Yesterday morning (Feb 19th), a meeting on Shale Gas at the Renaissance Hotel in Brussels, organised by Shale Gas Europe www.shalegas-europe.eu , was interrupted by a Greenpeace Invasion. The three young ladies in question, not surprisingly, didn’t offer any business cards, but before the meeting they had been handing out Greenpeace-branded literature at the door.
They forced their way to the front as my colleague Niki Tzavela (EFD, Greece) was speaking, and they donned hi-viz jackets and hard hats. Then they took various pieces of pipework from their bags and declared that they were going to start fracking right there in the hotel. On their backs they carried notices saying “WE WILL FRACK YOU”.
At first I wondered if this was a piece of street theatre organised by the sponsors, but judging by the bewildered looks of the chairman and speakers, I judged not. But I was surprised how little effort was made to stop the demonstration, as the audience shuffled its feet. So I got up and stated in robust — nay stentorian — tones that we were here to learn about fracking, and we didn’t want them wasting our time. Their spokesperson tried to respond, but soon realised that I had the louder voice, and that they would make no more progress.
At that, they whipped out a large anti-fracking banner and held it up (no doubt for the benefit of a co-conspirator with a camera). Stepping straight up to the front, I took hold of the banner, yanked firmly, and walked out of the room with it. And the miscreants packed up their impedimenta and followed meekly.
Greenpeace has history of direct action and disruption. So it was gratifying to have an opportunity to take a bit of direct action of my own, and to disrupt the Greenpeace initiative. And the show went on.
So, to the presentations. Philip Lowe, Commission Director-General for Energy, recognised that shale gas could reduce emissions (by comparison with coal); reduce imports of fossil fuels; and improve security of supply, while potentially contributing to EU competitiveness. The Commission had “done a lot of work” on shale gas, and was currently undertaking impact assessments. He was generally positive on shale: “We should not look a gift horse in the mouth”.
Niki Tzavela summarised her work as the parliament’s rapporteur on shale gas. She called for more transparency to allay public concerns, and felt that shale gas was a solution to some of the paradoxes of current energy policy in the EU — for example Germany relying on both renewables and coal, now that they are closing their nuclear capacity. She particularly mentioned the UK, pointing out that the UK was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, and hoping that shale gas in the UK might be the birth of a European energy revolution (though she thought that the way things are going, Ukraine might get there before us). But she stressed that without shale gas, European businesses and consumers were facing energy poverty. www.affordable-energy-eu
Professor Richard Davies of Durham University has done extensive research on fracking, and the long-established US experience. He pointed out that coal mining, geothermal and hydro had caused more seismic events than fracking (ironical, since the Greens love geothermal and hydro). He has studied 192 cases of seismic activity associated with fracking — although of those only three were significant enough to achieve “felt sensitivity” on the surface — that is, to be detectable without instruments to people in the area. He referred also to “NORMs” (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) which can be brought to the surface by fracking liquids, and observed that the amount of radioactivity involved was small compared to radioactive materials disposed of by the medical profession.
Professor Kristina Stoykova told us about gas prospecting in her native Bulgaria. Graeme Smith, VP Exploration & Unconventionals for Shell, summed up, observing that shale gas represented a “once in a generation” opportunity. It’s rather important that we should not miss it.
Late News: Greenpeace insist that the people who disrupted the shale gas meeting were not from them. They point the finger at Friends of the Earth.