Tag Archive | Fracking

No place for fracking in Wales

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

Something seems to have gone awry with Lawrence Bailey’s usually excellent column this week.

His piece ‘Fast track to digging deeper’ (Evening Post, 25 August, page 10) appears to have been edited to the point where it’s difficult to understand just what his point is.

UK Methane Ltd has applied to Swansea Council for Planning Permission to test drill for Coal Bed Methane in Llangyfelach. As the company has made very clear, the proposed development does not involve the controversial process of Hydraulic Fracturing (or “fracking”).

The current moratorium in Wales applies to “unconventional extraction techniques, including hydraulic fracturing … but does not include the making of exploratory boreholes.”

So this application does not fall within the terms of the moratorium, nor is it a way of getting around the moratorium.

Quite how this could be seen as curtailing “Celebrations in Cardiff Bay” is difficult to see.

On 14 August Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant AM wrote to all local councils in Wales to assure them that measures to fast track fracking were applicable to English councils only and reiterated the Welsh Government’s preference for renewable forms of generation over oil and gas exploration.

The Minister said, “We continue to believe that the technologies behind hydraulic fracturing are unproven …” and, “Our vision for future energy generation is based on embracing Wales’ abundant renewable energy resources which provide exciting and immediate opportunities.”

He added, “Wales is a green and clever land and we want to ensure … that we address the issue of climate change immediately through the effective deployment of renewable energy technologies.”

Methinks it will be the frackers whose celebrations may yet be short-lived!


Facts and Mathematics

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

It is Dave Lees (‘Energy policy is just lunacy’, Letters, 10 November) who stands “in total disregard of the facts and the mathematics” – the facts of climate change and the mathematics of energy subsidies.

As the latest IPCC report has made clear, we need to be drastically reducing carbon emissions as a matter of urgency rather than burning more fossil fuels.

Whilst gas may be “a relatively low pollutant” when compared to coal, it is still a pollutant that emits greenhouse gases.

Producing natural gas using fracking carries a significant risk of methane leakage to atmosphere, which can only add to the problem.

Energy companies have enjoyed many a Christmas at the expense of British taxpayers.  All forms of energy production in the UK are subsidised from the public purse, with nuclear being the most heavily subsidised of all.  Yet the power companies continue to make massive profits and pay their executives obscene salaries and bonuses.

David Cameron promised us “the greenest government ever”, but from the moment they came to power the Coalition government began cutting subsidies to renewable forms of energy and offering even more incentives to the nuclear and fracking industries – the very opposite of what we ought to be doing if we are to play an active part in dealing with climate change.

Whilst I would prefer that we were building a wind farm or solar array on the Felindre site, using the gas fired power station in order to back up renewable energy production is at least a step in the right direction.

A more positive vision

It’s easy to dismiss those who disagree with you with fatuous labels such as “Nimbys” or  “the no-no brigade” (‘We must tackle energy issues’, South Wales Evening Post, Letters, 15 October).  Far better to engage with your opponents to find a solution that suits all.

Vic Collier is quite right in that we need to tackle the question of how to provide our future energy needs, but we need to do so in a way that protects future generations rather than adding to their woes.

The solutions proposed by former Energy Secretary Owen Patterson amount to nothing more than continuing along the road that has brought us to the sorry state in which we find ourselves; rising carbon emissions, accelerating climate change, and increasing levels of highly toxic waste that will plague our descendants for centuries.

Far from objecting “to any and all projects”, those who oppose fracking and nuclear power share a positive vision of the future with many of our political and business leaders.

A vision of a carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance.

I would urge Vic Collier and others of his ilk to develop and encourage an attitude of how that can be achieved rather than why it must not be done.


Footnote: The “vision” in the penultimate paragraph above is an extract from a recent e-mail from my friend Donal Whelan.  The full quote is:

“I’ve been working with some fantastic people recently while campaigning against fracking, from NGOs to community groups, with people at workshops, protests, renewable energy conferences and village hall meetings. Out of all of these places there’s a shared vision emerging, one of a future carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance. People feel really passionate about this!
It’s not rocket science – tidal lagoons like Swansea dotted discreetly around the coast; ranks of majestic wind turbines miles out to sea, like sentinels against the coming storms of climate change; every house in Wales fully insulated and solar panels on every east and west facing roof (for a more balanced load than south-facing, we learn from Germany); half a dozen pumped water energy storage systems like Dinorwig evening out the load; a cutting-edge smart electricity grid called back into public ownership; community owned projects feeding benefits back in to local people; enough surplus energy to sell to other countries, earning enough to maintain the national energy system and keep it up-to-date.”

Fracking is sheer folly

Councillor Ioan Richard is mistaken when he says that fracking is not used for coal bed methane extraction (‘Energy debate ‘hi-jacked’ by anti-fracking protests’; South Wales Evening Post; August 22). 

There is ample evidence of the use of hydraulic fracturing to stimulate the flow of coal bed methane, most often in the sorts of conditions that are likely to be found in the South Wales coalfields.   

Far from “hijacking” the energy debate for some unspecified devious purpose, anti-fracking campaigners seek to open up that debate and lay the full facts before communities and decision makers, as a counter balance to the spin and misinformation propagated by those who have a vested interest in the unconventional gas industry.  

Methane may be the “cleanest of all fossil fuels” – but it is still a fossil fuel.  

If we are serious about dealing with climate change we need to leave around 80% of the known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground until such time as we have adequate processes for dealing with the greenhouse gas emissions that they create. 

To do anything else at this critical time for our climate would be sheer folly.









Misquoted – again!

Reporter, Rachel Moses-Lloyd, seriously misquotes me in her article ‘Divide over plans to tap into gases” (South Wales Evening Post, Tuesday 12 August). 

I did not say, “They are not likely to be fracking in Wales, because that’s what they do for shale gas, and South Wales hasn’t got any”. 

What I did say was that there isn’t much shale in South Wales, so extraction of Coal Bed Methane is likely to have more of an impact in this area.  I also pointed out that Coal Bed Methane extraction could involve fracking in certain circumstances. 

The presence of shale in South Wales is borne out by the fact that companies are now applying for permission to test drill in order to ascertain where the shale is and how much gas it might contain.  This is certainly the case at Pontrhydyfen in the Afan Valley, where UK Methane has recently applied to extend the depth of their drilling in Foel Fynyddau Forest in order to explore for shale. 

But even if they don’t find suitable shale beds, and even if they can extract the Coal Bed Methane without using fracking, we would still be presented with significant industrialisation of the countryside bringing with it the risks of water pollution, air pollution and hundreds of extra vehicle movements creating noise, dust and damage in rural areas. 

If Councillor Ioan Richard is so intent on reducing our reliance on imported gas, then he should be supporting the development of renewable energy rather than unconventional gas, which will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales. 

Fracking Subsidies!

Byron Davies AM calls for an end to public subsidies for onshore wind farms and uses Welsh Government support for wind farms as a stick with which to beat the Labour Government in Cardiff. (‘Byron Davies AM calls for change over turbines’, South Wales Evening Post, 26 April)

His claim that “Conservatives in government want to protect the natural environment and are committed to giving local people a say …” might hold good for wind farms, but goes straight out of the window when it comes to Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane development.

Not only are Mr Davies’ Conservative colleagues at Westminster gleefully offering tax breaks and other incentives to Shale Gas developers, they are now planning to change the law so that companies can frack below our houses without needing to get our permission or even inform us.

Perhaps Mr Davies can explain how cutting subsidies for renewables at the same time as offering subsidies for fracking is going to help Welsh Conservatives honour their 2011 Manifesto Commitments to, “Tackle Climate Change”, “Generate More Renewable Energy” and “Protect the Environment”?

Fracking will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales than any wind farm ever could.

Wind Farm (colour)fracking shale gas analysisVS






Fracking Cannot be Made Safe

fracking shale gas analysisSwansea Council reassures us that “any planning application for gas drilling would have to include a full assessment of the environmental, social and economic implications of the proposal” (‘Are we being ripped off’, Evening Post, 27th March, final paragraph).

In practice these assessments are produced by the companies applying to drill rather than independently; and sadly our local councils lack the expertise, experience and resources to provide the required level of scrutiny when considering such applications.

All local councils in Wales are obliged by ‘Planning Policy Wales’ to apply the “precautionary principle” to all developments. This document says, “… measures to prevent possibly serious environmental damage should not be postponed just because of scientific uncertainty about how serious the risk is.”

In other words, if we have no independently verified guarantee that it can be done safely, then it shouldn’t be done at all.

There is now ample, independently verified evidence from the USA and elsewhere that “fracking” and other forms of unconventional gas development are far from safe and will have unacceptable adverse impacts on our communities and the environment.

In this situation the default position for our councils has to be rejection of all applications for unconventional gas development until it can be proven to be safe.

All the regulation on earth can only make unconventional gas extraction safer – it cannot make it safe.




Anti-fracking campaigners get better turnout than Labour Party!

Odd use of the phrase “full house” by Swansea Labour Party (‘Party launches EU campaign’, Evening Post, 17 February).

Granted it was a small room, but I counted no more than eight people at any one time, and not one member of the public as far as I could see.  

Such a small turnout is of course in line with the dwindling turnout for elections, fuelled by the growing dissatisfaction with the political process.  

To quote Lawrence Bailey, Labour’s former leader in Swansea, “Even fewer think it’s (the electoral process) a viable means of achieving change compared with direct action …” (‘Do we get the politicians we deserve?’, Evening Post, 18 February).

His comments are borne out by the fact that at the same time as Swansea Labour were launching their EU campaign to an almost empty room, over 60 local campaigners were gathered in an adjoining room to discuss concerns about fracking and unconventional gas development.

The strength of opposition to fracking is perhaps something the Labour Party should be paying attention to as they seek to “appear distinctive” and “position themselves in line with current public trends”.

After all, following the recent extreme weather in the UK their leader Ed Miliband now accepts that climate change is an issue of national security and that we need tougher decarbonisation targets and a boost for investment in the green economy – all of which runs counter to the current government’s obsession with fossil fuels, shale gas and fracking.


Anti-fracking campaigners enjoying a day of workshops, discussion and action planning, while next door Labour launch their election campaign to an empty room!

It’s all going on here!

Test DrillingFollowing a long day trip to Barton Moss and back yesterday, it’s all kicking off today with the government’s announcement of their incentives (bribes!) for fracking.

Managed to tie that in with an article in the local paper;’French ‘fracking’ boost but campaigners in Wales fear blight on countryside‘, with lots of quotes from your’s truly.
Swiftly followed by an invite to appear on the Jason Mohammad programme on BBC Wales at lunchtime to debate the announcement with Nick Grealy, Director of ‘No Hot Air’ (http://www.nohotair.co.uk/).
You can get the programme for the next week on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03qkf4j.  My bit starts around 2 hours and 5 mins into the programme – although if you start it at 2 hours you get to groove to Prince (Kiss) before we come on (which is exactly what I was doing in the studio before Steffan introduced me!).

Fracking will NOT reduce energy bills

David Beynon  (‘Let’s get fracking’, Evening Post, 31 October) should be careful what he wishes for.

Living in Pontarddulais, he and his neighbours are in the front line of unconventional gas development; caught between plans for Underground Coal Gasification in the Loughor Estuary and Coal Bed Methane extraction in the former coalfields.

The devastation that the frackers will wreak across the countryside will make them long for the days when all they were threatened with was “ugly” windmills spoiling their view.

The “subsidy” paid to green energy producers pales into insignificance when compared to public finance support for nuclear energy or the tax incentives being offered to frackers.

Although local companies might be involved in exploration for unconventional gas, when it comes to extraction the big multi-nationals will move in, sell the gas on the international market and export their profits.

Even the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey, has conceded that unconventional gas is not likely to reduce energy bills in the UK, any more than scrapping “green taxes” will do.

The “big six” energy companies are interested only in profit; efficiency has nothing to do with it.

Their weasel words of complaint about green taxes are a smokescreen to hide their real intention of destroying any hope of an indigenous energy industry based on renewables in order to keep the UK hooked on dirty, damaging, unsustainable fossil fuels.




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