By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
The UK on Saturday halted all fracking in England, following publication of a report by the Oil And Gas Authority (OGA) into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, a site operated by exploration and production company Cuadrilla.
According to Phys.org in Britain calls halt on fracking following government U-turn:
The OGA report found that it was not currently possible to accurately predict the technology’s potential for triggering earthquakes.
As the Guardian reports in, Fracking halted in England in major government U-turn:
The government has halted fracking in England with immediate effect in a watershed moment for environmentalists and community activists.
Ministers also warned shale gas companies it would not support future fracking projects, in a crushing blow to companies that had been hoping to capitalise on one of the new frontiers of growth in the fossil fuel industry.
The decision draws a line under years of bitter opposition to the controversial extraction process in a major victory for green groups and local communities.
⚡ YOU’VE WON! WE’VE WON! ⚡
The government has just announced an official end to their support for #fracking in England, after years of tireless campaigning. Fracking isn’t wanted, isn’t needed, and now – isn’t happening.
Huge congratulations to all amazing campaigners! ??? pic.twitter.com/XAZ7ZnDbSd
— Friends of the Earth ? (@friends_earth) 2 November 2019
The new moratorium applies to England only; Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales already have anti-fracking measures in place, according to the Guardian.
The FT reports in UK halts all fracking after report fuels earthquake fears
The government said there would be a “moratorium” on fracking until “compelling new evidence” showed that it was safe.
The new policy is a sharp reversal of the government’s stance, with [Boris] Johnson and Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, both voicing support for fracking in the past. In 2013, George Osborne, then chancellor, announced “the most generous tax regime in the world” for shale gas, saying he wanted “Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution”.
The FT notes that in addition to the OGA report,
…[The fracking moratorium] also follows the biggest UK earthquake yet, at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, where Cuadrilla, the shale gas group, suspended operations after a tremor shook nearby houses. The tremor measured 250 times the level permitted by the government.
Tory Flip Flop: Johnson, et al
The ban comes during the first week of the UK’s general election campaign – and provided an excellent opportunity to execute a flip flop.
As the FT reports:
The Conservatives need to win seats in constituencies across the midlands and north of England, an area where the majority of licences for shale gas exploration have been granted.
But a recent YouGov survey found that two-thirds of respondents had an unfavourable view of shale gas, according to the poll of 1,662 British adults, while local people have protested at every well site.
As Forbes notes in Fracking Dumped: U.K. Campaigners Rejoice, But Urge Caution:
But fracking is extremely unpopular among voters, as concerns about climate change, as well as the possible local effects of the industry, such as tremors and water source pollution, have risen. Renewable energy initiatives, by comparison, have been shown in polls to be almost universally popular.
As the Guardian reports:
The moratorium marks a major U-turn for the Conservative party and the prime minister Boris Johnson, who once referred to fracking as “glorious news for humanity” and urged the UK to “leave no stone unturned, or unfracked” in pursuit of shale gas.
The government ended its support for the struggling industry less than a week after a damning report from Whitehall’s spending watchdog found its plans to establish fracking across the UK was dragging years behind schedule and had cost the taxpayer at least £32m so far without producing any energy in return.
Shamelessly, Boris is now singing a different tune. According to Phys.org:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “very considerable anxieties” about the extraction of shale gas.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the government’s about-turn as merely a PR stunt ahead of the general election.
“The Conservatives’ temporary pause of fracking is an election stunt to try and win a few votes,” he tweeted.
Corbyn hammered home the point:
“Boris Johnson described fracking as ‘glorious news for humanity’. We cannot trust him.”
The present government has at present halted fracking, but the Tories have left the door open to allow fracking operations to resume. According to Phys.org:
Nevertheless, eyeing the boom in fracking in the US, the British government still views the technology as a potential opportunity to reduce its dependence on gas from Norway and Qatar.
When asked on BBC radio on Saturday why the government was not banning it altogether, Leadsom insisted that fracking represented “a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom.”
The British Geological Survey estimates that the Cuadrilla site holds up to 2,300 trillion cubic feet (90 trillion cubic metres) of shale gas, which could theoretically fill Britain’s natural gas needs for more than a thousand years.
By contrast, Labour intends to ban fracking entirely. Over to the Guardian:
Rebecca Long Bailey MP, the shadow business and energy secretary, said the moratorium was a victory for local people and the government owed them an apology. She said: “When the Tory government overruled local democratic decisions to halt fracking, communities did not give up. When fracking protesters went to jail, communities did not give up. And now they have forced the government to U-turn.
“The Tories owe the public an apology, and an explanation of how much public money they wasted while ignoring the science.”
Long-Bailey said the government could yet allow fracking to restart. “The next Labour government will ban fracking – whereas the Tories will only call a temporary halt to it. You can’t trust a word the prime minister says.”
Others also urged skepticism as to ultimate Tory intentions. According to Forbes:
But many in opposition interpreted the halt as a temporary political ploy intended to shore up votes ahead of the December 13 general election. And some noted that David Cameron’s coalition government lifted a previous moratorium on fracking in 2011.
Quoting Leadsom, Labour Member of Parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith warned in a tweet: “Always read the small print, ‘Until we have compelling evidence it’s safe’ … Labour will BAN fracking—whereas the Tories will only call a temporary halt to it.”
France banned fracking outright in 2011, and Germany largely halted such operations in 2017, according to Deutsche Welle in Germany largely bans fracking with new laws.
United States and Fracking: Not Just a Trump Phenomenon
Meanwhile, across the pond, US producers continue to expand their fracking operations, global warming be damned and despite the failure of the industry to show a profit (see Justin Mikulka’s excellent series for DeSmogBlog on fracking follies; Will the Fracking Revolution Peak Before Ever Making Money? is a representative sample of his work and notes that other outlets – such as the FT and the Wall Street Journal – are beginning to take increased notice.)
We shouldn’t forget that the surge in fracking began well before Trump became president. As AP notes in Obama takes credit for U.S. oil-and-gas boom: ‘That was me, people.:
Mr. Obama told the audience at a gala for Rice University’s Baker Institute that he was “extraordinarily proud of the Paris accords” before saying “I know we’re in oil country and we need American energy.”
“You wouldn’t always know it ,but it went up every year I was president,” he said to applause. “That whole, suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas that was me, people.”
If you haven’t seen it already, take a minute to view the embedded video in this tweet. Smug, narcissistic, shameless, smarmy with self-regard. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; these are by no means unique characteristics for successful politicians and seem to be part of the job description.
If you haven’t seen it already, seem to be part for successful politicians.
Obama: “Suddenly America is the largest oil producer, that was me people … say thank you.” pic.twitter.com/VfQfX1SR0x
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) 28 November 2018