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« Efficiency gains in the Marcellus | Main | Head of SSE on the energy crunch »

Fracking in Sussex

The BBC's World This Weekend programme yesterday looked at the prospects for Cuadrilla's plans for frack for shale oil in the leafy south-east of England. This was a pretty balanced piece, with the prospect of the lights going out repeatedly raised as an important factor in the decision-making process. I think it's probably significant that this prospect is no longer considered eccentric or controversial but a real and present danger.

The magazine piece is followed by an interview with the man in charge of this shambles, Ed Davey, whose "answers" to questions are the epitome of vacuity. Towards the end, however, one does sense that the penny may be starting to drop.

The audio is attached below.

World This Weekend on Fracking

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    - Bishop Hill blog - Fracking in Sussex

Reader Comments (31)

We were driving home from Milton Keynes when I turned on the radio as this was being broadcast. By the time I arrived home my wife knew all about Callendar (and the lead up to the start of the 'theory', some facts on fracking, some more on Davey and I had a headache. She kept saying 'calm down, dear'.

I was fuming and she was panicking.

May 13, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Registered CommenterGrumpyDenier

I've scanned through the mp3, but it appears to jump from an interview on Pakitstan, to the interviewer thanking Ed Davey, and then onto another item. Have you posted the clip with the interview cut out, rather than the cut out interview?

[Whoops - yes indeed. Fixed now. Thanks]

May 13, 2013 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad


I found this link worked better

Segment starts at 10:30

Interesting that Davey positions it as 'low carbon for the future', gas for an interim period. (My paraphrase)

'Interim' is a wonderfully open-ended concept and time-unlimited concept n'est-cs pas?

And to the greenies he really just says 'were not going to let the drillers do anything really silly'...which is fine and dandy with me.

May 13, 2013 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterLatimer Alder

For those unaware, and FWIW, Lord Patten has said that shale gas offers the potential to transform the UK`s energy situation.

Last night BBC2/HD broadcast two programmes about Professor Richard Feynman. The first was a fact based drama, The Challenger. This was about his involvement as a member of the Commission set up to investigate the causes of the Challenger space shuttle disaster and his battle with the vested interests that wanted to cover them up. The second was a profile, The Fantastic Mr Feynman. Both worth watching.

The latter included the great clip about creating a new law of science (I first came across here when posted by our host - first make a guess, then compute the consequences, third compare the computed consequences with nature/experiments/observation, if they disagree with the guess then the proposed law is wrong.

May 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

I'm sure that the denizens of Balcombe, many of whom commute to well-paid jobs in the City, would be amongst the first to complain when the wind doesn't blow over the North and the lights go out in the South.

May 13, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM


'FWIW, Lord Patten has said that shale gas offers the potential to transform the UK`s energy situation.'

Are you sure you mean Fat Pang?. Smug well-rounded BBC guy?

I'm not sure that his views on energy will be much heeded.........Calories, perhaps..but not Joules.....

May 13, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterLatimer Alder

"...The magazine piece is followed by an interview with the man in charge of this shambles, Ed Davey, whose "answers" to questions are the epitome of vacuity. Towards the end, however, one does sense that the penny may be starting to drop...."

I don't think it's a penny dropping.

Politicians have a vast amount of political capital invested in 'environmentalism'. It's Cameron's main differentiator - he was going to be the 'Greenest Government Ever!". privately, I'm sure that they all realise that they are leading us to disaster - but how can they get up and say that they were wrong?

May 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

On fracking, I don't think we can be at all complacent about the message getting through. Amongst my acquaintances it isn't. I'm constantly being asked by friends and family (who are aware that I'm interested in science and energy policy), “Shouldn't we be worried about fracking?" Many of them seem to believe it's very dangerous.

Even this morning a very intelligent woman (non-lefty) I know posted on Facebook that she had heard fracking was about to start in her county and was really really worried.

The Greens are getting their propaganda out there.

Old timer,

That Feynman clip on her way law of science is discovered is beautiful. He manages to express in three or four sentences something that Paul Nurse and the entire upper echelons of the Royal Society seem to have forgotten. Very sad.

May 13, 2013 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I thought I was being paranoid when listening to the news before the item it mentioned the devastating earthquake in China that killed thousands five years ago, but the report from Balcombe would have given a misleading impression to anybody who knew little about fracking. Visions of oil fields, nodding donkeys, derricks etc. No explanation or account of what the surface appearance would be apart from the Cuadrilla chap saying the exploration was only a couple of hectares.

May 13, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle


They are asking you the opportunity to put them right. In sales we viewed this as good news, not bad.

You should be really worried if they don't even ask.

May 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Registered CommenterLatimer Alder

The behaviour of the Royal Society concerning 'Green matters' might be considered odd for a science organisation until one realises that it has been taken over by a group which has been abusing science initially as Marxist propaganda, now developing into fascism and eugenics.

This has been developing for ~40 years. The recruitment last year of Eugenicist Paul Erlich as a Fellow has completed the task. Erlich, whose colleague John Holdren is Obama's chief Scientist, has reportedly in the past proposed poisoning water supplies with contraceptive hormones, the antidote only being available to the elite. Nurse is reportedly the past President of the Galton institute, until 1989 called the Eugenics' Society.

[BH Update 11/11/13 The claim re Nurse appears to be false]

May 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

At least the BBC is only mildly sneering. The "despoiling" argument is great isn't it? How about planting a few windfarms there? They're lovely.

Don't frack in my backyard.
Don't windfarm in my village.
Don't build that hydrocarbon power plant on my allotment.
Don't import hydrocarbons.

I think I almost understand the Brit phrase "they're all mad".

May 13, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

Also on the Feynman programme was Freeman Dyson a couple of times. Feynman gave another great quote, but I can't remember what it was. I'll have to watch it again.

May 13, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

My heroes growing up were Feynman, Dyson, Sagan and then later Dawkins and Stephen J Gould.

It always infuriates me when those I know who fervently believe in homoeopathy and are against GM foods tell me I am 'anti-science'.

May 13, 2013 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Ed Davey's demeanor is that of a man trying not to upset anyone too much and hoping to be moved on to another post before any of the consequences arrive.

Straight out of "The Thick of It".

May 13, 2013 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Considering that Fracking has been carried out since the 60's one would have thought that all the devils would have been buried and the process started years ago. If it had we would not be short of energy now.

May 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

@john marshall

'Considering that Fracking has been carried out since the 60's one would have thought that all the devils would have been buried and the process started years ago'

Yep. But the green lobby always need to have some 'cause' to rally their new generation of youthful 'idealistic' troops behind.

And right now 'fracking' is the current bogeyman. Ten years ago it was the passe (C)AGW, GM foods and Animal Rights. Who knows what it'll be in another ten?

But I do think fracking is one of the least clever causes to rally against. It ain't 'fluffy'..and it's very hard to get too excited over 'earthquakes' that nobody ever felt.

May 13, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Directing people concerned about fracking to the FrackNation videos is usually a good way of dispelling the myths.

May 13, 2013 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

I enjoyed the Feynman prog - and this

May 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterFilbert Cobb

About the fracking/earthquakes thing...
Surely burying gas at high pressure underground (CCS) has a FAR greater potential to cause earthquakes..?

May 13, 2013 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

10:12 AM | Dodgy Geezer
For three years I have been telling my (Cons) MP that the facts have been coming out against AGW and suggesting that he get his party to row back from an increasingly untenable position to the safe shores of reason.
For three years I have had responses conforming to the Westminster line, backed by the cr#p from the DECC.
Now UKIP hold that territory it is no longer available to the lib/lab/con pact without a total loss of face.
It would be better for them to grasp that nettle now rather than stay aboard for two more years of cooling towards the general election.
Nigel Farage must be laughing his socks off on all fronts at the present antics of the centralist triumvirate as the Westminster epidemic "waxy finger syndrome" continues unabated.

May 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterroger

@Sherlock: the pressure of liquid CO2 is ~105 Bar or ~3,000 feet of seawater. The pressures used in fraccing are a function of depth but they must be at least the ratio of the density of rock to that of water, multiplied by the depth ratio. This is before you start cracking the rock.

So, 6,000 feet for 4 g/cc = 8x105 = 840 Bar, 0.84 MPa, 12,180 psi. To crack the rock you need the Von Mises octohedral shear stress. I don't know what this is but a comparison would be the Earthquake off Japan last year where 20,000 Bar was estimated for 20 km depth. Let's say 1,500 Bar, 21,750 psi.

You get this from precision engineered reciprocating pumps. Very expensive.

May 13, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Who was that silly schoolboy that they interviewed towards the end?

The one who thinks that "For the first time we [the UK] have a coherent energy policy." and that "coal ... is the biggest threat to climate change."

May 13, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Can anyone recall a BBC programme similarly alarmed at the prospect of a windfarm blighting a village or rural area?

May 13, 2013 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

Davey is the classic illustration of the Peter Principle ... a LibDim lightweight promoted so far beyond his abilities it ain't even funny.

Wikepedia tells us that "On 22 September 2012, Edward Jonathan Davey was reported as preparing his own challenge for party leadership in the event of Nick Clegg being deposed".

Har Har Har

May 13, 2013 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM


Don't laugh.

It could happen.

May 13, 2013 at 6:18 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

@ Martin A

"It could happen"

Only in some parallel dimension where the country was being run by bipedal liquorice allsorts, surely?

I refuse to believe that the UK's political future is that buggered, just because some of these people are too proundly thick to realize that their inifinite self-belief is about as misplaced as an ice cube in a smelting plant.

Or maybe you're right ... whch is as good an excuse to head for the pub as any I have ever heard!

May 13, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

May 13, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Latimer Alder

But I do think fracking is one of the least clever causes to rally against. It ain't 'fluffy'..and it's very hard to get too excited over 'earthquakes' that nobody ever felt.

Largely ignored in Iceland but how do think the following little fracking episode would go down in DaveyLand? Cue smelling salts ...

May 13, 2013 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

At a funeral on Friday I was talking to an engineer who used to work for RR. He pointed me towards the Trent 60 based combined heat and power station: 70% efficiency.


Quick and cheap to build, connect to fracked gas and you're on the political gravy train for life. No wonder Davey sounds vague.

Where's the BGS report?


May 13, 2013 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

@ Latimer Adler
I am sure that Lord Patten said it or words to that effect because I heard him say them- at the Oxford alumni meeting last September in his address as Chancellor.

May 13, 2013 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Julian F; If it is overall efficiency that you are after, take a look at the big 2-stroke diesels used for CHP in Denmark and around the world. They get up to the mid-90s %.
They are derived from huge marine diesels: Wartsila and Man are the leaders in Europe.

Back on thread, it must be the height of irony that, just down the road from the good folk of Balcombe who are so a-flutter about prospecting for oil, there is a set of nodding donkey oil pumps which have been quietly churning away for decades. A bit further away is the Wytch Farm oil site.

May 15, 2013 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

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