Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Red tape as a weapon | Main | Once more unto the breach »
Wednesday
Nov272013

Ridley et al on shale

Matt Ridley, Nick Grealy of No Hot Air blog and filmmaker Phelim MacAleer were the latest witnesses to appear before the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into shale gas.

To tell the truth it was not particularly exciting and most of the arguments made will be familiar to readers at BH.

There was one rather interesting exchange (from about 16:15) when Phelim MacAleer described the green objectors to fracking as liars. Shortly afterwards he clarified this statement to make it clear that he was referring to the environmentalists rather than local residents in, say, Balcombe. This was followed by an objection from Lord May who, despite MacAleer's statement to the contrary a few moments earlier, accused him of calling local residents liars and suggested that this was a bit rich from someone who was representing companies like Cuadrilla, who had been found by the Advertising Standards Agency to have breached the Advertising Code.

I must say that Lord May's being able to quote the specific findings of the ASA suggests that this was a deliberate attempt to undermine a witness. This would be entirely consistent with his earlier contributions to the hearing and thus not a surprise.

If you look at the ASA findings, you discover that the ASA objected to Cuadrilla saying:

The Government's own review ... also concluded that it was safe to resume hydraulic fracturing [in the Bowland basin] ...It too set out safeguards ... and no prospect of any resulting damage.

They felt this was misleading because the government had recommended a cautious approach to be adopted when hydraulic fracturing was restarted, and the use of more sensitive seismic equipment, among other things.

Shocking stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

That Lord May would contemplate comparing this sort of trivia to, say, Josh Fox's flaming faucets or pretty much anything coming out of Friends of the Earth is pretty surprising. That he would imply that it is worse almost defies belief.

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (65)

The following from Wikipedia (health warning) may explain May's behaviour

Although an atheist since age 11, May has stated that religion may help society deal with climate change. While referring to what he believes to be a rigid structure of fundamentalist religion, he stated that the co-operational aspects of non-fundamentalist religion may in fact help with climate change. When asked if religious leaders should be doing more to persuade people to combat climate change, he stated that it was absolutely necessary.

He also appears to be a trustee of WWF-UK.

Nov 27, 2013 at 7:19 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

ABC's Robyn Williams interviewed Lord May on his Science Show programme a couple of years ago:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/australian-scientific-superstars-no1---robert-may/3745700#transcript

Here's part of the transcript:

Robyn Williams: So what do you make of someone like Lord Lawson, with whom you sit in the House of Lords, who has for many, many years, having been Chancellor of the Exchequer, a brilliant man, but nonetheless talks about climate change consistently over the years as if it is highly questionable. What you say to him?

Robert May: And particularly amazing more recently is Andrew Turnbull, who I always thought of as a very sensible person. He was the Cabinet Secretary, a civil servant, not a politician. So his career was taking advice from people who knew more about it than him, and he is right up there as a denier. Polly Toynbee wrote an extraordinarily cruel thing about him.

I do find it puzzling, but I do have one perhaps unsound potential explanation. These people are all economists, and more recently I've come to learn a little bit more about economics and I realise it is very largely (and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way, it's just a statement), it is largely faith-based. It doesn't have much in the way of testable hypotheses and things. It does have things in the way of simple models but they tend to be grounded on beliefs, and the discussions they have would have been a more familiar in Socrates' Athens than in today's scientific colloquium.

And so I have some sympathy that just as you may believe in perfect markets or general equilibrium or hidden hands, you could have a belief that the climate can't do that. That is a charitable explanation. There are less charitable ones, that it ultimately derives from other kinds of motives.

Robyn Williams: So what happens when you go into the bar, in your case drinking orange juice, and talk to people like Lawson and talk to people who have been critical of what you know is the effective science? What do you say to them?

Robert May: Nigel Lawson is a very nice and interesting person to talk to about other things, he really is, he is a very bright person, and there is no sort of animus there as I see it, despite the fact that he can say very unkind things in a very graceful and forceful way. What do I say? I simply try to explain to people that here are the facts upon which this is based, here is a community that surely you can't believe you've got 10,000 or more people signed up to some secret pledge to misrepresent the evidence, that essentially 99% of the people who work in the subject recognise uncertainties about timescales and other details but have unanimity in that putting a million years worth of fossil fuel carbon back into the atmosphere each year is thickening the greenhouse gas blanket and is going to make a difference, and you should listen to them.

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

I do not know if it is that I am living in France, but the video just flashes on the screen then there is a blank space.

I am using Mozilla-firefox

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

Alex, I think May's words could (should) have been:

I do find it puzzling, but I do have one perhaps unsound potential explanation. These people are all climatologists, and more recently I've come to learn a little bit more about climate science and I realise it is very largely (and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way, it's just a statement), it is largely faith-based. It doesn't have much in the way of testable hypotheses and things. It does have things in the way of simple models but they tend to be grounded on beliefs, and the discussions they have would have been a more familiar in Socrates' Athens than in today's scientific colloquium.

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:16 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@Phillip Bratby

That neatly skewers him!

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

putting a million years worth of fossil fuel carbon back into the atmosphere each year is thickening the greenhouse gas blanket
That's a scientist talking? No wonder we're in the mess we are in.

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:12 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

IIRC, in an earlier hearing, May said he thought that we were going to have to do shale. His antics are confusing.

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:14 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Why should we expect a Green Zealot like May to be logical!

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Mike Jackson: I think May gave up any claims to being a scientist shortly after graduating.

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"thickening the greenhouse gas blanket"

Has he the slightest idea how thick it is right now (0.04%)? I wish someone had asked him!

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

If CO2 is such an effective GHG, why does the temperature plummet at night when there is a clear sky and not when there is a cloudy sky? Could it be that the effectiveness of CO2 as a GHG is vastly over-rated? Could it be that the water in the atmosphere could be having a greater influence than the CO2? Would those hypotheses stand in climatrologist* circles?


* Astronomist: a person who derives conclusions on the basis of repeated, repeatable observations;
Astrologist: a person who derives conclusions on the basis of arcane, unverifiable models.

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Thw ASA objected to seven statements from CRL, including that the claim: 10. "We also know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer" and "There is 'no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing'", was misleading.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Is this the same Lord May who claimed in the House of Lords that CRU had been bombarded with FOI requests? Surely not...

Nov 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Bob May is a fine scientist and an eminent man. He is also (like Beddington et al) a modeller. Maybe that's the real foundation of his belief in AGW.

Nov 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim

Chandra

Did the ASA cite any evidence of contamination?

Nov 27, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Bishop you know well that the ASA is not a scientific body. Its job is to judge whether advertisements are misleading. CRL apparently chose to defend its statement by admitting that (quoting from your link) "poor well design and/or construction could result in aquifer contamination", but claiming that fracking itself was not to blame. The latter may or may not be true (I certainly can't judge, and without meaning to offend, I doubt you can either) but it is typically deceptive, trying to separate one part of the process from another. If CRL drilled a simple hole and fracked, they would, apart from not applying pressure where it was intended to go, almost certainly inject into the aquifer. In other words, the design and construction of the well and its casings are an integral part of the whole process. CRL know that yet chose to deceive the public by pretending it was not the case. For that reason it was misleading.

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

This from Roger Harrabin, BBC environmental correspondent:

"I remember Lord May leaning over and assuring me: "I am the President of the Royal Society, and I am telling you the debate on climate change is over."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10178454

No true scientist could ever say that any aspect whatsoever of science could be considered to be beyond debate - especially a branch as new and as complex as climate science, so whatever May is, he is no scientist.

Perhaps May was a genuine scientist once, but when he became a politician he divested himself of all his critical faculties, and worse, his scruples.

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCatweazle

If CRL drilled a simple hole and fracked, they would, apart from not applying pressure where it was intended to go, almost certainly inject into the aquifer.
WTF does that mean? Apart from that you have been caught out flannelling yet again.
Why would anyone just wander out into the nearest field and drill any old hole and then frack it? Are you suggesting that Cuadrilla just go around drilling holes at random for the fun of it?
And where in God's good earth is your evidence that they would "almost certainly inject into the aquifer"? How do you know this? Have you even the slightest inkling of what you are talking about?
Sheesh!

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

May gives a beautiful Straw Man in the ABD transcript above, talking about climate scientists. A classic of it's kind he even crams a false dichotomy in there as well.

"...surely you can't believe you've got 10,000 or more people signed up to some secret pledge to misrepresent the evidence..."

That would be a 'No'.

So, conspiracy is the only option? How about 10,000 people believing in something that turns out not to be true? That's never happened before, has it?

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

@Phillip Bratby

I disagree only on the "simple model" stuff. Climate model are not "simple model" like in economics. That's why economist are better than climatologists. We know that's it's more cost-effective to build a simple model that doesn't work (sometime !).
And of course we know a lot about non-experimental and politicized science.

Nov 27, 2013 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicias

Chandra
I don't know about you, but I would have thought a ruling on a claim that there is "no evidence of water contamination" might at least discuss the existence or otherwise of evidence.

Nov 27, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I don't know where your quote ("no evidence of water contamination") originates. The nearest I can find is number 10: "There is 'no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing", to which the report says, "10. CRL said poor well design and/or construction could result in aquifer contamination...". So CRL themselves are admitting that aquifers could become contaminated - why do you think further evidence is needed? As I said, anyone complaining that fracking itself doesn't do the damage, but that it is the bad well design etc is being highly disingenuous. The ASA can and should prevent such misleading statements.

Nov 27, 2013 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

just to point out that saying that Daleks could invade the earth is not really the same as saying that Daleks will invade the Earth, and have invaded the Earth...but as long as Chandra is happy in his inability to understand English...

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"poor well design and/or construction could result in aquifer contamination"

Of course. Just like poor building design and/or construction could lead to collapses, and so on (and has done). There is an infinite number of theoretically possible outcomes in any operation. It's not misleading to state that it hasn't happened if it hasn't happened - even if its theoretically possible.

By the way, drilling wells poorly has definitely caused aquifer contamination at times, and relatively often - drilling water wells, that is.

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Chandra (Nov 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM):

“There is ‘no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing’”, was misleading.

Is there evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing?

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

So CRL themselves are admitting that aquifers could become contaminated - why do you think further evidence is needed? (my emphasis)

This is rather a different thing than "evidence that aquifers have been contaminated" isn't it, though? Further, since the argument seems to be about "fracking" as separate from conventional drilling, Cuadrilla is entirely correct to distinguish between contamination due to fracking and contamination from poor well design, since that is equally likely to be a problem in any well. Of course, since conventional gas exploration is a familiar technology, it is harder to scare people with it, thereby lessening its value to the protesters.

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

The reason Matt Ridley, Nick Grealy and Phelim MacAleer were asked to give evidence is to make anyone who supports fracking look ridiculous. [Snip]
Who are you going to believe

Robert McCredie May, Baron May of Oxford, OM, AC, FRS, FAA, FTSE, FRSN, HonFAIB (born 8 January 1938) is an Australian scientist who has been Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, President of the Royal Society,[1] and a Professor at Sydney and Princeton. He now holds joint professorships at Oxford and Imperial College London.

or

In May, Al Gore became the third person in history to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tennessee.[25] McAleer attended a protest of the ceremony.[26] Around 100 people attended the protest, including people from CFACT, the Knoxville Tea Party, and the Tennessee Liberty Alliance.[27] During the protest, McAleer dressed up as a polar bear, asking Gore to debate him; he also hired a plane to fly around the ceremony with a banner that read, "Mr. Gore, why are you sending jobs to China?"

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

RR
I'm as puzzled as you are by the ASA's definition of 'misleading'.
If there is no evidence of aquifer contamination by fracking I fail to see how stating that in those terms can be said to be misleading.
Unless of course you believe that a propaganda film that has been acknowledged even by its maker to contain a number of (deliberately) misleading statements comprises 'evidence'.
But then I suppose if computer model output can be called evidence then just about anything can.

Nov 27, 2013 at 7:08 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

You have a point there, Mike.

What is also puzzling is the sudden silence when asked to provide something positive from someone usually so vociferous when talking in the negative.

Maybe outright propaganda films hold more sway with the naysayers and the PTB than anything remotely scientifically valid, such as… well, evidence. Think of the money that could be saved in court fees is all accused could be tried in such manner.

Nov 27, 2013 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

A non-misleading statement would have been, "We also know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer if the project is well designed, the well is properly constructed, the regulations are adhered to, the inspectors spot and correct any lapses before they cause trouble, no accidents or unforeseen events occur that disrupt or damage the well, and if the geology of the underlying rock structures are what we expect". But they forgot the caveats, as so their statement was misleading.

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Chandra: No. You are wriggling. You stated ““There is ‘no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing’”, was misleading.

I asked: “ Is there evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing?

A simple enough question asking you to clarify why the statement that there is ‘no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing’ is misleading by giving an example when there had been aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Now, answer my question.

Nov 27, 2013 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Chandra - You forgot the qualification about no nuclear explosions during drilling...

Seriously, there have been tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of fracked wells drilled in the US over the last 50 years or so. Even with the inevitable screwups, corner cutting, and lack of oversight and regulation that have inevitably occurred, there hasn't been aquifer contamination. This is not a new technology.

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

maybe Chandra will participate in the Barton Moss protest and we will no longer have to read his witless writings

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

RR, I don't have to wriggle. CRL made disingenuous statements and the ASA called them out. Read about it in the link at the top of the post and in my comments above. It is quite clear. Even the Bishop has accepted it.

Curt, with a well failure rate of, from memory, around 10% in the first year, there's no way any fracker can claim any sort of proven safety. Hence my statement, "no accidents or unforeseen events occur that disrupt or damage the well", above.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

There is said to be no evidence of aquifer contamination after thousands of shale gas wells. If that is true, then it's reasonable to state in the present tense that "We also know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer" .

There should be no need for disclaimers about "provided the sky doesn't fall during drilling" or whatever. It appears the ASA has simply been used as a tool by campaigners, whose own propaganda shows they care nothing for truth in advertising.

Nor I suspect, do they care about "fracking" which they plainly knew nothing about until the risible "Gasland" propaganda film. It seems to me that they simply are against any visible manifestation of hydrocarbon extraction and don't care what it takes to stop it.

"Fracking" is just the latest tag to hang their campaigns on, a scary "new" word that the general public hadn't heard before, so vulnerable to any accusation laid at its door. Much more convenient than familiar terms like "drilling".

I say "visible" because they're clearly happy to consume the power, products and convenience produced by hydrocarbons - as long as it's done somewhere like China that they can't see.

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

I say "visible" because they're clearly happy to consume the power, products and convenience produced by hydrocarbons - as long as it's done somewhere like China that they can't see.
No, that can't be right, kellydown. Chandra has already told us that it's the fossil-fuel junkies like you and me that drive cars and use electricity and modern synthetic medicines and computers and clothes that are the ones who don't care about all these Chinese peasants.
From what he said he can't possibly have meant all those eco-warriors on the side of truth and beauty (and starvation, disease and poverty, but he forgot to mention that bit).

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Chandra (Nov 28, 2013 at 12:57 AM): be that as may be, will you answer the question – is there any evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing?

As a supplement, if there is evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing, in what form does this take?

I suspect you are going to sit back in your smugness, knowing that you are expecting us to fall for the fact that you are imposing totally unrealistic expectations upon the hydraulic fracturing industry: should any industry have such constraints as you wish to impose, it would not be possible to continue, humans being prone to their various failings. I have little doubt that there are many historical examples of other industries contaminating the aquifer; those involved with hydraulic fracturing are aware of the risks, and have demonstrated that they have taken precautions to ameliorate the problem. Now, as hydraulic fracturing has been performed for many decades in this country, let alone the USA, you must have some examples you can throw at us. To repeat my question: is there any evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing?

Please answer it with “Yes” or “No”, and we will take it from there.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR
Don't be ridiculous.
Chandra's vocabulary doesn't include 'yes' and 'no'.

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

RR, yes of course. There's been enough reports about contamination to conclude that there's no smoke without fire.

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

DNFTT

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:05 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Thank you, Chandra.

So, now answer my supplementary question: if there is evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing, in what form does this take? Cite the evidence – in other words, tell us the sources of your information, rather than an airy-fairy, “There’s been enough reports…”; tell us what reports, and by whom. You say, “...there's no smoke without fire...” yet I can see no smoke, but I do see a lot of people running around shouting “Fire!” This is what is known, in more enlightened circles, as scare-mongering; creating a fear when there is little to be fearful of.

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

There's been enough reports about contamination to conclude that there's no smoke without fire.

Pretty much sums up the public view, I fear.

A propaganda victory for the activists.

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

So, they are pretty much admitting that they are generating smoke - like that shonky Scottish journalist/FOE member upthread - and then triumphantly shrieking "there's no smoke without fire!"

So much for the scientific method.

Nov 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

RR, everyone knows wells leak. The industry knows it, the regulators know and anyone who has taken an interest in the subject knows it. (Ok, maybe the Bishop and his boys don't know it). Eventual failure rates are quite high and initial failure rates are around 10%. When you find out that this is not fiction but fact, you'll have to ask yourself where does a leak through failed casing, cementing, etc, go? Does it just disappear into nothingness? (perhaps it joins all the CO2 we emit that people like Salby think just disappears. Maybe when we find it, we'll also find all the lost Biros and odd socks).

Nov 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Post-normal scientific method, johanna!

Nov 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Good point, Mike. Although, I notice that it has faded out of view lately as even compliant scientists have found the concept of ignoring every established principle of science a bit too hard to swallow. They keep doing it, but have shed the label.

Nov 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Chandra, everybody knew that the Moon was made of blue cheese; everybody knew that Piltdown Man was the missing link. Just because everybody knows something does not make it a fact. So, where is the evidence that I asked for? Based upon your assurance that it is so, there has to be some report located in some paper with evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing with which you can back up your assertion. Please tell us where to look.

Nov 28, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

So according to the Bishop's boys, wells don't leak. Hey, you lot are more accomplished deniers than I thought.

Nov 28, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Hmmm. Curious conclusion to leap to, Chandra. No-one has made any statement that “wells don’t leak.” As most of the “deniers” that you so gleefully mock on here deny nothing, but can respond with hard facts to most of your claims, it is a very strange conclusion. All that I ask is what evidence is there of aquifer contamination by hydraulic fracturing? You are wriggling again. Please give a sensible answer to my last question: if there is evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing, in what form does this take?

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

So you know they leak but without help from me you can't figure out where the leaked liquids and gasses go. You are a bit lacking in the imagination department I think...

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>