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We’ll all pay for Fracking, one way or another – or will we?

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frack_zerocImages of people protesting against Fracking this summer brought back a host of memories for me. I’ve done some protesting in my time. Most notably as part of a group that occupied the USAF base at Molesworth, for a year or so, to prevent the siting of cruise missiles there. Our eventual eviction, by more squaddies than it took to take Goose Green, made the back page of the Guardian, and I remember coming face to face with Michael Heseltine as he stepped off his chopper in flak jacket and make-up ready for the TV cameras – who could forget that.

The Americans never did station their cruise missiles at Molesworth and I’d like to think that what we did played a part in that – but who can know.

I’ve watched with admiration since then as subsequent generations of protesters have put their bodies on the line to prevent the things that they have serious objections to. The people at Sea Shepherd are a wonderful example in their annual battle against the Japanese whalers in the South Atlantic.

Fracking looks like the new frontline, or fault line if you like, where the government bumps up against the people.

It’s a desperate idea and a dangerous diversion from what we really need to be getting on with – building new sources of green energy. At best it will bring us a few more decades of a fossil fuel, which as this week’s IPCC report makes very clear – we simply cannot afford to burn.

The protests make clear the strength of feeling against it. But protesting at fracking sites won’t by itself stop the development of fracking in this country. Our Government seems determined to pursue shale gas at any cost – witness the reckless promises of cheaper energy, the tax breaks for drilling, the relaxed planning rules, even overlooking their much-vaunted policy of localism.

What can we do? Protesting can work, but not everyone wants to chain themselves to a gate at Balcombe or elsewhere.

There is another way to protest – with your energy bills. A way to conscientiously object if you like, to peacefully but purposefully oppose fracking. And the new frontline is on your sofa.

All you have to do is to refuse to buy gas from fracking. Refuse to deal with energy companies that will not exclude this gas from their own supplies. This still allows you to take action, to actively protest and make a difference, without necessarily putting yourself on that frontline. If energy companies don’t listen, you move somewhere else that will.

This week Ecotricity launched Britain’s first frack free gas pledge – to enable this new activism. Our customers will never be supplied with gas from fracking. That’s our promise and we’ve taken steps to ensure that it cannot enter our supply chain. Other energy companies can follow our lead – I hope they do.

People want to be able to choose what they eat and don’t eat – labelling of food enables that and GM free food is a good example. Green Electricity is also labelled to guarantee its origin. We’re extending that concept to our gas supply – it now has a guarantee of origin – it is and will remain ‘frack free’.

It’s a chance to vote with your energy bills, the more people that join us the louder our voice.

12 responses to “We’ll all pay for Fracking, one way or another – or will we?”

    • nick


      I’m sure your memory of those events at Molesworth is as sharp as that of Hilary Clinton (remembee her ‘visit to Bosnia under sniper fire’ memory?) but in fact the US thankfully did put cruise into the UK at Greenham Common. Without the resolve of the west to deploy an equivalent to the Soviet SS20 we would probably still have the Cold War today with millions living under the oppression of the Soviet system.

      Fracking has been taking place in the UK for decades without issue and if it provides cheap and plentiful energy while we wait for reliable renewables (tidal, solar and nuclear) to be built then why is that a bad thing?

      The latest IPCC report completely ignores the pause in warming as to acknowledge it might result in a slowdown in the flood of subsidies and grants that keep the climate change lobby going. The science that is so accurate that it can definitely predict that global warming is manmade is probably best summed up by Prof Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre – “It looks like the earth is continuing to accumulate energy but it looks like it is being rearranged and hidden from view”. On such incisive and evidence based observations we appear to be willing to ruin our economy and commit our children to paying 2-3 times the true cost of energy for the foreseeable future. The reality is that the actual emissions from the UK are so small that even if CO2 does have the impact claimed then compared to China or the US, reducing them will make not a jot of difference.

      The real issue is that fossil fuels are finite, so we shouldn’t waste them, but the scam of de-carbonising is just an excuse for companies and organisations to extract huge sums of money from consumers by increasing their bills, lobbying for subsidies and claiming grants. Heavy industry cannot cope with the EU proiice of energy and so just migrates meaning that there is no net reduction in CO2, but the green lobby can feel better because it’s no longer in their back yard. Although I’m not sure how shipping jobs abroad helps the country climb out of the terrible financial mess left from the last decade. Just look at the German solar industry – quickly dying due to the high cost of energy in Germany and being undercut by the Chinese.

      Fracking offers significantly less visual pollution than wind turbines and once extraction is complete the wellhead equipment can be easily removed, unlike the thousands of tons of concrete bases left behind when a subsidy farm has to be dismantled.



        • Colin Gong

          Nick , just to answer one point in your post .

          ‘Fracking has been taking place in the UK for decades without issue’

          This is a very mis-leading statement which has been repeatedly pushed by the mainstream media – which especially in relation to this matter seems to be functioning quite blatently as the gas industy / government’s propaganda machine (those two organisations being quite hard to differentiate from each other these days).
          Just a minimal amount of research will reveal to you that fracking in its simplist form came into being in the late 1940’s , and that is the basis of the governments statement ….
          However , all the aspects of the High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing which is currently proposed for our country that are causing grave concern , are actually relatively recent developments.
          Specifically I refer to horizontal drilling , the use an untold number of toxic chemicals , the increase of pressures to 28000 psi , and the very recent advent of ‘super fracking’
          None of then have ever before been inflicted on our land , apart from the one exception of the Preece Hall site near Blackpool. That was experimentally fracked by caudrilla two years ago . Results – complete calamity and dangerous calamity at that – google ‘Fracking – the truth’ , a short documentary made by local residents , if you have the time and inclination for more details .
          One well known fracking hotspot is the State of Pennsylvania in the USA , where a so called ‘fracking boom’ was unleashed on an unsuspecting public 5 years ago . It was a public that had mainly taken the government/gas industry propaganda at face value . The outcome? Again , just a little research will reveal to you that there is now a moratorium on any new fracking activity , as it has all started to become a living nightmare to many people there . Googling ‘pennsylvania list of the harmed’ will make that one real for you , again , if you have the time and the inclination to become more informed
          For your info there are currently fracking bans in at least 17 countries world wide .
          Why would that be if it as safe as we are being led to believe? Do you think when promised large quantities of supposedly cheap gas these people would ban the practise with no reason ?

          Back to that statement ‘Fracking has been taking place in the UK for decades without issue’
          … it is even worse than the kind of statements that caused the calamitous first frackers of the UK Caudrilla to be censored by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2011 (who deemed there were 6 grossly misleading statements in a pamphlet delivered to local residents)…
          From where I am looking it looks like a whole new level on from there – it actually looks like a blatant out and out lie .
          I trust you appreciate me pointing this out to you .

    • Ashley

      Dale, whilst I detest the way this government seems to have such a contradictory attitude towards fracking and onshore wind, can we transition to a decarbonized electricity system without natural gas from fracking?

      I understand the point about locked in high carbon assets; however there is no realistic possibility of sourcing the majority of our supply from biogas any time soon so the central issue as I see it, is that would we rather the majority of our gas comes from abroad, from potentially politically dubious areas of the world, or from sources under our control? Whether fracked gas will drop the wholesale price is neither here nor there to some extent.

      A central tenet of Ecotricity is to improve our energy independence, surely using at least some fracked gas to displace gas that would otherwise be sourced from abroad is in-keeping with this philosophy? Not withstanding the need to use it as a transitioning fuel to a zero-carbon future.

    • Colin Gong

      Brilliant , just absolutely brilliant .
      Thanks for being a sane voice in a predominantly mad world .

    • Joe V

      Ha, it didn’t take long for another troll to turn up.

    • Mark Tebbutt

      Can we meet the UK Climate Change Act 2008 targets if we fully exploit shale gas?

      The 2008 Climate Change act which I believe Gorge Osborne wants to repeal sets a legally binding target of an 80% reduction in green houses gases compared to the UK 1990 baseline by 2050. A reduction in green house gases of 34% by 2020 was added in 2009.

      In December 2010, the Climate Change Committee recommended a 4th Carbon Budget to cover the period from 2023-2027. They recommended that the Government aims to cut emissions by at least 60% by 2030 to ensure that the UK is on track to meet the 2050 target. On the 17th of May 2011 the Government changed the target to a 50% in GHG emissions cut from 1990 baseline by 2025.

      So to recap that’s a 34% reduction by 2020, a 50% reduction by 2025 and an 80% reduction by 2050.

      The only way I think the UK could realistically meet the targets with the government hell bent on shale gas extraction is if most domestic properties disconnect from the gas grid entirely by replacing the gas boiler with a 280-300% efficient heat pump, and carbon capture and storage equipment is installed at all coal & gas fired power stations.

      Since I think CCS will be too expensive in the short to medium term I think the tax revenue from fracking is a reckless way to try and pay off the monetary deficient & sure fire way or racking up a massive ecological deficit which can’t be paid back.
      This is why we should demand the Government / Osborne re-examines including a 2030 power decarbonisation target in the Energy bill.

      If the UK aims for the 50-100 grams of CO2 per kWh by 2030 decarb target as recommended by the climate change committee natural gas can only play a backup role in power generation without Carbon Capture and Storage as it’s still too carbon intensive.

      Even the humble domestic condensing boiler will have to go to reach 80% GHG reductions of emissions by 2050, unless Biogas can be scaled up to 100% which I doubt. Even then a more efficient use of Biogas would be to power 60% efficient closed cycle gas turbines to generate power to supply 280-300% efficient heat pumps. This is why fracking is such a stupid short term idea and rules out any possibilities of meeting our 2020, 2025 & 2050 targets.

      We disconnecting from the gas grid & installed a ground source heat pump in April 2011 and so can you. The Renewable Heat Incentive launches next spring. We should receive a RHI payment of around £2400 a year for 7 years with a ROI of around 5%.

      Electric car check, heat pump check, solar PV check, induction hob check, fan oven check, cavity wall insulation and 270mm of loft insulation check.

      Take charge of your own low carbon future and reduce your direct use of fossil fuels to zero. It is possible today but it’s not cheap. My blog details the heat pump installation, purchase and running costs for the first year.

        • nick


          I’ve just had a look at your bog and at first it looks good but you go on to say that a condensing boiler would have been cheaper. So the only way this makes sense is if gas prices rise more than electricity and of course you need to have access to over £20,000 to install the heat pump & solar PV combination.

          Not sure how this helps reduce energy bills for the average person who doesn’t have £20,000 to splash out.

          The whole issue is still so uncertain that unless there is a guaranteed saving then personally I couldn’t justify borrowing money I don’t have in order to end up spending more than I needed to!

          Maybe we should spend the £50 billion earmarked for HS2 (that will shave 30 minutes off the average commute from the North of England to London) on providing the up-front costs of solar PV, heat pumps and broadband so that people can work from home and reduce their carbon footprint by not traveling unless they absolutely have to? Now that really would have a positive impact on reducing emissions!

            • Mark Tebbutt

              When I originally wrote the blog in April / May 2011 I guessed the efficiency of the old boiler but since that time I found a picture of the spec plate. It has an heat input of 20.8 kW with a heat output of 16.12 kW. Thus 16.12 / 20.8. = 77.5% efficient. The underestimation of 12.5 % swings the balance in favour of the heat pump.

              Let’s take a best in class condensing boiler achieving around 91% SEBUK efficiency. 91 – 77.5 = 13.5 reduction in consumption. 25200 – 13.5% = 21798. Since gas prices have changed when I wrote the blog I am going to use a simple less accurate method as it doesn’t take account of the daily standing charge. (£762 / 20160) * 21798 = £823.91

              £823.91 – £783 = £40.91 in favour of the heat pump. In addition the RHI will pay around £2400 a year for 7 years providing a ROI of about 5%.

              I really should update my blog to correct the old boiler efficiency underestimate, bring the RHI information up to date and add the April 2012 – 2013 energy consumption.

              The cost of PV panels have more than halved since we installed ours in December 2010. A typical 4kWp PV system now costs around £5000-£6000. I am hoping economies of scale and maybe manufacture in china will do the same for heat pumps especially air source heat pumps.

              The Green Deal has also launched since my blog was written which would allow people without the £7000 than an air source heat pump would probably cost to install today.

              Finally we may see a carbon tax introduced at the domestic level within a decade pushing gas prices up further.

    • pier

      Thank you for your eloquent and knowledgeable contribution to the debate.

    • Joe V

      Rather surprisingly, Nick opens with an attempt to rewrite history. In fact the Soviet Union was beset with economic stagnation and committing 25% of its GDP to the military machine. The new General Secretary, Gorbachev, introduced perestroika and glasnost to revive an ailing state. The presence of a few cruise missiles at Greenham Common, while a tiny bargaining point had absolutely no bearing on the outcome, which was determined by the refusal of Gorbachev to use troops to support the government of East Germany. This led to the mostly peaceful demise of eastern european states as Soviet satellites, increasing détente and the eventual end of the Cold War on December 3rd, 1989.

      The IPCC report didn’t ignore the so-called ‘pause in global warming’. There is comprehensive comment. You need to read it.

      But I really enjoyed the comedy in the post and particularly the last 5 lines.

      “Fracking offers less visual pollution..” Good one that, mentioning pollution allied to visual, but don’t spoil it by including pylons, power stations, cooling towers or even gas pipelines. Particularly don’t mention the endless stream of HGVs required along country lanes – not just visual but air polluting too.

      “..thousands of tons of concrete bases..” Excellent laugh, but avoid any reference to the tens of thousands of radioactive tons of redundant concrete on Britain’s coast provided by the nuclear industry at enormous cost to the taxpayer. And above all, on no account slip the word ‘Insurance’ in, as it is down to the taxpayer to pick up the tab for nuclear only.

      “.. subsidy farm..” Now this had me in stitches. It is a carefully constructed phrase which should sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the undecided. This is designed to deflect attention from the subsidies awarded to Oil and Nuclear industries; is that because they have contributed to Conservative Party funds and therefore have a lot of lobbying power? I hear that the subsidies awarded for fracking will be quite generous as well.

      And now, you naughty boy, talking about a country I spent a large part of my life in.

      “..high cost of energy in Germany..” Merkel and her Energiewende in chaos. A right-wing Government with an energy policy in tatters – does that sound familiar?!

      Failing to control costs, while concentrating on Euro-zone bailouts, the expansion of offshore wind is delayed, (which would smooth out their peaks and troughs in supply & bring the costs down), some wind farms built but unconnected, being turned by diesel to prevent rusting.

      Further, the reducing FIT makes the initial outlay for home produced solar panels seem prohibitive when compared to cheaper inferior quality imports from China. Ring any bells in this country? Yes, the right-wing coalition has proved particularly inept at transferring away from fossil fuelled pollution. However, if the Swedish model had been followed then renewable energy would be supplying the country as intended.

      So, rather error strewn, but amusing none the less. I’m sure that Universities will be offering degree courses in trolling soon!

    • Paul D

      Nice to see that you are speaking out Dale on these energy price discussions.
      Heard you on Broadcasting House and The Today programme.

      Where are all the other climate activists and environmentalists speaking out and attacking the media for their bias?

      Also surprised that you aren’t using this blog to get the true story across.