Friday, 27 May 2011

Shale gas gets support from UK MPs

Source - The Guardian Monday 23rd May 2011 - article by Environment Correspondent Fiona Harvey.

Shale gas drilling in the UK has been given the go-ahead by MPs in a new report looking at the impact it could have on water supplies, energy security and energy emissions.  They have rejected the idea of any kind of moratorium.
Snippets -
'The inquiry found no evidence (!) that the hydraulic fracturing process involved in shale gas extraction known as 'fracking' poses a direct risk to underground water aquifers provided the drilling well was constructed properly. They also concluded that a moratorium in the UK is not justified (!) or necessary at present'. So, what price public consultation?

'MPs urge the DECC (Dept. of Energy & Climate Change) to monitor drilling activity extremely closely in its early stages in order to assess its impact on air and water quality'.  And just how likely is this in a climate of extreme cost cutting?

'Onshore shale gas reserves in the UK could be quite considerable and will certainly help us increase our energy capacity - though not, unfortunately very dramatically'.  So, to hell with the risk

'The emergence of shale gas increases the urgency of bringing carbon capture and storage technology to the market and making it work for gas as well as coal'.  Still in the early stages of development, so in the meantime, let's get on with fracking up the countryside. See TV quote below.

'Greenhouse gas emissions from gas are lower than coal (highly debatable see: light-into-a-dark-closet/ ) but are still much higher than many low-carbon technologies - like nuclear, solar or wind power'.

TIM YEO MP (email: or via website

As Tim sees it:

'There are no unacceptable risks'.

'It is understandable that environmentalists have concerns about methane emissions from shale gas after YouTube videos from the US (methinks he means the award winning film Gaslands) apparently showed people setting fire to their tap water'.

'But if it has a downward effect on gas prices it could divert much needed investment away from lower carbon technologies like solar, wind, wave or tidal power'.  (Yes, Tim.)

'There has been a lot of hot air (!) recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling, but our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern - that UK water supplies would be put at risk'.  Main concern for whom Tim?  What about the horrendous logistics (earth and water movement by road), 30-50m high derricks illuminated 24/7 and landscape desecration, not to mention concerns relating to all the chemicals deployed.

'But it is still unclear when, or indeed if, Carbon Capture Storage will become technologically and commercially viable'.  Indeed it is, so why proceed with yet another fossil fuel ahead of its development ?

'Onshore shale gas reserves in the UK could be quite considerable and will certainly help us to increase our energy security - though not, unfortunately, very dramatically'.  So the acknowledged risks (US, Canada, Germany, Australia have all experienced serious problems) are still worth taking then?

'The Government's regulatory agencies must of course be vigilant and monitor drilling closely to ensure that air and water quality is not affected'.  (Yes Tim, and at a time of swingeing cuts to public services/agencies we can surely rely upon that.)

If you are concerned for the remaining areas of outstanding natural beauty in the UK and are already horrified by the prospect of shale gas exploration as a result of what you have read on this site, at meetings here in France and in the media generally, then we urge you to contact Mr Yeo (and your own MP if you retain a vote in the UK) and let him know how you feel - without delay.  The current 'trick' is to push the whole concept 'up North', and by styling the location of current activities 'Blackpool' the industry is concealing the fact that it is the area of wild moorland known as the Trough of Bowland which is actually under threat.  The Weald and areas of S.Glamorgan are also believed to be threatened.  Where next?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Don't schiste on your own doorstep?

French oil company Total, and US gas meisters Exxon (Esso to Brits) are scurrying east to join the frack fest currently in the process of ruining great chunks of Poland.

Media representatives at Total said that neither last week's decision by French MPs to ban hydraulic fracturing, or popular opposition to the method among French people, had influenced the firm’s plans to invest in Poland.
Yeah! Likely. If the state of the market in your home country does not 'influence' your business planning then you are either stupid, inept or lying.

It is regrettable that this is the level of honesty that we can expect from the major players, but it is not unexpected.

So when they also say: "Total respects the law in each country where it is active, and is committed to safety and environmental protection". We should be more than a little worried.



Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Question of Trust

It is two days since the National Assembly voted to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas. It is generally accepted that the Senate will support the bill on June 1st and that it will go into law. A massive public outcry forced the government to do a u-turn and stop the almighty oil and gas industry in its tracks. The air should be rent with the sounds of celebration. There should be great satisfaction among the protesters for a job well done.  But all we hear are angry outbursts and claims of betrayal and skulduggery from the individuals and organisations involved in the protest. Why is this? 

It seems there are three reasons. Firstly, the original bill would have rescinded the permits already granted to the gas companies. At the last minute this provision was removed, leaving the possibility of the gas companies retaining their permits and, we must presume, finding some way to exploit them.

Secondly, the bill only bans hydraulic fracturing of the shale. The reason for this being that parliament's principal concern was the use and contamination of large quantities of water. In effect they have prohibited the use of hydraulic fracturing fluid. But they have not defined hydraulic. The root of the word is the latin for water but is generally used to include any fluid. Fluids include all liquids and gases and the only alternatives to water based fracking appear to be foam and gas fracturing. Foam and gas are both fluids so they should also be banned, but this is not explicitly stated in the bill. This ban on a single method of breaking up the shale leaves  the way open for all sorts of new technologies to emerge which the gas companies will swear do not involve hydraulic fracturing.

Thirdly, many of the protesters are also taking a longer term view of energy use. This new source of hydrocarbon-based fuel will take the pressure off the drive to find alternatives to oil which is generally accepted to be on the decline, and coal which is just plain filthy. Until recently it was accepted that the main alternatives were nuclear and a range of renewable sources such as solar, wind, water and geothermal power. Shale gas will simply delay the development of these alternatives and pump more carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. Nearly two hundred states signed the Kyoto agreement to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. The pathetic failure to achieve the targets has been disguised by massaging the figures - and it is this sort of disingenuous behaviour which should make us wary of the governments intentions for shale gas in France.

The bill has given the gas companies two months to describe how they will extract the gas. If it involves hydraulic fracturing their permits will be rescinded. If they do not say they will use hydraulic fracturing they will retain their permits. One thing is guaranteed, there will be no proposals which say they will use hydraulic fracturing. As the overwhelming opinion of industry insiders is that hydraulic fracturing is the only economically viable way of getting the gas out of the shale, this bill should be the equivalent of a complete ban on the exploitation of shale gas in France.

So now it is a question of trust. The French government may be prepared to review the gas companies proposals honestly and reject those that will involve hydraulic fracturing regardless of what they call it. But hardly anyone believes this is the case.

The government have failed to convince us that they will really ban fracturing. The wording of the bill suggests that they will allow it to proceed if the gas companies use the right words. If they want to avoid another public outcry in the run up to the 2012 Presidential election, they would be well advised to prove that they can be trusted - and soon.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

MPs Vote for Fracking Ban

MPs have voted to ban the shale gas mining process of hydraulic fracturing in France.

The proposition was passed by 287 votes to 186, with the Socialist Party and green MPs voting against it because it did not constitute an outright ban of shale gas mining in France.

The latest proposition bans the technique of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, which uses a high-pressure blast of water, sand and chemicals to create a shockwave to break open cracks deep in the earth and shift the gas into collection areas.

Fracking, currently the only technique used to collect shale gas, has come into the spotlight for causing damage to drinking water supplies.

Thousands of protesters have marched against shale gas exploration, voicing fears of the damage that, beyond the danger to the water table, the transport of materials and drilling could cause to local communities.

All firms who currently hold shale gas exploration permits in France will need to produce a report ensuring that their mining technique is not fracking.

If hydraulic fracturing is used, or no report is produced, the drilling permits will be rescinded. The list of companies and their techniques will be made public.

The proposition leaves the door open for drilling experiments used to hone other methods of obtaining shale gas, held under public supervision.

Senators will debate the proposal on June 1.

Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, has told interviewers that the original granting of shale gas exploration permits by her predessor Jean-Louis Borloo was "a mistake."


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Beware tricks, smoke and mirrors in UMP debate

As feared the French goverenment appears to be watering down its own bill and easing the way for gas companies to carry on business as normal as reported in Connexions. So nothing new there then... watch this space for more horribly predictable political shenannigans.

From Connexions:
"AN AMENDMENT to the bill to ban shale gas exploration in France has become a smoke screen to allow drilling, claim Socialist MPs and environmentalists.

Many Socialist Party members fear the proposition from the UMP’s Christian Jacob is little more than a trick to get tacit approval for drilling, while ecologists have denounced the text as it has been changed from the original which gained widespread support. "

Source Connexion:

Monday, 9 May 2011

Montcuq Banner pix 9 May 2011

A couple of pix from the Montcuq press photo opportunity marking the debate in the National Assembly starting tomorrow:

France: Environmentalists Fear Slippage

"Environmentalist are expressing concerns in advance of this week’s upcoming vote in the French National Assembly to repeal shale exploration licenses. Changes have occurred in the wording of the resolution to be voted upon. The original bill clearly stated that licenses already issued for unconventional gas and oil were to be repealed and called for the ban on further exploration and exploitation.

However, the revised version stipulates that licensees must, within two months after the publication of the law, detail the processes that they intend to employ in extracting the resources in a report to the administrative authority that originally issued the permit. The permits would be revoked if this report is not submitted or if it “refers to the use, or possible use of hydraulic fracturing of the rock,” after drilling.

For Yves Cochet, Member for the Green Party, the revision provides explorers with a loophole.
“Instead of saying they (i.e. explorers) use the technique of hydraulic fracturing, they will use another form but in substance, they will do the same, since there is no other way to do it”  said Cochet.

The France Nature Environnement coalition also expressed its “concern” fearing a shift away in parliamentary support. “Provided that the technique is different, the industry can drill without being disturbed,” complains the FNE.


Email the National Assembly TODAY - NOW

Urgent please act – 9th May

The government are starting to backtrack on what said they would do – that is put a stop to gaz de schiste. While this is no great surprise, they must be told that we have noticed and are not happy.
Christian Jacob’s bill to repeal the permits allowing exploration and exploitation of shale gas in France will be debated by the National Assembly this Tuesday and Wednesday (10th and 11th May).
The original bill has been substantially reduced and now gives the permit holders two months to explain which technique they intend to use. This means that if the companies come up with any method other than hydraulic fracturing, they will retain their licenses without further inquiry.
This revised draft of the bill does not do what we were led to believe and opens the door for petroleum companies to retain the permits and begin drilling.
The text of the email tells the assembly members that this is unacceptable.
We do not have much time. Please send your email TODAY and pass it on to your email contacts
It only takes 3 steps – or fewer if you use Word and Outlook -see below.
Do you use MS Word and Outlook?
If you use MS Word and Outlook this link
Lettre Assemblée National re 10 May 2011  will / may / should open as an email. Then all you need to do is add your name and address and press SEND. If it does not work follow the three steps below:
1. Please copy this text to a new email:
Mesdames, Messieurs,
Je vous prie de bien vouloir voter la Proposition de Loi de M. Christian Jacob visant à abroger les permis exclusifs de recherches d’hydrocarbures non conventionnels et à interdire leur exploration et leur exploitation sur le territoire national, déposée le 31 mars 2011 telle qu’elle a été présentée, sans tenir compte des amendements proposés par la Commission du Développement Durable, amendements qui dénaturent et tronquent les textes de la-dite Proposition, ouvrant ainsi la route, sans consultation publique, aux titulaires de permis pour commencer, dans deux mois, l’exploration du gaz de schiste en France.
Your Name and address / nom et adresse
2. Add your name and address where indicated.
3. Then copy and paste these addresses into the To field:

and hit SEND
This will send the email to:
Groupe Union pour un Mouvement Populaire

Groupe socialiste, radical, citoyen et divers gauche

Groupe de la gauche démocrate et républicaine
Groupe du Nouveau Centre
Députés non inscrits

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Demo in Paris 10th May

There will be a 'Gas and Water don't Mix' demo betwenn 11am and 2pm at Place du Président Édouard Herriot in Paris (just next to the Assemblée Nationale). Click here for more details.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Event in Montcuq on Monday 9th May

There will be a photo opportunity at Montcuq on Monday 9th May (ie the day after tomorrow). The Maire is flying a banner from the tower to mark the opening of the Parliamentary debate. The press have been invited. It would be good to have a crowd of supporters to show that we have not gone away.

Meet at the tower at midday.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Schiste Happens News Blog

During the lull in Schiste related activity we have refreshed the news pages so that when it all kicks off again we will be ready to keep you informed of latest developments. Using a blog also means that we can easily archive stories which in turn means that you can easily find them, send them to friends and have a single place to dig up the information you need. All the background information about how Gaz de Schiste will affect France will stay on the Schiste Happens web site. All the news and latest developments will be here on the blog.

Although the drilling permits are on hold and government are discussing the way ahead in the National Assembley, things are also happening behind the scenes. The government are still trying to work out how to get elected and get the gas out of the ground. The gas companies are still lobbying and throwing vast amounts of money around to persuade anyone who will listen that this is a very good thing.  And protesters are still trying to stop them ruining the country.

You need to know what they are all saying and which way the Schiste-O-Meter is swinging. This news blog will keep you up to date with the latest developments in France. News from further afield, and a wider look at the whole subject of fracking for shale gas, will still be posted on BB's Say No To Shale Gas blog.

You can subscribe to both blogs so that you receive an email when a new post is added, and they both allow you to add you comments so you can have your say more easily.

Thanks for visiting. Keep the pressure on. Stop the schiste.