On Tuesday evening I went to an anti-fracking meeting in Preston, Lancashire. I support fracking, but I also support evidence-based campaigning (seehttp://climateanswers.info/2015/09/25-september-2015-we-need-evidence-based-campaigning/) and try to listen to different sides of the argument. And views in different parts of the country are often very different, so I need to get out of London to hear them.
However, the meeting was not very worthwhile. There were four speakers, given 25 minutes each so leaving minimal time for questions and discussion. We were told there would be discussion over wine at the end. But I couldn’t stay for that – I had to leave early to get the last train back to London.
The first presentation, by Skype, was from Professor Anthony Ingraffea (Cornell University, USA), one of the authors of the famous/infamous Cornell paper arguing that shale gas is worse in climate terms than coal. He didn’t discuss climate change in his talk though. He argued that tough regulation could never avoid something going wrong. Fracking is “spatially intense”, ie. lots of kit crowded together. So it is an “industrial enterprise” which is “not safe, not clean”. He mentioned light and noise pollution from gas flaring, then the process of installing infrastructure, including pipelines and compressor stations. He concluded by referring to the PSE Study Citation Database (see http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1180) which covers 888 peer-reviewed publications. Ingraffea said that the large majority of these demonstrate that fracking leads to worse outcomes on air quality and public health.
Then came questions. I asked what he meant by ‘worse’. Worse locally? Worse compared to continuing coal? He answered that he meant “worse compared to all metrics”. The next questioner followed this up by asking what he would say to those who argue that shale gas is cleaner than coal. His answer: “bullshit”.
Next came Professor Debra Davidson (University of Alberta, Canada), again by Skype, on the emotional impact of being anti-fracking in Alberta. She described Alberta as a ‘petro-colony’ and said that the regulator is funded by the industry so is not independent. Also that the Alberta government gives subsidies, tax cuts and “other incentives” to encourage fracking. But most of her presentation was extensive quotes from two women she had interviewed – written on the slides but nevertheless read out word for word. When she finally came to the end, the chair said that people who had asked a question already could not do so again.
Then came Professor Michael Bradshaw (University of Warwick). He was actually there in person, so I hoped it might become a bit more interactive. Bradshaw talked about the ‘energy trilemma’, and mentioned the UK Energy Research paper The future role of natural gas in the UK (see http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/publications/the-future-role-of-natural-gas-in-the-uk.html) which he co-authored. He talked about many issues, though more raising questions than giving answers. He did summarise where UK gas comes from today: UK-produced, Norway by pipeline, Qatar by LNG.
I wanted to ask him whether he agreed with the DECC MacKay/Stone report (see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237330/MacKay_Stone_shale_study_report_09092013.pdf) which concluded that UK shale gas could be 10% less climate damaging than LNG is. I was second on the list of called questioners. But there was only time for one question to be answered. So much for interactive.
Last up was Anna Szolucha from the University of Bergen. She has written a paper called ‘Fracturing democracy? State, fracking and local democracy in Lancashire’ (See http://www.academia.edu/14502015/Fracturing_democracy_State_fracking_and_local_democracy_in_Lancashire). This was the area I most wanted to hear about, but unfortunately had to leave soon after she began speaking. I’ll just have to download and read it.