Energy firms will not be selling shale gas to customers cheaply
In response to the letter "Fracking will help cut bills", we feel utterly saddened that this reportage of Tom Preece's talk on fracking has perpetuated such nonsense.
We attended that talk, and Mr Preece most certainly did not say that gas coming out of a water pipe was due to use of an elderly oil pump – he said it was most likely due to poor fracking practice. And what he did tell us is that the only thing protecting our water supply from pollution is a layer of cement!
The risks associated with extreme energy extraction are not manageable because eventually all wells leak!
Duncan Campbell could ask himself what possible personal gain us "eco-activists" will get from trying to prevent fracking compared to those who are promoting it. These energy companies are not intending to provide people with cheap heat – they are in the business of making insanely large profits at the expense of others' health and wellbeing, as has already happened in the US.
Nor is fracking "a low-carbon option" – burning any kind of hydrocarbon, whether oil or gas, only adds to the growing climate chaos that people all around our precious planet are already experiencing; we urge readers to research fracking for themselves and to think about the future for the sake of our children and children's children. A starting place might be www.frackfreesomerset.org.
Actually there are many alternative options for generating energy without contributing to climate change – and other European countries, such as Denmark and Germany, are already pursuing this strategy, whilst simultaneously creating jobs within the green energy sector. If our present government had any sense, they would do the same.
As a footnote: we hope that Frome Town Council's success in declaring Frome "a frack-free-zone" will inspire councils the world over!
ALEX HART and HELEN MOORE
I am writing to express my concern at the actions of Frome Town Council in declaring a "frack-free" zone, which appears to be based on biased propaganda rather than any consideration of the facts that relate to the debate surrounding shale gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing.
Shale gas extraction should not be described as a form of "extreme energy", using "a lot of energy in order to get just a bit more energy back". In fact, fracking a well takes only a few hours. A recent life-cycle emissions analysis by the European Commission has indicated locally-produced shale gas has no worse a climate change impact than LNG transported from the Middle East, not to mention the economic and geo-political impacts of producing our own gas, rather than buying from foreign regimes with dubious human-rights records.
The biggest objection raised against fracking is the issue of groundwater contamination, usually spurred by the dramatic images of flaming taps available on YouTube, where water loaded with methane can be set on fire. However, these videos usually fail to mention that methane contamination is in fact a common and natural occurrence in many parts of the US, and was so long before shale gas extraction came into the picture.
In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency has documented only two proven incidences where shale gas extraction has caused water contamination: at Dimock, Pennsylvania, and Pavillion, Wyoming. At Dimock, the faulty well was identified, remedied, and contamination levels have now returned below acceptable minima. At Pavillion, the cause of the contamination is still uncertain, as different US agencies have attributed different causes, so investigations are still ongoing. The US Groundwater Protection Council has examined water contamination incidence rates due to onshore oil and gas wells, finding an incident rate less than 0.01 per cent.
The council's view is, apparently, that "the American experience points towards relatively small gains in energy at huge long and short term environmental cost". In fact, the experience in the USA has provided significant gains on both the local and national level.
On the local scale, once moribund rural areas are booming: the influx of workers has seen hotels fully booked for months in advance, full restaurants and bars, and every other service industry experiencing a similar boost. On a national scale, gas prices have tumbled by as much as 75 per cent, providing benefits not just for domestic consumers but also the many industries that use natural gas as a feedstock.
Meanwhile cheap gas prices have led power companies to switch from coal fired to gas fired power stations, resulting in a reduction in CO2 emissions to their lowest levels in 20 years.
It is commonly implied that oil and gas companies are devious, unreliable, and bad neighbours to have. However, in this case, companies proposing hydraulic fracturing have been remarkably open: all of the pertinent data from tests conducted by Cuadrilla in Blackpool are available on the Department for Energy and Climate Change website, as is the fracking fluid composition (of which, 99 per cent is H2O). In contrast, the opposition to shale gas has based its arguments on falsehoods, manipulated data and scary YouTube videos.
There is a need for a rational, evidence-driven debate about shale gas extraction in the South-West. However, by polarising the debate in this manner, environmentalists are preventing this from happening.
DR JAMES VERDON
Research Fellow: Natural Environment Research Council
School of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol