zero in 2050. Had the Government<https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/topic/government> not banned fracking in 2019, the industry could have been warming UK homes with UK shale gas this winter while helping to reduce the large increases in energy bills the country is facing.’
Charles McAllister recognises that in 2019, when the moratorium was placed on fracking, that neither the government nor the fracking industry had local support for fracking
So what has changed? Truth doesn’t change with the change of political leadership.The danger posed by fracking hasn’t changed. The threat of widespread industrialisation of rural communities hasn’t changed – rural communities that have successful businesses in agriculture, tourism, and hospitality – none of these businesses are compatible with the chain long cavalcade of heavy trucks that bring in infrastructure for the wells and the removal of radioactive waste products produced from fracking. The traffic pollution of heavy vehicles and risk of serious accidents along narrow country lanes, hasn’t changed.The threat of losing our dark night-time skies when lit up with noxious flares, hasn’t changed. Neither has the risk to fertile agricultural land for crops and livestock from contamination ground source water, changed.
The water and chemicals forced down these well structures cannot be cleaned or re-used to be added back to the water supply as the contaminants are toxic and radioactive. The disposal of this waste to ground source water is a problem that the fracking companies often fail to mention or address. Some years ago eight million litres of radioactive fracked water from Preese Hall fracking site, was dumped in the Manchester Ship Canal. Energy companies in the UK were also accused of dumping radioactive fracked waste water into the sea.
In the countries where fracking has already taken place it’s been reported that a small percent of well casings suffer failure almost immediately- within ten years there are significantly more failures and within fifty years all well casings will have disintegrated to some degree or other. The structure of these wells is not permanent. Fracking wells are drilled through the water table. Add to this the probable risk of earth tremors on well structures, and the financial incentives offered by McAllister and his corporate government colleagues, pale in comparison to the risk of catastrophic harm to the water supply for Northern communities.
‘The energy crisis has made it clear that our domestic energy supply is in a perilous position. Two decades ago, the UK was a net exporter of energy and yet, last year the UK produced the least amount of energy in over 50 years with a 57 per cent gas import dependency. By the 2030s our natural gas import dependency could be as high as 80 per cent.
Shale gas development has the potential to drive billions in investment into the North of England, creating tens of thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs, as well as billions in tax revenue for decades.
Shale gas companies have also committed to sharing the revenue from production sites with local people. To put this in context, a single shale gas pad could deliver up to £400m in community benefits based on current gas prices.
Polling showed that most people in the North of England would back fracking in their local area if they received 25 per cent off their annual energy bill, which the community benefits offer can deliver. It should also be noted that £100,000 goes to the local community for each exploration site.
The benefits to the Government’s levelling up agenda are enormous.’
Charles McAllister promises cheaper energy bills, plus £100,000 to communities where fracking takes place. Maybe some local councillors/politicians could be persuaded to take this bribe – I hope not. Seriously is our beautiful environment and the health of all of us along with the health of future generations, worth so little. If we only look at this in purely monetary terms, the loss to agricultural businesses, to the tourist trade, and to hospitality etc, let alone the loss of value on people’s homes, these losses would be far more substantial than anything the fracking companies can offer.
‘If the UK doesn’t boost its gas production from the enormous and world class Bowland shale formation in the North of England, we will lock ourselves into reliance on more polluting and more expensive gas imports for decades. We will be heavily reliant on Liquified natural gas (LNG), shipped to the UK from Qatar, Peru and the USA to meet our demand, with a carbon footprint four times that of UK shale at the point of delivery. To attract LNG, we must send up high price signals to outbid the 42 other countries which import it, with a potential gas import bill of £1 trillion by 2050. Shale gas development would not only reduce the public’s energy costs, but it would also help to reduce our carbon footprint.
We must also face new geopolitical realities. The barbaric invasion of Ukraine and subsequent reduction of gas supply from Russia to Europe has created turmoil in the energy markets.
It is also important that we recognise that the impacts of fracking have been massively exaggerated by extremists who have been naïve about geopolitical realities, too inflexible, too dogmatic, and too hasty. Their actions have influenced previous Government policy despite the ‘dangers’ they present having no basis in fact or reality.’
The arrogance of McAllister in making these statements alone, sums up the contempt he has toward those who took a legitimate stand against the fracking industry. He is clearly dismissive or unaware that individuals and groups invested time in researching and reading through volumes of peer reviewed scientific reports on the potential dangers posed by fracking. McAllister also seems to be unaware that concerned residents in North Yorkshire spent time and money travelling to areas where fracking had taken place. They did this in order to fully understand what the impacts of fracking would likely be on a fracked community. MP Kevin Hollinrake also made a similar journey. He was either shielded or indifferent to learning of the personal tragedies faced by individuals within fracked areas. Reports from communities, from individuals, from professionals (doctors and vets) of the harms suffered by communities in fracked areas are far from exaggerated. Evidence of such harms has been widely contested at the legal level and although compensation has been awarded, in many cases payment has been attached to a gagging order.
McAllister is also probably unaware that fracked communities in several countries, Australia and USA were so disturbed by what had happened to them that, at their own expense, sent out delegations to UK communities, threatened by fracking licenses, to warn of the dangers. Australia and the United States have vast areas of sparsely inhabited areas, nevertheless the impact of harms experienced by local residents was significant. None of these people consented to becoming ‘collateral damage’, and neither do we. England is a small country and even rural areas are significantly more populated than in these larger countries. The risk of harm here would be magnified here. As such, the claims made by residents who find themselves unwittingly in opposition to the fracking industry, are far from exaggerated.
As for being naive about geopolitical realities I would suspect that those of us outside of the political arena (un-compromised by financial interests, loss of jobs and power – factors which inevitably influence one’s judgment), are better informed. It is us who are free to think clearly, and assess evidence without prejudice.
Unsurprisingly McAllister provides no context to his provocative statement – ‘the barbaric invasion’ of Ukraine’. These words are left hanging as though that was all there is to it. There is no mention of the lead up to Russia’s ‘military invasion’. Have politicians forgotten how American reacted when they believed that the Soviet Union had, or was about to have nuclear weapons in Cuba. Western leaders are every bit as culpable as anyone for instigating this dreadful war in Ukraine. They didn’t need to push Russia into a corner with the threat of NATO expansionism, along with the threat of nuclear weapons and possibly chemical and biological weapons within range of Moscow.
Does McAllister assume that none of us are aware that there has been an ongoing civil war within the Ukraine since the Maidan Uprising of 2014. An uprising inspired by promises from the West for Ukraine to join the European Union. It was this event led to the overthrow of Victor Yanukovych, the then President who happened to be on good terms with Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The emerging conflict led by the Azov Brigade, and other fascist battalions, resulted in the slaughter of an estimated 14,000 Russian speaking inhabitants from the Donbass area. The death toll must now be much higher. For our government to be adding fuel to this war and prolonging the slaughter of Ukrainians and Russians, prevents any opportunity for Ukrainian and Russian leaders to seek out a peaceful resolution.
This crisis of energy along with the high prices people will be forced to pay in the West, wasn’t engineered by Russia. The financial, economic crisis with the breakdown of supply chains was occurring years before this war erupted. It wasn’t Russia that stopped supplying gas to Europe. It was UK, US, and Europe that stopped the flow of gas by initiating the sanctions against Russia.
To exclude Russia in the investigation of its own Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipeline explosion, defies logic but to suggest that Russia destroyed its own billion dollar asset in order to accuse the West, really pushes credibility beyond reason. However the sophistication of the attack would suggest that this was a State sanctioned attack. No State has accepted responsibility. The day of the explosion on the Russian pipeline the Baltic pipeline was opened which transports gas from Norway to Poland and then onward to other European countries.
So many wars have been engineered in order for interested parties to compete over energy resources and markets. The wars over pipelines and interest of who supplies the oil and gas to Europe has been a factor in the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine. There is potential for a war festering between Israel and Lebanon over drilling for gas in the Mediterranean sea off their coastal areas. That is not to dismiss the gas off the coast of Gaza, which has also been claimed by Israel.
Clearly the geopolitical reality is that there are tensions over where oil and gas come from, but does that need to be a reason for war? The competition arises out of greed. These wars serve to push oil and gas prices up. They have also conveniently created a situation where fracking would appear to be more attractive to potential share holders likely to invest in the fracking industry. Russia supplied Europe for decades prior to the current contrived tensions at realistic prices. At the time when fracking was initially proposed the price of oil was low. Now, as McAllister points out, the cost of energy is high. However, shouldn’t we be asking if this spike in prices was really inevitable and a natural occurrence outside of the UK and other interested Western countries, sphere of influence.
Of course it would be better if we weren’t reliant on fossil fuel energy and if there were free energy with no cost to either people or the environment. If we take out competitive interests in supplying energy, maybe that will be something for the future. However, to suggest that fracking is the temporary answer, with all the serious harms that fracking brings to our environment, is far from being a viable solution.
Besides the geopolitical realities, McAllister uses ‘climate change’ and ‘a zero carbon footprint’ as a reason to begin fracking. One has to ask; ‘how does that work?’ And if it were that simple why the need to create conflict over the oil and gas pipelines. War creates environmental damage far beyond anything else. The recent act of sabotage that destroyed the Nord Streams 1& 2 Russian pipelines released massive amounts of methane into the environment. I don’t hear the ‘climate change movement’ contesting ‘possible’ Western culpability for that or any of these wars.
The late Ian R. Crane, an inspiring speaker was a staunch supporter of local communities who found themselves unwittingly placed in opposition to the fracking industry. Ian, did not align himself with the climate change movement. That is not to say he wasn’t committed to both environmental and human rights issues, but his knowledge of the oil, gas and energy industries extended far into geopolitical realities. His concern was that, this well funded movement while on the surface opposed to fossil fuels, is at the forefront of pushing another environmental catastrophe – the smart agenda of the internet of things; smart cities; smart motorways; electric cars run on electrically charged lithium batteries powered by nuclear energy. This ‘convenient’ way of living, where we are totally dependent on electricity for energy (transport and home use), not only exposes the environment to increased levels of harmful electromagnetic energy but exposes us to unprecedented levels of surveillance. The collection of both meta and individual data fed into smart metres leads us dangerously down path of total dependancy on those who control the switch.
Ian often spoke of his concern that because fracking was clearly unviable in the UK, we should question if the agenda was not something else. Of major concern was not just the possibility of a financial scam, but that fracking wells could become the waste dump for nuclear waste. The UK has been a disposal dump for Europe’s nuclear waste for some years. When did the British people agree to that? During her term as Prime Minister, Theresa May offered villages one million pounds per year if they agreed to host a nuclear waste dump on the edge of their village. Not surprisingly no village communities took up the offer. Ian pointed out that if nuclear waste dumps were spread widely around the UK then evidence of cancer clusters resulting from them would be difficult to prove.
No doubt McAllister would consider these concerns as wild conspiracy theories, dismissing the fact that history is full of powerful individuals conspiring together to further political and financial aims.
‘The moratorium imposed on fracking in 2019 was based on a report on the PNR 1z well in Lancashire<https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/topic/lancashire>, in which the largest event was 1.5 on the Richter scale, the equivalent of dropping a honeydew melon in your kitchen.
Government policy must be focused on ensuring UK shale gas is delivered in a timely manner.’
McAllister conveniently fails to mention the difference between an earthquake which develops deep in the ground and a surface tremor which occurs because of the chemicals and explosive devices used in the production of fracking. Although surface tremors register significantly less on the Richter scale, a surface tremor has the capacity to damage buildings beyond that of a deep earthquake that barely reaches the earth’s surface. In the Netherlands after recorded fracks took place the surface tremors that resulted did not register high on the Richter scale, yet the damage to local buildings was significant.
The social contract between the government and the people has been broken. McAllister and the government know full well there is no support for fracking within local communities. Our government, heavily committed to serving the interests of the corporate lobby groups, have allowed democracy to fall by the wayside. Fracking is just one of the threats being thrown at us in this struggle for dominance over natural resources and more alarmingly over peoples’ lives. As we hurtle from one politically engineered crisis to another we must stay out of fear and consciously avoid being herded into tunnels of narrow, contrived visions of perception. Democracy is not given to us by governments, it is a sovereign right to be preserved.
Heather Stroud is an activist