Shale Gas: a response to a concerned voter

My good friend and colleague John Forrest recently authored a letter to a concerned constituent on the subject of shale gas. It was such an effective letter that I thought I ought to share it:

Dear Constituent,

I am a colleague of Roger Helmer and he copied me on your message and his response.  I hope you will not mind if I make a few comments, since much of my life has been involved with the energy industry, ranging from an apprenticeship at coal-fired Battersea Power Station to quite a few years in Fusion research.

My first point is that it is sad to see what rubbish is talked about energy policy in our press and by various pressure or interest groups.  The tendency is to jump on a tiny bit of information and take it totally out of context, thereby reaching completely false conclusions.

I think politicians of every colour would agree that the energy policy for a country has to be a balanced, adequately diverse and resilient one.  Only a fool would argue that we could totally depend on solar and wind, for example.  These technologies have a certain rôle, but can never be mainstream in energy supply because they are intermittent and also costly.  An industrial country with a population that expects power on demand has to have a resilient and adaptable base load capability. The technologies we have for this are coal, gas and nuclear. I agree with you about fusion as a potential solution…….I started my own involvement with this some 50 years ago as a student and have followed progress since.  It is still a long way off and I would not predict that we could have a viable commercial fusion reactor within another 50 years.  Cold fusion has never been satisfactorily demonstrated, though patents do exist.

So, addressing the next 50 years, we must focus on the possible.  Coal is indeed “dirty” and generation of electricity from coal kills thousands of people each year in the coal production operations. We do not question this or get excited about it.  Interestingly this is far, far more than deaths associated with nuclear generation. We have always accepted that what we do in life is going to result in deaths, whether it is power generation, air travel, road travel or food production.

Apart from nuclear, generation from gas is probably the most benign.  It is relatively clean.  The difficulty is that our needs have to be met significantly from the Middle East or Russia, which means that supply stability and pricing are not under our control.  This is what has led us to show interest in seeing if more gas resources can be found within our shores and control.  Hence the interest in Fracking.

Fracking is not a new technology.  It has been used for some decades. It is basically drilling a well, as we have done successfully and widely for both oil and gas in various parts of the UK, even in beauty spots in places like Dorset and Hampshire.  The fracking operation is just an “add-on” to the well process in which water (with sand and some chemical additives) is pumped at high pressure into the well to liberate the gas.  I have to disagree with your comments that it is unsafe and damaging.  There is no evidence of this, even if one studies the detailed aspects of fracking in the US.  There is always a possibility that a well may “leak” but these instances are very rare and confined to bad practice……..hence why good regulatory and inspection processes need to be in place, just as you would expect for any type of power station, mine, chemical plant, or major installation. Very few people have been killed or have suffered as a result of fracking operations. It is possible to check the statistics from the HSE and Environment Agency.

Unpopular……yes, you are probably right, but that is because of ill-informed publicity.

I will admit that there is inconvenience for locals during the well drilling……heavy traffic and carriage of the materials needed for drilling and fracking.  However, this is temporary (maybe a few months) and if handled sensitively can be managed.  It is a small price to pay for having energy supplies under our own UK control with no risk of being held to ransom.

I hope this helps.  My own personal view is that UKIP does not derive its policies just on “anti-establishment” principles, but actually is the “Thinking Party” that does actually think through issues to derive policy and is not afraid to make these clear to the voters.  With that understanding, maybe you can continue to support UKIP?

Best regards,


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8 Responses to Shale Gas: a response to a concerned voter

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Clearly expressed with experience and long term knowledge. But then:

    Too many taxes…again!!

  2. Ian Terry says:

    In the real business world you have a product that does or doesn’t sell.Take away all the subsidies for RE, turbines, solar, bio mass, wave and wheat and rye generation and the old principle of economics comes into play and gas from fracking or other sources will win hands down on efficiency and cost. When the UK really hits the South Alantic hard for oil then that will lead to gas sure as night follows day. So lets stopp peeing before our flies are open and give fracking a chance

  3. Mike Stallard says:

    Ukip seems to be the only party which has a positive energy policy and that is scandalous.

  4. tapestry says:

    The Fracking Dirty Dozen:

    1. Health: People that live within a 1/2 mile radius of a fracking well have a 66% higher cancer rate.
    – Colorado School of Public Health

    2. Global Warming: Up to 9% of methane produced from fracking seeps into the atmosphere. Methane is 100x more potent as a greenhouse gas than C02, over the next 20 years
    -Dr. Ingraffea: Dwight C Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University

    3. Ozone: Ground level ozone in some rural places, where there is fracking, is worse than ozone levels in downtown LA.
    -Wyoming Department of Health,

    4. A gag order in the state of Colorado prevents your doctor from informing you if you have fracking fluids in your blood, making it much harder for you to get well.

    5. Poisoning Water: More than 5000 spills have been registered with COGCC (CO State website) and approximately 43% have contaminated groundwater.
    -COGCC Website
    6. Water Depletion: Each well uses approximately 3-8 million gallons of water over its lifetime.
    -Dr. Jeffery Time

    7. Toxic Chemicals: Of the 300-odd chemicals presumed in fracking fluid, 40% are endocrine disrupting, 1/3 are suspected carcinogens and 1/3 are developmental toxicants. Over 60% of these chemicals can harm the brain and nervous system.
    -Colborn T, Kwiatkowski C, Schultz K, and Bachran M. 2011. Hum Ecol Risk Assess

    8. “The Haliburton Loophole”: Currently, natural gas drilling is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Natural gas companies do not have to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. This provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off of the job.
    -2005 Energy Policy Act

    9.Methane levels in water sources that are close to fracking wells can be so high, that tap water in surrounding homes have been known to light on fire.
    -Josh Fox, Gasland

    10. Earthquakes: According to the US Geological Survey, a sharp rise in seismic activity in the middle of the U.S. was the result of injecting water into deep underground wells for hydraulic fracturing.
    -U.S. Geological Survey

    11. Volatile Organic Compounds burn off from fracking fluid tanks. Some of these chemical compounds cause endocrine disruption, leading to genetic mutation in unborn children, while others cause cancer in adults.
    – “The Endocrine Disruption Exchange” (TEDX), Theo Colborn

    12. Wells Leak: 6% of fracking wells leak in their first year and 50% leak over 30 years.
    -“The Sky is Pink”

  5. ‘Tapestry’ (13 October) in ‘Fracking te Dirty Dozen’ cites many negative reports about different aspects of fracking, drawn from American sources. There are so many negative reports – and some contradicting positive ones – it is dificult to judge precsiely which are true and which aren’t; and ity would take man=years of one’s life to anayalse it all! Even so, in general terms (and I’ve never been there) it does seem that there is much that is wrong in tbe way the USA has approached the imoact of ffracking on local communities. Amongst these sins are: G Bush exempted the gas /oil corporations from compliance with clean water laws; the corps don’t have to declare the chemicals they use (they represent only a fraction of 1% of the water / sand / chemical mix pumped down wells, but still..); environmental regulation is lax to non-existent and the corps don’t have tp account or explain to anybody. And the gas/oil id ]=s owned by tnelandowners, so conflicts of interest can easily arise (my bank account versus my health (and/or that of my neighbours).

    The situation in the UK could not be more different: the Cown owns all beow ground resources, not tne landowner; we have lots of regulation that has o be met, from planning, envirinmental regs, healtand safety regs, polution regs, etc; and importantly a greta deal (but not enough) openess. I’ve no doubt all these regulations etc will develop to meet the challenges of fracking.

    So we shouldn’t be frightend of it. One of tne big problmes is political / information: those concerned about fracking have an understanadble and legitimate concern. But the vociferous ‘anti’s’ either don’t know about tne above; or ignore it because it doesn’t fit their self-reinforcing ideolical position; either can’t or won’t present a balanced argument; and seek to mislead tne innpcent.

    • tapestry says:

      There has been gas drilling in the UK as well many other countries around the globe, where there have been identifiable negative effects. There were earthquakes in Lancashire, but these, according to the Patersons of this world, were only small earthquakes of little significance. Talk to the people of Fylde who have had to live with the consequences. It’s not simply the collapse of the property market. It’s also the collapse of the health of residents. See the Fylde Residents website.

      • Ian Terry says:

        We are having the same thing from turbines loss of property values, water contamination, noise and flicker but nobody listens. When the court cases started then that will be fun. In America, Canada, Ireland and Scotland the wheels are already rolling and the whole thing can only gather speed. The politicians think they are fireproof, are they in for a big surprise especially when the no win no fee sharks come honing in.

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