Country Reflex - A Poem for America

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Frack Off

This won't be news to many of you, especially anyone living in Lancashire or other parts of the world where our insatiable desire to do fuck all about climate change means extracting as much fossil fuel from the ground as is 'feasible', regardless of the consequences.

I'm meant to be redrafting a script at the moment, so that means some procrastination is in order and it has, after all, been a while since the last post, the reason for which shall be subject to similar treatment in the not-too-distant.

Anyway, Congratulations George Monbiot! for taking a break to enjoy changing eco-friendly nappies. This is clearly my opportunity to steal Guardian readers away from his eloquent journalism and to thrust them into something up front, personal and peppered with 'bad language'.

As a then employee of our ever vigilant Environment Agency, I did ask the question as to why Cuadrilla’s fracking operation in the UK wasn't subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and questioned the extent to which the Agency provided this information for Mr Monbiot's article. I received the following reply from Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Communities on behalf of Paul Leinster, CEO:

"George Monbiot, the investigating journalist in question, was provided detailed information about the Environment Agency’s enforcement of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) 2010 in regard to Cuadrilla’s operations in the Northwest but this information was not used in his article, perhaps giving a misleading impression that we were not helpful. I do not think that the article accurately reflected our response to Mr. Monbiot’s questions nor the risks to the environment in the UK from shale gas activities more generally."

Our discussion continued with an exchange that concluded with,

"The Environment Agency’s position is that the existing EPR [Environmental Protection Regulations 2010] framework is robust for dealing with the environmental risks from exploratory shale gas activities"

before continuing that the Environment Agency were or are

"undertaking an internal review of our own regulatory powers, to ensure they are fit for purpose in the event of significant commercial development of shale gas in the UK."

In the event of? It's a foregone conclusion. Surely the point is that you either frack, or you don't frack. You either implement and follow EU Directives, such as that covering EIA, or you don't. It's a bit like the situation with regards GM crops. What profit hungry corporations, pension funds and their political cheerleaders apparently want is unrealistic, unsustainable and unfettered growth with an element of unnecessary danger thrown in for good measure.
An experiment in the field that has consequences - in the field - is not an 'experiment' in any conventional sense of the word and poses a myriad of questions, not least some overtly ethical ones around our ability to tit around trying to control things in the field that we have no proven ability to control. Like run away climate change if we continue doing frack all about our ridiculous energy 'market' and addiction to fossil fuels, or earthquakes and damage to aquifers from getting the stuff out of the ground.

Besides the crap civil servants come out with in justifying various 'positions', the real tragedy is that we're experimenting with a process that should, even at an 'exploratory' stage, be subject to EIA regulations simply because the impact is, with the exception of scale, the same as a commercial operation. The activity is the same. The process is the fracking same. If anything there should be more controls on exploratory activity because that is a known unknown, to borrow a stupid phrase from Dickhead Cheney. We're fracking exploring . . let's see what happens when we do this etc etc. Of course, when looking for fossil fuels, anything apparently goes. From Shetland to Blackpool - it's the wild fracking west.

We can't or at least shouldn't be looking at this on a quantitative basis. Fracking is fracking, GM crops in the environment are GM crops in the environment. Risky deep sea drilling off the coast of Shetland is precisely that. Risky. We will never be able to adequately regulate our own stupidity, precisely because we are stupid.

It's about time our civil servants actually did their fracking jobs and stopped waffling shit, although I suspect that would be equally unrealistic.

Next week . . . news on the Thames Tideway Tunnel, London's forthcoming multi-billion pound shit shoot - foreign owned water companies, drought, snow and urban air pollution. Just kidding, I probably won't post anything for a few weeks now.

Happy Easter.

PS I noticed Mark's & Spencer advertising not just any pig, but an 'Easter Pig' . . . WTFrack. Easter is all about rabbits, chickens and lamb curry. Jesus and Mohammed would be genuinely disgusted, although it wasn't a real pig so maybe not that disgusted. Come on folks, it's Easter - buy more shit you don't need! Forget about your pay freeze and new tax code, unless of course you're very rich or very poor. Has the coalition gone all zen on wealth redistribution? Is your leader a useless moron with a fake penchant for pasty? Is your Jerry can ablaze because the Tories told you to do it? It's time to vote off, The Weakest Link.

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