Survey suggests support for fracking in UK falls below 50%

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The number of people in favour of fracking for shale gas in the UK has fallen below 50%, a new poll suggests.

Just 49.8% were in favour of shale gas extraction when researchers from the University of Nottingham asked 3,657 people earlier this month.

This is the lowest number in support of fracking since the university started its poll on the issue in 2012.

The latest results found 31.4% were against fracking, while 18.4% were undecided.

"The May 2014 survey confirms that the turn against fracking for shale gas in the UK has deepened," says the report.

And it cites the anti-fracking protests which took place in the village of Balcombe in West Sussex in 2013 as a tipping point when the tide of public opinion towards shale gas extraction began to shift.

Since those protests the number of people against fracking has been steadily rising, it says.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said this was bad news for the government, given that it wanted to encourage shale gas as an alternative to imported gas from Russia.

He said ministers would not be delighted to learn that a second anti-fracking camp was planned for this summer.

Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford - who apologised last year after saying that fracking should take place in the North East because it was "desolate" – recently spoke about the issue again, and said the Conservative Party could lose votes by pursuing plans to frack.

But the poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Nottingham University, suggested that this may not happen as it found support for fracking higher among Tory and UKIP voters – around 68% – while Labour and Lib Dem supporters were generally much less in favour.

The survey also found that an increasing number of people were better educated about the technology and processes behind shale gas extraction.

Older people were found to be more accepting of fracking than younger people. The poll found more than 50% of older people approved of the technology, while among those under 25, as many were now against shale gas as were for it.

The professor organizing the survey, Sarah O'Hara, said the fall in support from under-55s had been so sharp that at first she did not believe the results.

'Swung opinion'

"This is really surprising," she told BBC News.

"Previously the polls had shown a steady trend towards greater understanding of the technology and greater acceptance, but this has gone into reverse and now support is the lowest overall since we started the poll.

Written By: BBC News
continue to source article at bbc.com

25 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      I wonder how many of those questioned in the survey are qualified to comment on the subject?

      I’m certainly not.

      it’s such a polorizing subject reliable information is very hard to come by. You’re one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’, how dare you have no opinion!

      I understand fracking is a method of mining hydrocarbons. these cause greenhouse gasses but then so do other fossil fuels that have to be transported over greater distances. Which is something we rely on since the conservative government destroyed our own mining industry. now the same party are pushing for shale gas. just like DCs fairy godmother, he argues it’s “cleaner” than dirty old coal (imagine a working class northerner with his face all black. ugh can you see him? all dirty, ew) therefore muddying the waters further (excuse the pun) for people who don’t understand the various ecological arguments around energy production.

      comes down to this: 4 legs or 2?

  1. @OP – Since those protests the number of people against fracking has been steadily rising, it says.

    BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said this was bad news for the government, given that it wanted to encourage shale gas as an alternative to imported gas from Russia.

    Carbonaceous Cameron has been hyping Fracking as a way of reducing CO2 emissions! – It is after all, – SLIGHTLY less polluting than coal and having been exempted from compensation claims from locals, can temporarily hold down fuel prices, – thus inhibiting investments in green power generation.

    It also has the political objective of avoiding dependency on gas imports from Russia, and could make the UK dependent on imports of gas from the US, because of gas/coal dependency caused by the past lack of investment in Nuclear or renewable power generation.

    The “perfect” political solution for his party’s well sponsored AGW deniers! – (Shame about the planet and sea-level rises!)

    Meanwhile as more and more people recognise the reality of earthquakes, more methane pollution from generated leakage, long term geological damage, and more atmospheric CO2, – behind the “You would like cheap gas song”, the support for such crazy policies should continue to fall!

    As Cameron has decided not to support the Severn tidal barrage scheme, and has decided not to fund research into a collection of alternative smaller tidal schemes, the sooner he is dumped out of office the better. The Tories have also promised to prohibit onshore wind-farms if re-elected. The UK does not need a government of carbon industry stooges who obstruct green developments.

  2. So – 3657 people were consulted on behalf of the whole 66 million people in the UK ??? and 50% were against it….where did the study take place ….London ? may not have been Nottingham where the researchers were from…..
    the article said……

    “support for fracking was higher among Tory and UKIP voters – around 68% – while Labour and Lib Dem supporters were generally much less in favour.”…

    Aint that the obvious truth……fracking sites are no where near the wealthy homes…..

    The study also said that older people accepted fracking more readily and younger people are more against it because they are more aware of the dangers…..
    That says a lot ….there’s hope for humanity….younger peeps are getting environmentally wise and not just greedy for fast profits

  3. I have worked in the oilfields of Canada ( Alberta ) for the last twenty six years, seven of that in the fracturing end.
    I’m not sure where the incorrect spelling of ” fracing ” came from , probably the the U.S., but it is spelled , Frac, short for fracturing, note the absence of a ” k ” .
    Stafford is correct, there are not a lot of people in the world that understand fracing, other than what they have been spoon fed by vocal opponents, who have made their ignorance of the process obvious to those of us in the industry.
    Alan, fracing contributes nothing to greenhouse gasses, other than exhaust from the pump engines I suppose.
    Quite often we use CO2 to frac with, along with n2,most of wich is recovered.
    If people are going to criticize an industry they should learn some facts about it first !
    I am the first to slam the oil companies for corporate greed and myopic vision, there is plenty to criticize them for, we don’t need to make stuff up.

    • In reply to #5 by david.cross.5055233:

      Alan, fracing contributes nothing to greenhouse gasses, other than exhaust from the pump engines I suppose.

      I think Alan was refering to the burning of the gas after it has been recovered by fracing.

      Governments have a habit of putting short term interests above long term interests. In Darling Downs Cougar power out here for example we had to be closed down due to their contamination of the water table with benzines and other casenogens from their coal gasification (not fracing). They failed to report this for months while they continued to test. As there was no government body actively involved in oversight, self regulation has become the norm. So forgive me, but I remain dubious as to the potential impacts given that they are now being carried out in such a wide spread manner and I cannot trust the government to have my best interests at heart. So at least here, for me I see the problem as the scale of the operation, unwillingness of government bodies to be clear, upfront and willing to pause expodential of C02 emitting industries. Until this changes no industry that results in extraction of still more C02 should in my opinion be supported. I genuinely hope you can find alternative employment I think the change over may happen sooner than you think.

      • In reply to #11 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #5 by david.cross.5055233:

        Until this changes no industry that results in extraction of still more C02 should in my opinion be supported. I genuinely hope you can find alternative employment I think the change over may happen sooner than you think.

        Given the scale of our current dependence on coal and gas in the UK for electricity generation alone – how quickly do you think this change over will happen given the technology development required (in the case of renewables rather than nuclear) along with the associated project development, planning, additional infrastructure, construction etc that would be necessary?

        • In reply to #13 by Steve_M:

          In reply to #11 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #5 by david.cross.5055233:

          • how quickly do you think this change over will happen given the technology development required (in the case of renewable rather than nuclear) along with the associated project development, planning, additional infrastructure, construction etc that would be necessary?

          I wasn’t specific because I am unsure. However that said, the cost of renewable particularly solar has been exponentially dropping and has this year reached the ball park of coal. Given the technologies currently in research stage this trend is unlikely to slow anytime soon so anyone making long term planning with finance in mind would have to be “thinking do I want to hundreds of millions on a new coal fired power station which won’t pay make a profit for decades and given alternatives will undercut my investment before my investment pays me any dividends?”.

          [see] (http://www.smh.com.au/business/australia-unlikely-to-build-new-coalpower-stations-20130207-2e1c3.html)

          As for infrastructure, you think this is not an issue for coal? Nuclear? The main increase of costs in power here in Australia has not been due to a carbon tax but infrastructure money associated with getting electricity from our current carbon emitting power stations. Many solar system can be piggy backed directly to old coal fired power stations ready to be decommissioned, hot water is after all hot water the turbine neither knows nor cares how it got hot. In which case the infrastructure costs are largely paid for the lines are in the water supply is there etc. So not all shifts require dramatic infrastructure costs. As new battery technologies come on board power can be decentralised, even the on set of a small amount of electric cars can provide the grid with a bunch of short term local storage to even out the bumps in demand, more and more houses will go off grid. Yes it will cost us, but it is going to cost us one way or the other may as well spend the energy on something that will pay for itself, non-renewable never will – you have to keep digging it out of the ground, and pay for the consequences of doing so.

          No-one uses the infrastructure argument against putting in say a new coal fired power station we accept the fact that obviously power lines will need to go there, obviously it needs to be located somewhere near a water source for the generators obviously the rail lines need to be built to transport the coal trains to the site etc. Obviously to dig the coal out of the ground we need to cut a massive hole out of our food belt, etc. When its a carbon based fuel is involved we ignore that. The question is not about infrastructure, it is about who’s infrastructure governments should spend their citizens hard earned cash on. I’d be going with the power sources with a future, and that ain’t coal.

          Getting back to the point, I suspect that as solar is already about as cheap as coal/kilowatt there will be a tipping point in which coal will look worse and worse and simply no more power stations will be considered. At that point I fear Australia who has not been supporting its alternative energy industries anything like enough will be left as consumers of the technology rather than developers of it. Infrastructure dollars will go to technologies that deliver cheaper power and we will be left buying our panels and wind turbines etc. from others, but the point at which investment in new power sources shifts from one to the other will be very quick indeed. The longer we wait the longer we spend lumbered paying high energy costs when cheaper cleaner power sources are available just at the time that no-one wants our coal or gas anymore. Production of alternatives will spike dramatically (as it is already trending) and those making the stuff will cash it in, not us though not with our heads buried in the past.

          • In reply to #18 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #13 by Steve_M:

            The topic of debate here is not really coal versus solar power in Australia, but the implications of fracing to produce gas for the UK to limit the amount of coal we use whilst we develop and progressively shift towards green energy asap.

            Its great to hear that in your case you can plug solar power straight in to the infrastructure associated with aging coal fired powerstations – good news. Unfortunately here in the uk we are down something like -1.371 million square kilometres of sunny desert compared to Australia. When you factor in our awful weather and short daylight hours during the winter (when demand is highest) our options for making the most of solar power generation are somewhat more limited than yours unfortunately.

          • In reply to #19 by Steve_M:

            In reply to #13 by Steve_M:

            The topic of debate here is not really coal versus solar power in Australia, but the implications of fracing to produce gas for the UK to limit the amount of coal we use whilst we develop and progressively shift towards green energy asap.

            Its great to hear that in your case you can plug solar power straight in to the infrastructure associated with aging coal fired powerstations – good news. Unfortunately here in the uk we are down something like -1.371 million square kilometres of sunny desert compared to Australia. When you factor in our awful weather and short daylight hours during the winter (when demand is highest) our options for making the most of solar power generation are somewhat more limited than yours unfortunately.

            Hi Steve_M, thanks for the response – firstly I’m a bit Aspy so please forgive me if I come off as aggressive in my writing, it’s not my intent to offend ever I love an arguement – but I’m enjoying myself and rarely am feeling agressive to people. Certainly not my intend on this tread. That said…

            I see fracing as a concern in the same vein as coal gasification because of the opportunity cost to do something right now more positive. All of the technology is there right now to go off grid. The calculations done in Australia for us going completely alternative with current technology would be a couple of percent of our GDP. A yes that is a lot of money but nothing compared to what the Flooding in 2011 cost us, and what it will cost us every year in a few decades if we don’t address it now. Now is the time to cause us all to bite the bullet.

            Everyone on this thread accepts the reality of the shift being required so if you accept this then you are saying we need to spend this money now for fracing infrastructure that we accept is going to obselete very soon and then pay for the infrastructure required for alternative energies in the future, so in short you are suggesting you need to pay twice?

            Or perhaps the difference is you don’t think England can be self sufficent with current technologies? I believe this is wrong but I may be incorrect in that assertion. You don’t have to rely on solar (although I have watched enough Grand Designs and seen both low budget and high buget homes completely off grid to know that clearly you do have enough light to run photovoltaics) you have wind wave, tidal and others.

            The sums on alternative energy to work out over the lifetime of the wind generator/solar panel. In fact lifetimes of solar panels have recently been discovered to be longer than thought. They more than pay for themselves and as costs continue to reduce the pay pack time is now less than a decade. Does fracing for gas ever pay off? Or do you not have to keep finding more, keep putting CO2 into the atmosphere and paying again for the damage caused by increased climate instability? As I see it, it may be cheaper in the short term to frac but in the long term you are spending much more money.

            Here power demands have gone up because air conditioners became cheap and people started to install them in their homes. At the same time however in South Australia a lot of wind turbines were being established. Two things have happened in the last decade air conditioners have become more efficent and wind power in SA has increased to about 30% of total power electricity demand due to efficent air conditioners and better insulation in homes has resulted in their power going down. Meanwhile the government wants to make more coal fired power stations, is keeping old dirter ones that should be decommissioned going and has spent billions adding infrastructre to the coal fired power stations for a demand that is going in the wrong direction! What is more they haven’t been putting the infratructure into the alternatives so in a decade or so we’ll end up having to spend that money again. What concerns me is it sound like you are making the same sort of mistake.

          • In reply to #20 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #19 by Steve_M:

            Hi Steve_M, thanks for the response – firstly I’m a bit Aspy so please forgive me if I come off as aggressive in my writing, it’s not my intent to offend ever I love an arguement – but I’m enjoying myself and rarely am feeling agressive to people. Certainly not my intend on this tread. That said….

            Hello – I didn’t see your post as aggressive at all to be honest – its great to get some real discussion going on this subject which is above the level of the general shouting/panic/hysteria that’s going on in the press etc.

            Regarding Grand designs – can’t say I watch it myself but I’m aware of what its about – which is people designing and self-building their dream home from scratch. Of course if you design-in all the features to make a home self sustainable from scratch then that is easily achievable with todays technology. However, the reality of our current situation is that the vast majority of UK housing stock is old and/or simply does not feature the designed-in capability to be easily/cheaply converted to self sustainability. Unfortunately (or fortunately – whichever way you choose to look at it) I cannot see us demolishing our older/less efficient houses and replacing them all with modern designs that do their utmost to maximise energy efficiency any time soon.

            When it comes to wind power – the UK is already the 6th largest wind producer so we’re not actually ranking that badly. We are also the world leader of offshore wind production. As an aside – I went to an excellent evening lecture a few years back by the manager of a very large offshore wind project that was being constructed at that time just off the coast where I live. He said that their costings are based on projection to get payback on each turbine after 8 years. Given the harsh offshore conditions relative to onshore – each turbine is lifed at around 16 years (from memory – so could be give or take a year or two). You do have to wonder at the ongoing cost (expense and environmental) if we have to replace all of our offshore wind turbines every 16 years or so… brings a whole new angle to the term ‘renewable’!!

            Anyway, if you look at this BBC article there are some very enlightening numbers http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24823641.

            Have a quick look over the ‘Breakdown of sources of electricity 1979-2012′ chart to see where wind energy ranked at that time on the actual scale of energy produced by a country that is on its way to becoming one of the worlds largest wind producers.

            Now look at future projections (the third chart in the link). Its great to see that by 2030 the proportion of renewables will have increase sharply. But look at the gas use – there’s a very interesting story there. There’s a sharp increase in gas use projected around 2015/2016 to compensate for a sharp decrease in coal. Thereafter the ultimate gas use through to 2027 is projected to be fairly stable and then it will decrease back to todays levels of use in 2030 when our new nuclear power stations come on stream. These are the ‘realistic’ projections/timings of this process.

            Like I’ve been saying, if switching to renewables is realistically projected to take decades (and our gas consumption is projected to increase and then stabilise for many years to come) – we are going to use this gas whatever. We can potentially choose to source it from within the UK or we can import it with all of the associated uncertainty that will bring.

          • In reply to #21 by Steve_M:

            In reply to #20 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #19 by Steve_M:
            Regarding Grand designs – can’t say I watch it myself but I’m aware of what its about – which is people designing and self-building their dream home from scratch. Of course if you design-in all the features to make a home self sustainable from scratch then that is easily achievable with todays technology. However, the reality of our current situation is that the vast majority of UK housing stock is old and/or simply does not feature the designed-in capability to be easily/cheaply converted to self sustainability. Unfortunately (or fortunately – whichever way you choose to look at it) I cannot see us demolishing our older/less efficient houses and replacing them all with modern designs that do their utmost to maximise energy efficiency any time soon.

            Hello Steve_M again thanks for the reply, I’ll be brief this time it’s late here and I need to go to bed. Thanks for the link I will have a look at that tomorrow when I get up. in relation to the Grand Designs. My point was not so much about the completely sustainable houses rather that many of them use solar cells so inspite of our (Australia’s) obvious advantage in having great wads of solar wind and wave energy that we are throwing away clearly if these homes are being powered by solar in spite of the much greater amount of cloudy days and lower angle of sun clearly they produce enough to pay for themsleves. I agree it is much harder to retrofit houses built in decades past with minimal consideration to passive housing etc that can be designed into buildings now. cheers

  4. Hello David – I’m in the industry as well. This whole fracing issue in the UK is dominated by hysteria (and Nimbyism) rather than informed debate. The general level of ignorance regarding the actual process and implications is mind-boggling to say the least. Listening to the kind of debates going on, you would almost think that the industry has only just developed hydrofracturing as a tool for maximising the recovery of hydrocarbons from reservoirs with marginal performance, rather than it being something that has been routinely done for many decades!

    Anyway, I think we all agree that it would be to the benefit of our planet (and consequently to our own benefit) if we could wean ourselves away from a hydrocarbon-dominated energy supply asap. I’m a firm believer in that even though I’ll have to try and find another career if it happens any time soon. However, the problem is that we seem to be in the situation where we’re completely unprepared for it to happen any time soon – we’re looking realistically at decades of development, construction and change.

    Now – we can all jump up and down and shout and rant about who’s to blame for that. But in the mean time as we progress towards a hydrocarbon-free utopia over the next few decades we only have a few options on how best to proceed:

    1) Carry on burning coal to keep our lights on whilst we continue to develop viable ‘green energy’ sources that can actually provide for all of our needs.

    2) Transition to burning more gas rather than coal (requiring advanced recovery techniques such as hydrofracing) which could release ‘slightly less’ (actually potentially nearly half as many) greenhouse emissions whilst we continue to develop viable ‘green energy’ sources that can provide for all of our needs.

    3) Turn our lights off.

    • In reply to #6 by Steve_M:

      . 1) Carry on burning coal to keep our lights on whilst we continue to develop viable ‘green energy’ sources that can actually provide for all of our needs.

      Perhaps that’s the problem. While governments can be seen to be doing something positive by lessening emissions, they can renege on their efforts to develop proper green solutions.

  5. Hi Steve, nice to run into another oilfield hand on this site.
    I wholeheartedly agree with you, the era of the internal combustion engine is long overdue to be retired.
    I fear we will run out of air before we run out of hydrocarbon fuel.
    Here in Alberta our main source of electricity is from coal, it’s cheap and abundant and of coarse, a greenhouse gas.
    A few years back, one of our politicians brought up nuclear power as a clean replacement, a great idea I felt.
    I’m sure you can imagine the screaming from the anti-nuclear/anti-oil bunch, consequently we are still burning coal, brilliant.

  6. In reply to #7 by Nitya:

    In reply to #6 by SteveM:_

    Perhaps that’s the problem. While governments can be seen to be doing something positive by lessening emissions, they can renege on their efforts to develop proper green solutions.

    Maybe I’m being naïve, but is it really in the interest of the UK government to renege on their efforts to develop proper green solutions? Or, given the current state of the technology and infrastructure, are they being realistic in looking at achievable options to minimise emissions (and uncertainty) whilst green technologies that can fulfil the entire energy requirement are actually developed? (with the added benefit of trying to stop electricity and fuel prices sky-rocketing in the mean time.) In the UK at the moment the vast majority of electricity is still generated by coal and gas in spite of the enormous offshore wind turbine farms that keep popping up (but which barely make an impact on the power generation league table – total terawatt hours of renewable energy in the UK in 2013 was around 13 terawatt hours, whereas gas, oil and coal (in 2012) generated something more like 250 terawatt hours).

    If we threw everything possible at green technologies – how long would it be before they are designed/developed, prototyped, constructed and all the necessary infrastructure was built to the point of replacing all of the coal, oil and gas based power stations?

    Now I don’t usually bet – but I’d happily put a few pounds on that process taking decades rather than years. Lets face it – even if the UK opted to go for a known ‘green’ technology that could actually meet the energy demand (NUCLEAR…….Aaaaargh out come the ‘environmental campaigners’ and nimbys again!!) it would take decades to design and build the reactors and associated infrastructure.

    So – wouldn’t it be better in the intervening time to minimise our greenhouse emissions by minimising the use of coal by maximising the proportion of gas we will use instead? If this sounds reasonable then why not consider hydrofracturing to potentially open up a large gas resource from within the uk rather than importing and burning imported gas with all the associated hassle, uncertainty and money drain from the country that will bring? The gas is going to be burnt anyway to keep us going until the renewables catch up isn’t it?

    • In reply to #9 by Steve_M:

      Lessening emissions has to be a good thing as long as it is not matched with a corresponding lessening of investment in renewables. If you look at the global renewable uptake the UK does not feature well.

      .http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/renewable-gross-final-energy-consumption-1/assessment

      I’m not sure if you will be able to access this graph from my link, but the UK is a long way down the list. ( where is Alan4Discussion with his fabulous links when you need him?)

      In the long term we will need to move on from gas and fracing/fracking, it’s a pity we have to prolong the agony. I don’t want to see you out of a job, but fracing/fracking has received some very bad press.

      • In reply to #10 by Nitya:

        In reply to #9 by Steve_M:

        In the long term we will need to move on from gas and fracing/fracking, it’s a pity we have to prolong the agony. I don’t want to see you out of a job, but fracing/fracking has received some very bad press.

        Hello Nitya – this is exactly my point – it is actually a pity that we’re in the position where we are still so dependant on hydrocarbons (but that’s another debate!). The ongoing use of gas and enhanced recovery techniques such as fracing should not be (and I personally don’t believe that generally they are) seen as an answer to all of our problems in the UK. They should be seen as potentially the most stable and low-cost (environmental as well as economic) way of buying some more time whilst we sort ourselves out and make that necessary change over to hydrocarbon free fuels – which realistically will take decades rather than years even in the ‘best case’ scenarios.

        • In reply to #12 by Steve_M:

          . They should be seen as potentially the most stable and low-cost (environmental as well as economic) way of buying some more time whilst we sort ourselves out and make that necessary change over to hydrocarbon free fuels – which realistically will take decades rather than years even in the ‘best case’ scenarios.

          Hi Steve.
          I appreciate the fact that burning coal seam gas is an improvement to the use of coal and oil ( I believe this is the reason the US has been able to reduce its emissions), but it is at best a stop-gap measure. Eventually every country will need to adopt renewables and/or thorium reactors. ( an excellent solution I’m told, though construction will take longer).

          I support #11 Reckless Monkey as this is the experience that has been hitting our headlines.There is also the negative impression given in the film Gasland. Can you blame us for being nervous?

          • In reply to #14 by Nitya:

            In reply to #12 by Steve_M:

            I support #11 Reckless Monkey as this is the experience that has been hitting our headlines of late. There is also the negative impression given in the film Gasland. Can you blame us for being nervous?

            Hi Nitya – given the level and focus of the headlines and debate at the moment I appreciate what you’re saying and don’t blame anybody for being nervous. However, some of the headlines and shouting down/shutting out of the actual realistic issues we are facing by highly vocal opponents are reaching near-antivaccine lobby levels of hysteria and ignorance.

            In this thread you have two people who work in the hydrocarbon industry – and both myself and David have both stated that we are in complete agreement with everybody else that it would be in our best long term interests to move towards a hydrocarbon-free energy supply as soon as possible. However, given our current level of dependence on hydrocarbons, myself and David probably aren’t going to be forced to look for another career any time soon (fortunately or unfortunately – whichever was you choose to look at it).

            Even in a ‘best case’ scenario, the change over will take decades not years given our current state. And in the mean time, whilst realistically working towards meeting our energy demands with ‘green energy’, we should do all that we can to minimise our CO2 emissions where possible. One possible way to do this is burn less coal and increase the proportion of gas that we use. In the UK at least, a potentially stable and cost-effective way of doing this will be to exploit a gas resource that will only be extractable at viable rates using enhanced recovery techniques such as hydrofracturing. Unfortunately that is the reality of the situation that we find ourselves in.

            Based on my experience at least – I don’t believe (at least in the UK) the industry view this as a new ‘North Sea in the 70s’ style hydrocarbon boom. It should be viewed as just a way to stabilise our gas supply whilst we move away from coal and continue to develop realistic alternatives to both.

            I think headlines in the US were much more indicative of a Boom mentality – but the potential resource volumes are much higher there. And even then its not all bad news. According to the US Energy Information Department since shale gas (requiring fracing) came on-stream:

            “Natural gas consumption increased by 5.5% and coal consumption fell by around 11%. Fuel switching from coal to gas in electricity generation, together with efficiency gains in power generation and increased output from renewables, also contributed to a reduction of around 9% in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.” This illustrates quite nicely a realistic way towards the goal of zero carbon energy – which realistically will take some time whether we like it or not.

          • In reply to #15 by Steve_M:

            Hi Steve. You make a good case. Why would support drop to 50%?

            One last point: if you were able to decipher the link on global uptake of green technologies, why is the UK so far behind other Northern European countries? Not a rhetorical question mind you. I really don’t know? I imagine the answer is political.

            Edit: I’ve just re-read the article and I realise that reasons for the loss of support have been given. Fear of water contamination seems to be the main reason.

          • In reply to #16 by Nitya:

            In reply to #15 by SteveM:_

            One last point: if you were able to decipher the link on global uptake of green technologies, why is the UK so far behind other Northern European countries? Not a rhetorical question mind you. I really don’t know? I imagine the answer is political.

            Edit: I’ve just re-read the article and I realise that reasons for the loss of support have been given. Fear of water contamination seems to be the main reason.

            Hi Nitya,
            If you look at Figure 3 of your link – look at the 2020 predictions and you will see that the UK will be broadly on par with many other large population industrial European countries. The countries that really stand out as ahead of the game are mostly relatively small populations/low energy users or already have a large proportion of hydroelectric energy due to their geography (eg Sweden, Austria and the huge standout country – Norway, which has a low population plus loads of hydroelectric power).

            The groundwater point really hammers home how the debate on fracing is going. The target zones are usually between 2 to 3 km underground in the north of England. There is no way on earth that localised induced fractures around a wellbore from that depth will propagate up into the shallow water aquifers.

  7. I think fracking is looking in the wrong direction for bridging fossil fuels. My view has long been that fossil carbon should be taxed (logarithmically) proportional to its age. 100 million year fossil carbon should be taxed more heavily than 1000 year old methane clathrate and yesterdays green gas etc not at all.

    Clathrates, people are starting to realise, may be an ideal bridging fuel. It is continually being made as decaying vegetable matter is formed or swept into the sea and becomes compressed and chilled on continental shelves.

    The stuff is hugely dangerous and will be one of the sources of dramatic positive feedback in a warming environment. Already clathrates represent twice the methane store as other deposits of the natural gas. Its escape into the atmosphere unburnt is twenty times the global heating risk of burning it as it escapes (if that were possible.) CH4 is twenty times more heat trapping that CO2.

    If we were to mine the stuff we could kill two birds with one stone. If we could mine the stuff that was at greatest risk of imminent natural release i.e. the stuff nearer the surface, especially if we culd robotically cut it away in chunks, we might achieve the double whammy of offsetting the use of antique fossil carbon with more readilly replaced carbon AND avoiding so much natural methane release. This is a balancing act though. Mining may trigger releases in unstable deposits. We would need to perhaps go for the next in line deposits first and wait until we had the skills and equipment to be able to tackle less stable deposits.

    Japan is going for it, but all the advantages that could be gleaned are not being realised. Differential fossil carbon taxations could drive the business, provided methane release standards could be globally imposed, and at risk clathrate deposits identified and have a bounty put on their head.

    Clathrates are pretty

    • In reply to #22 by phil rimmer:

      Clathrates, people are starting to realise, may be an ideal bridging fuel. It is continually being made as decaying vegetable matter is formed or swept into the sea and becomes compressed and chilled on continental shelves

      Hi Phil – I’ve got to say that I didn’t consider the fact that anybody would see methane hydrate production as in any way preferable to fracing fossil hydrocarbons. If anybody thinks that there are risks associated with fracing, then the same people should be positively terrified about the potential consequences of methane hydrate production.

      Methane hydrate formation and stability is highly dependant on (and sensitive to) temperature and pressure. It’s essentially self contained (under the correct critical pressure/temperature conditions) rather than physically trapped by other means, and hence the potential for uncontrolled leakage is very high if the temperature or pressure is altered (which will happen during production as stated in your link). You said yourself that ‘The stuff is hugely dangerous and will be one of the sources of dramatic positive feedback in a warming environment’. And you’re seriously proposing that messing with it is the lesser of two evils in this case? Blimey.

      I can see your logic behind your reasoning if we assume that this stuff is imminently going to be catastrophically released anyway. But when it comes to sheer risk assessment alone (not to mention the lack of technology/techniques/understanding of implications etc) exploiting methane hydrates is off the scale relative to onshore fracing in the UK.

      • In reply to #24 by Steve_M:

        In reply to #22 by phil rimmer:

        I can see your logic behind your reasoning if we assume that this stuff is imminently going to be catastrophically released anyway. But when it comes to sheer risk assessment alone (not to mention the lack of technology/techniques/understanding of implications etc) exploiting methane hydrates is off the scale relative to onshore fracing in the UK.

        That was exactly my feeling about it to start. But….

        It is a positive feedback bomb with a sensitive trigger with regard to ocean temperature. And it will go off not too far into the future. It is technologically fixable but we would need to spend tens, hundreds of billions learning how to do it safely. We need to fund this and we need to motivate people with the stick of higher costs with less renewable resources. We need to put very strict controls in place, which we can do only if the returns are high.

        If none of this happens people will start exploiting the easy, dangerous stuff first, anyway. They have already. By starting at safer levels we generate a self funding business. We could require after experiment that less stable deposits are moved to greater depths where we have harvested and cut space for them. We might develop cooling deep sea water pumping to stabilise the fragile layers being worked on. Or CO2 stabilisation might work for these layers, the process powered by some of the displaced CH4.

        I don’t think we have an option not to engage in this biggest of eco-disasters to come. We need clever plans, even if this isn’t one of them.

        I have perhaps unfairly levered this into a fracking discussion. I think this is driven more properly from the point of view of mitigating eco risks. Bridging energy is just one facilitator.

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