Lib-Dem MEP Rebecca Taylor: A rebuttal


A few weeks back I had the pleasure of joining a panel at the Durham University Union for a Question-Time-style debate.  On the panel was Rebecca Taylor, whom I now know to be a Lib-Dem MEP representing Yorkshire. She entered the parliament in 2012, replacing Diana Wallis who resigned in interesting circumstances.  Ms. Taylor has adopted such a low profile since joining the parliament that frankly I did not recognise her as a fellow-MEP until she was announced.

A question arose on fracking and unconventional gas.  I said that I recognised that fracking was a simpler proposition in the USA, with its wide open spaces and low population density.  Nevertheless, I said, we had some factors going for us in the UK.  The Bowland shale in the UK’s North-West is reportedly around five times thicker than the large Marcellus field in the States. This means that you can frack from one well at several levels.  In a thinner field you might need say five wells with single-layer fracking.  In the Bowland, it may be possible to frack on five levels from a single well.  This (I argued) is evidently more economic and less intrusive.  It will offer cheaper gas to consumers and less disturbance for local residents.

Not that fracking is particularly intrusive in the first place.  The drilling rig is in place for only a few weeks.  It is then replaced by a well-head no more intrusive than a garden shed.  Compared to coal mines or wind turbines, it is practically invisible.

Ms. Taylor was having none of it.  I was wrong.  Deeper wells were much more expensive, even with multi-layer fracking.  The deep stratum of the Bowland made matters worse, not better.  I insisted that my position was self-evident and common sense, but she stuck to her point.  In the end we agreed to differ, but I fear that the audience would have been left in doubt.

Last week I attended a briefing meeting with senior figures from the industry, and I raised the question with them.  They agreed immediately with my position, and were considerably surprised that Ms. Taylor, an elected politician on a public platform, could be so misinformed and dogmatically wrong.  Multi-layer fracking — only possible where the gas-bearing stratum is deep — is better in just about every way, for the industry, for the consumer, for local residents and for the environment.

So, Ms. Taylor.  Would you like to produce some substantive evidence to back your proposition?  And if you are unable to do so, will you publish a retraction, and will you apologise to the Durham University Union for misleading them?

At my meeting, I also heard of the huge efforts made by Friends of the Earth to obstruct planning applications for exploratory wells.  They seem to have rather a great deal of money, and are able to hire top-class barristers.  Not surprising, because they are partly funded with your money, via the European Commission in Brussels.  As I recently Tweeted, not so much “Friends of the Earth”.  More “Enemies of Jobs, Prosperity and Investment”.

There is something deeply disturbing about tax-payers’ money being used in this way to obstruct and frustrate government policy.

FoE says that fracking causes earth tremors, and that drilling bore-holes, possibly through aquifers, and pumping in liquids under pressure, is self-evidently dangerous.  So they want us to adopt cuddly-bunny, eco-friendly “green” technologies, like hydro (which causes earth tremors) or geo-thermal (which involves drilling bore-holes, possibly through aquifers, and pumping in liquid under pressure).  Ho Hum.

There were some other issues about the importance of gas to the economy, entirely over and above its rôle in electricity generation.  But that is material for another day.

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14 Responses to Lib-Dem MEP Rebecca Taylor: A rebuttal

  1. Kevin Algar says:

    She’s a Lib Dem. What would you expect?

  2. They agreed immediately with my position, and were considerably surprised that Ms. Taylor, an elected politician on a public platform, could be so misinformed and dogmatically wrong.

    Lib Dims are dogmatically wrong about just about everything.

  3. Excellent post Roger. I believe you may be waiting a long time for a response from Ms Taylor, dont hold your breath.

  4. If the US has an advantage of more open space to place the wellheads the corollary is that in the UK the distances to nearby pipes and gas storage facilities are shorter. The only difference that matters is that most US states have less regulatory parasitism. By definition if something is being done it can be done and we could get out of recession with shale gas, like the US, any time our political class wanted to end recession.

  5. Chris says:

    Amd that is why you should never vote for the Lib Dems. A waste of space.

  6. catalanbrian says:

    I think the truth is that neither you nor Ms Taylor know. Fracking is too new a technology for there to be any reliable data to support either argument. So perhaps if you expect Ms Taylor to apologise to the Durham University Union perhaps you should consider leading the way by apologising yourself

    • Charles Wardrop says:

      fracking has been in use for more than 20years and has been reported essentially safe by workers in M.IT.
      You, “catalanbrian” have been too hasty to complain to Mr Helmer.

      • catalanbrian says:

        Yes, fracking, as such has been used for more than 20 years but fracking as undertaken today in the USA (increased horizontal fracking, higher pressures etc) has really only been done since 2005 following the change in the law in the USA which exempted fracking from the provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act. It does rather make you wonder doesn’t it? I am not so sure that you are right about me being too hasty. Unlike many people I just don’t follow blindly everything that I am told that might agree with my preconceived viewpoint.

  7. ogga1 says:

    They know that fracking will be beneficial to us, they have not got the rip off set-up in place yet.
    PS how about the underground a-bomb test i would have thought they would have shook the old
    planet about a bit.

  8. Tony says:

    I don’t know if you saw the recent BBC Horizon documentary on fracking (BBC 1, June 19th). I was absolutely stunned by its objectivity (not a typo). It was particularly surprising given that Prof Iain Stewart (of the awful ‘climate wars’ documentary) was the narrator. He dismissed concerns about earth tremors and also noted that any cases of pollution were due to badly constructed well heads rather than any fundamental problems with the technology.
    Although there were a few caveats, the programme was very much in favour of fracking in the UK.

    It can be viewed via the BBC ‘iPlayer’ service.

    • DougS says:

      I’m flabbergasted – some rogue producer must have infiltrated the unspeakable BBC – he won’t last long!

  9. Pete Hodge says:

    FOE and the LibDems would have us living back in the stone age if they could. They cry out for green ecology, but as soon as we start to go that way, they cry out, ‘Not that way.’

  10. John Carter says:

    I am puzzled that Mr Helmer claims that his view of fracking is ‘common sense’. Only technological know-how would determine whether fracking a shallow layer of shale in several places or a thick layer at one place but at several levels is more or less expensive or intrusive.
    Mr Helmer and the reassurances he received from figures in the industry may well be correct. I am prepared to be convinced by the knowledge of experts. But ‘common sense’ alone will not tell you that deep drilling is better. The faculty that goes under the name ‘common sense’ might make a person pause and wonder if deep stratum drilling is indeed more expensive and problematic. If it is not so, we can only know because experts can point to the facts. ‘Common sense’ is irrelevant.
    So why does Mr Helmer invoke ‘common sense’, and, in my case, sow the seed of suspicion about his arguments’ reliability when I was initially attracted to the case he made?
    I note that Mr Helmer is much inclined to invoke ‘common sense’ in other areas of debate. The implication of this is that the world would be a better place if we all were gifted with Mr Helmer’s level of ‘common sense’. Conveniently not only is Mr Helmer right but his opponents are wrong not because they are mistaken or sceptical but because they are idiots. What a glow of self-confident self-congratulation he must bask in.
    While industry experts might indeed be able to tell us what’s what, it is hardly against ‘common sense’ to remind ourselves that industries have had a sometimes appalling track record of disregarding doubts when it suits their interests, and even being prepared to lie; in short a lack of objectivity and outright mendacity.
    Such may or may not be the case for the industry figures mentioned by Mr Helmer. But Mr Helmer does them no service merely to say that things which are not obvious should be obvious just by labelling them ‘common sense’.
    Give us sound, rounded explanations. Example 1: economic multi-level fracking from a single well sounds great but please some reassurance that it is as neat as it sounds. Example 2: earth tremors – this cannot be dismissed just by saying there are risks with other technologies – two risks don’t make a right. And please, fewer easy bits of bumptious self-aggrandisement.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Fracking is not a new technology. It has been in use, in America, for at least 50 years. Any problems would already have been discovered. Instead, American adoption of fracking has increased. Trying to stir up fear and uncertainty about a technology this old and this proven is a nonsensical position. Accepting such a technology is common sense.

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