Protecting Nature From The Greed Of Tories

The Liberal Democrats current policy on fracking is to offer cautious support with the proviso that strict regulations are enforced to protect the environment. The argument that prevailed in 2013 was that the regulations were strict and could be effective, and that fracked gas has lower emissions than the LPG we are importing from the Middle East. This may or may not be true, but it misses the point.

Two points, in fact.

The first is that the regulations were already weak as a result of the split responsibilities between agencies, and are being made rapidly weaker by the new Tory government.

In February 2015, as the Infrastructure Act passed through Parliament, Amber Rudd, then energy minister, promised an outright ban on fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), World Heritage Sites and the Broads. It’s now clear that this was simply a lie, and starting with SSSIs, protections are being removed.

Today (Tuesday 27th at 2:30pm) the little-known Second Delegated Legislation committee will be considering the regulation of fracking, defining ‘Protected Areas’ in such a way as to strip the intended protections for SSSIs and weakening protections for the other designations. I urge our MPs to attend this meeting and speak up for our values.

In the long run, however, there will clearly not be effective regulation of fracking while the moral compass of Conservatives remains so far out of whack. Therefore by our own existing policy, we should be opposing the practice unequivocally.

The second point is that we simply cannot afford to burn this fossil carbon. All the science is pointing towards our time remaining to avoid dangerous climate change running out. We have to reduce emissions now. The need for gas must be rapidly and effectively eliminated, by fixing the flaws introduced into the Green Deal by the Tories, by investing heavily in boiler replacements, and by making electricity cheaper and cheaper with onshore wind and solar coupled to effective storage systems.

The Green Liberal Democrats are going to submit, via delegates, a motion to encourage a Leave it in the Ground policy, at the Spring 2016 conference. Please express your support for this idea here:

* Simon Oliver is the chair of Green Liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Neil Sandison 27th Oct '15 - 1:26pm

    good article agree tories are trying to manipulate planning system in favour of fracking .This needs to be challenged or should the tories insist upon it then local authorities should refuse on the basis of a lack of supporting evidence within a 16 week period .As an experienced planning councillor I know most applicants could not bring forward an application that provided full evidence of ecological,l or hydrological supporting evidence in such a short time span most biodiversity evidence requires surveys over different seasons which is why on average a most major applications can take up to 18 months before full planning permission can be granted .let alone the work required by the environment agency that will follow.

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Oct '15 - 2:59pm

    For new build, at least, the probable optimum heating approach would be air/water source heat pump, combined with a lot of solar thermal and very large storage tanks. And lots of insulation. We would need far less energy for space heating if we stopped our homes leaking it.

    Micro CHP may have some benefits, but I suspect rests on a misunderstanding of the reason for “waste heat” in electricity generation. You can’t lose the heat, what happens is that it goes from high to low temperature and in the process generates electricity – and becomes more or less useless for space heating. Carnot efficiency.

    Leave it in the ground. Yes,

  • What science says that time is running out? How can wind and solar ever be cheap? Effective storage systems do not exist.

  • Simon, I’ve managed dozens of post docs over the years and I recognise invalid simulation model output when I see it.

  • Neil Sandison 28th Oct '15 - 10:15am

    What would add weight to your motion would be the support of the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts suggest you send then a draft for comment .Can we get a peer or an MP to hold a debate with the minister in Westminster Hall ?.Can it go viral through 38 degrees ?
    Motions to conference make us feel good but we also need engage with the public outside of the Westminster bubble.

  • No way can I master the technical arguments, but it seems to me that the worries about contaminating the water table are huge in comparison to the benefits. If the argument is primarily about the safety of the technology and there is doubt, why not wait till either experience in other countries or technological advances can reassure us? Yes, there’s justified concern about the energy gap, but in that case why slash support for clean energy and energy-saving measures?

  • Jenny Barnes 28th Oct '15 - 12:27pm

    CHP etc. See et seq and particularly pp 148-151. I like McKay’s analysis.

    On the hydrogen front my understanding is that the most economical way to produce it is from fossil fuels (95% or so is currently produced this way) which of course generates CO2. Would it be the best storage solution for excess renewable production? I’m not sure. I think there’s a case for turning high demand things on and off as part of the balancing act (freezers could stay off for an hour or so without problem, for example) Pumped storage, like Dinorwic, grid scale batteries, and long haul HVDC lines to even out electricity production and consumption will probably all play a part,

    I suspect the fracking enthusiasts in the government are thinking about 1) the North Sea Oil boom and what that did to the economy under Thatcher and 2) the low price of gas in the US.
    I think it’s most unlikely that fracked UK gas will generate a fossil fuel boom. It might, but at the cost of climate change objectives which 3) they don’t believe in.
    The US experience has been of gas colocated with oil. The frackers there are after the oil, and they’ll sell the gas for whatever they can get, and they have to sell it in the US market because gas export from the US is not allowed. So the price goes as low as it needs to. Neither of these conditions apply to the UK, and as we are linked to the European gas grid, any gas we produce will be at european market price – which is held down by the Gazprom deliveries.

  • Simon Banks
    >”If the argument is primarily about the safety of the technology and there is doubt, why not wait till either experience in other countries or technological advances can reassure us?”

    One of the big differences between Britain and other countries is our geology is much more faulted, so whilst waiting might allow time for technology to mature, it still won’t answer questions about the safety of it’s usage here.

    >”there’s justified concern about the energy gap”
    Well all the evidence is that fracking will deliver very little with respect to filling the energy gap; if we are lucky it will contribute 1~2% of our annual fossil fuel consumption for a couple of decades. The real driver is economic opportunism and activity: The industry is projected to be large enough to deliver some reasonable numbers with respect to jobs, investment, earnings and tax revenues. This combined with it being a ‘known’ business proposition means both businessmen and governments are keen to get in on it.
    However, if we are serious about closing the energy gap with non-carbon fuels then we need to get serious about new nuclear and start structuring deals that favour British rather than foreign interests.

  • Jenny Barnes – re: economics of alternative energy forms

    A lot of our current thinking is distorted by the availability of plentiful and cheap fossil fuels. In thinking about the economics of our future fuels, I suggest we need to think differently. Hence why in the past I’ve suggested such things as using wind turbines to produce ammonia, a primary feedstock for fertilizer, as being a better use of the intermittent electricity they produce than connecting them to the grid. Similarly, once you have installed solar thermal and voltaic you find that there are times where you now have a surplus of energy looking for a use…

  • Jenny barnes 28th Oct '15 - 8:01pm

    Wind turbines and ammonia / nitrate fertilizer. I’d forgotten about this demand for electric power. I agree it’s a good use for surplus.

  • @Simon Oliver – Not being able to read the paper, or have time yet to watch the seminar on the work ( ), I’m not sure if the work actually demonstrates that condensing boilers, like cars :-O actually live up to their laboratory test results.

    Certainly, I can fully accept that where you have a long and large legacy of products, encouraging their update to more modern versions that there will be a substantial net positive benefit; we saw this with the car scrappage scheme to quote a recent example. However, in the 1980’s when Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) was being promoted, it was (rapidly) discovered that for the vast majority of British manufacturing industry, just the application of the disciplines of Materials Resource Planning (MRP/MRP I) gave sufficiently significant benefits and with the change in mindset required, it was a step far enough. In following year’s companies were revisited and sold MRP II, MRP III and then ERP, each one giving an incremental improvement on what has gone before; however none of these were as big as the initial adoption of MRP, because that was the one that largely got rid of the legacy.

    Hence, I wonder whether if the study is merely showing that replacing a large legacy installed base with current non-condensing boiler technology (rather than at the time expensive leading edge boiler technology) gives benefits. Remember in 2005 the typical modern non-condensing boiler was 75~80% efficient, a condensing boiler typically 85~92%, with the best legacy boilers struggling to achieve 65% efficiency.

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