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Special: The Frack Files Downloadable PDF

This month New Internationalist has decided to put the entire main story of the current issue online for everyone to read and share for free. Like many of you, we are concerned that the industries behind fracking are putting our countryside, water and health at risk. We would like the facts and information that we have put together to play their part in the resistance. It’s time that we sort the myths from the reality.

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  1. #1 Nick Grealy 08 Dec 13

    This may be long

    1) What possible relevance would Dick Cheney in 2001 US have to legal regulation of 2013 Europe?
    2) Water: Millions of litres sounds scary, but it's inconsequential compared to billions of litres lost every DAY in the UK through leaks. Thames Water leaks 2.5 billion litres each day. Surely obsessing about a ten year use of 20 million litres per well is not the best way of conserving water. New York State have estimated that a full production program of over 1000 wells would increase water demand - by one tenth of one percent. That report and 71 others of this ’new’ ’controversial’ ’untried technology are available at;view=article&id=2690&Itemid=169
    3. What happened, or not, in the US, does not provide a template for EU/UK. Companies have an incentive to be safe. Despite your paranoia, the US legal system will very quickly discover (and most importantly, monetise) any damages. To pretend that entire US legal system has been subverted by the oil and gas industry is childish paranoia.
    4. Regulation is up to the citizens of the UK. That's why everyone should ensure that effective regulation takes place, instead of assuming that it won't. This is something the NewInt and the industry can agree on: Effective regulation and plenty of it.
    5. Pretty astounded you cite Josh Fox and Gasland's flaming taps. Please: that's so old and even Fox admitted that there is no connection in PA. The Colorado EPA did a full investigation and scientists say that gas had zero to do with the case in the film. Of course if you already believe in a narrative where Dick Cheney secretly rules the world, then you may also believe that every lawyer in the USA has been silenced and every regulator has been cut.
    4.Here 's a choice: Cut carbon for generations to come or increased truck traffic for a few weeks. Shale gas isn't perfect. But it's not perfectly evil either
    5. It's easy to cherry pick one study. Global warming deniers do that all the time for example. But to hold up one scientific study (Bamberger/ Oswald) , as proof that shale is inherently and unavoidably dangerous flies in the face of reality. If the US were as impacted as they state, everyone would have been dead long ago surely. See also, Endocrine Disruption Centre etc.

    Finally, in the UK, gas and oil is the property of the state. It belongs not (only) to the Tory Nimby's of Lytham St Annes or Balcombe, but to the workers, single parents and trade union members throughout the UK. It can cut their carbon footprint as it increase disposable income. It can provide a 62% tax income to support public investment in schools and the NHS Instead of supporting the Qatari Royal Family via gas imports or rich Tory farmers via wind subsidies.

    There are 280,000 millionaires in London alone. You can bet most of them, or their housekeepers, go to Waitrose and kid themselves they love local food. Why not local energy as well?

    Your figures from China, like so much else, are out of date. There are massive resources in China, far greater than in the US. What would you suggest they do instead?

    Green technology is simply not ready for mass implementation. Rich Greens in the country may find it so, but not most people, and especially not the urban poor. Being anti-gas doesn't make wind and solar possible: It only makes coal more certain. That's the true enemy, but gas hatred enables coal by reducing supply and thus increasing the price of gas

    Shale gas needs a pragmatism from the left and greens. Purism will prove to be as successful as the rest of the NewInt agenda.

    Finally, the shale gas opposition worldwide seems as minuscule and unsuccessful as the Occupy movement is today. At least that was a good cause.

  2. #2 Dinyar Godrej 09 Dec 13

    Thank you, Nick Grealy, for taking the time to leave your response.

    My reply below follows your numbering of points, so the duplication of 4 and 5 is intentional as those are repeated in your message.

    1) We discussed Dick Cheney in a historical context, explaining how this ex-oilman paved the way for legislation which allowed fracking in the US to operate with exemptions from environmental regulation. When supporters of fracking point to the US example as a success story, they usually forget to mention how the industry was given pretty much a free hand to do what they wanted with little regard for the environmental consequences.

    2) On the water issue. We agree that, despite the large quantities used, at the moment fracking tends to exacerbate water stress in areas where there is a pre-existing shortage – such as what happened in parts of Texas. This is why it is such a bad idea to frack South Africa’s Karoo region, for example.

    But importantly wastage from water leaks in general cannot be compared to the water sequestration attempted in fracking operations. Poor water infrastructure that leads to massive wastage certainly needs fixing. However ultimately that water is not removed from the hydrological cycle nor is it polluted. With frack fluid, the goal has been to lock away this water forever underground, thus removing it from the hydrological cycle forever. This is a physical impossibility as leakages happen and water can push its way up to the groundwater line. But the pollution of this water with, in the US, a large number of unknown chemicals makes it hazardous when that happens. So the issues are: 1 trying to seal off freshwater from future consumption is a bad idea as is 2 polluting this freshwater.

    3. You claim the US ‘legal system’ will quickly discover and monetize damages. This has not happened so far, due in large part to the environmental exemptions in place and because fracking corporations have been exempt from disclosure. Furthermore, the onus is not on the companies to operate in a safe manner but on the affected communities to establish the damage. This is much harder as report after report attests to the scarcity of publicly funded officials to perform the necessary environmental checks. What US citizens who have had the misfortune to live near fracking sites have found is that the onus often rests entirely on them as private citizens to prove the damage done, they have received little assistance from the authorities. Where litigation has occurred, the preferred route has been for the company to make a settlement with the aggrieved party which involves buying their silence – so for every pay off there has been an accompanying gag clause preventing those affected from ever talking about the health effects they may have suffered.

    4. You argue for effective regulation and claim that that is up to British citizens. This assumes adequate public consultation and the willingness of politicians to listen to citizens’ voices. The fracking narrative in Britain so far has instead had ruling politicians acting as cheerleaders for the industry and disregarding dissent.

    Any well-informed person will be aware that the promise of tight regulation is also a ruse to try to impose fracking on communities that just don’t want the practice period.

    5. The reference to Gasland’s flaming taps was preceded by a reference to a study that confirmed leakage of methane from shale gas operations in drinking water wells. Our report is fully referenced.

    Further our interview with Josh Fox goes into the huge amount of funds the fossil fuel industry has expended in trying to discredit him. There was even a propaganda film posing as the trailer of his film Gasland 2 which came out before the film. There have been numerous attempts to cast doubt on the factual information Gasland presented. These have been rebutted in detail by Fox and his team in a document called ‘Affirming Gasland’ and in the film The Sky Is Pink Gasland 2 presents further evidence and rebuttals.

  3. #3 Dinyar Godrej 09 Dec 13

    4.You present the choice ‘increased truck traffic for a few weeks’ or cutting carbon for generations to come. I think you and I both know that fracking involves far more than ‘increased truck traffic for a few weeks’. As for cutting carbon for generations to come – that’s the thrust of our coverage, our recognition of the fact that in order to preserve the future of generations to come we need to cut dependence on fossil fuels (including gas). We recognize that the desire to pick the short term fix is human nature, but seriously for environmental and economic reasons we need to switch to renewables at a far faster rate and invest in fixing the current shortcomings of the technology. The huge economic crisis that looms over our planet is the end of the era of cheap fossil fuels upon which our modern economies are built – fracking will do little to change that scenario. Couple that with the environmental fallout of fossil fuel use and the message couldn’t be clearer.

    5. You talk of us cherry picking one study – please follow up the references to our coverage and you can refer to the numerous studies cited. That the Bamberger/Oswald study is the first to tackle the subject of animal health reflects another problem of studies of fracking’s effects. Truly independent studies (uninfluenced by industry funding) from the US are indeed rare – it is difficult for researchers to find the funding and often they come up against disclosure problems. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, whom you dismiss, did the difficult work of painstakingly analyzing frack fluid and finding 649 different chemicals in it. Their job would have been so much more easier if there had been proper legislation forcing disclosure. Instead they have had to do pioneering detective work in order to present information to the public on the chemicals used in fracking. I would urge readers to visit their website and read their findings for themselves:

    Now I shall respond to points that were not numbered.

    With regard to your comments on gas and oil being the property of the state in Britain. The fact remains that exploitation is a corporate affair and that gas is traded in Europe through a large interconnected market as our report pointed out – so ‘local gas for local people’ doesn’t really apply. It makes a nice rallying cry in times of rising energy prices.

    You talk about green technology being not ready for mass implementation – as long as we keep talking in those terms it never will be. The true pragmatism would be to recognize that green options are the only strategy that will work long term and then really go for them with all the support that fossil fuels have so far enjoyed. It’s not a question of ‘gas hatred’, it’s the old problem that fracking does not alter a fossil fuel scenario and all its ill effects.

    You talk about the ‘minuscule and unsuccessful’ opposition to shale gas (and we imagine fracking). Yet such efforts have brought about fracking bans. The Bulgarian ban came about through widespread and vocal public opposition. A 2012 report by a global risk consultancy identified fracking as having ‘crippling public trust deficit’ and acknowledged that site occupations are a good activist strategy because they work (see Regardless, the people braving the wintry conditions at Barton Moss are there because they believe in a public cause. More power to them, I say.

    I recognize that little of what I write will have much impact on your opinions as it’s your job ‘specializing in public perception and acceptance issues of shale energy worldwide’ (according to your website), however your objections have provided me with a chance to engage in this exchange.

    Dinyar Godrej

  4. #4 Gino Bisogni 11 Dec 13

    thank you very much indeed.

  5. #5 Phil England 12 Dec 13

    For the record Nick Grealy is on record confirming that one of his clients is the fracking firm Cuadrilla. At 18 mins 50 seconds into this interview, you'll hear him say: ’Cuadrilla is one of my clients.’

    He goes on to say, ’I've always been very open about that,’ but in fact this information is not easy to find. Besides running the pro-fracking disinformation site No Hot Air he also publishes which talks about his funding in a general way but does not name specific clients such as Cuadrilla.

    ’Hot Air is funded by a range of organisations with an interest in energy policy. Some of them will be gas and associated companies, but some of them will also be end-users, universities and a wide range of public and private enterprises throughout the word. We'll be happy to reveal them shortly, and if you'd like to join us, please drop us a line.’

    Well done Dinaj, Danny and the NI team for making sure the public has access to the facts.

  6. #7 David Callow 27 Jan 14

    Today, Chesapeake Energy, a company active in the Marcellus Shale, reports that an average well is now 5,300 feet deep. Drilling a typical well now uses between 65,000 and 600,000 gallons of water, and the ensuing fracking operation requires an average of 4.5 million gallons of fluids and hundreds of thousands of pounds of sand. (Note - an American gallon is about 4 litres).


    It is very difficult for any politician to argue against the vast amount of (video and written evidence) from the U.S. and Australia.

    1/ Contamination of water supply. Water supply is normally drawn from up to a few hundred feet below the surface whereas the fracking takes place far below this. I can't see how (uninitiated?) people can say that because of this wide separation that contamination will not take place. With the much higher pressures used in modern fracking and the fissures created, (and held open with the use of sand and chemicals) there is obviously the case that chemicals will permeate the rock formation and end up in the water supply above. If the pressures are sufficient to trigger earth tremors (movement of tectonic plates?) then the fissures must be sufficient to allow unwanted material up to the surface. Fugitive gas will also travel up through these fissures. How can gas permeate downwards?

    Water and chemicals from the fracking process are often held in open troughs on the surface which can leak into the ground. Alternatively, these chemicals can be carried away by tanker, but where will they then be dumped? Who is to say that they won't then become a problem for someone else - miles from the drilling site?

    2/ Damage to roads, noise in villages, as tranquil areas will be turned into high traffic industrial sites.

    3/ Deforestation, as roads are cut through woodland to allow the trucks to pass.

    4/ Proponents of fracking say that the use of shale gas is to cover the period until renewable energy is in a sufficiently advanced state to take over. This is rather like saying the addict won't want the drug after a while and can be put onto something better later on. We've been on fossil fuels for too long. The profiteering energy companies will fight tooth and nail to preserve their income from fossil fuels.

    I'm absolutely seething that anyone can consider the trashing of the planet in the way that this government proposes. What rights do they think that they have? Did anyone vote for them to screw up the environment in this manner?

    I would welcome anyone from the scientific community to comment on the above. Stipulation:- They mustn't be in the pocket of the energy companies - in any way!

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