Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A question of trust

This indifferent photograph from near the back of the Town Hall's Pillar Room was taken at the end of last night's fracking discussion, part of the Cheltenham Science Festival. It shows the main participants, energy economist Paul Ekins and (right) Andrew Quarles, Cuadrilla's exploration director.

Ably though Richard Bacon chaired it, the self-styled "debate" could have done with being a little more adversarial. And of course it needed longer than an hour, to allow more of the audience's expertise, and I suspect concern, to make itself heard.

The context of climate change and the neglect of the 5th Fuel (energy conservation) needed bringing out more too, IMHO; but the speakers both did well to prevent it just becoming an emotional tussle.

Cuadrilla is asking for "a social licence", but Prof. Ekins queries whether the public trusts the energy companies to tell the whole story, let alone the Government to regulate them effectively: fracking would have no impact on gas prices; 50 wells need to be dug to see what the fugitive emissions would amount to, and whether UK fracking was viable at all - and then 300 new wells a year to meet industry expectations. On top of all this, it's likely to become a substitute for nuclear or renewables, rather than coal. Wouldn't we be better off looking for energy security through renewables? Precisely.


Michelle Thomasson said...

Sorry I was not there for the debate as I can imagine the fact that tests on the toxic mix of chemicals used in fracking have not yet even been devised was not even mentioned! Did they discuss earthquakes that are now occurring 2 miles from fracking sites in what is considered an aseismic state in the USA? And what about the heavy need for water in this process - was that mentioned?

Thanks for your post and any answers on above - The Cuadrilla gentleman has been doing his corporate rounds!

Martin Davis said...

You are right, there wasn't much if any mention on tests for the chemicals to be used. Earthquakes were mentioned, but said by CuadrillaMan to be a negligible risk. Our MP was at the meeting and said he would only approve of fracking subject to there being a community veto in every case; he and others also expressed great concern about the amount of water usage that would be needed.

Martin Davis said...

One of the sponsors, present at a post-meeting dinner with the participants, has written as follows: "The debate raged on for several hours afterwards too. Interestingly two facts emerged as the night progressed. Fracking can probably work in tandem with the renewables industry... And there is a limited amount of capital investment in Cuadrilla at least, meaning their shareholders will need deep pockets and strong constitutions if they're going to stay in the game. Can't see them persuading people to let them dig under their homes and drive trucks all over the place without lengthy judicial reviews and appeals."