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« Akasofu's model | Main | Lewandowsky: Backdating »
Monday
Aug052013

Public opinion on shale and energy

Yougov has published a poll of UK public opinion for the Sunday Times, which this time round includes a number of questions about shale gas exploitation and energy policy in general. These are the questions and main responses. The segmented responses can be seen in the original document here.

I'm not sure that it tells us very much, except that the public are a bit mixed up on these questions.

Shale gas is natural gas trapped under sedimentary rock, which is extracted using a method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking". There are large reserves of shale gas in parts of England. Some people think that using shale gas could be a solution to Britain's energy needs. Other people think that fracking is a dangerous technique that risks contaminating ground water and causing minor earthquakes. From what you have seen or heard about the issue, do you think Britain should or should not start extracting shale gas?

Should 41
Should not 33
Don't know 26

 

If Shale Gas extraction through fracking was started in Britain...How safe, if at all, do you think it would be?

Very safe 8
Fairly safe 33
Not very safe 25
Not safe at all 11
Don't know 23

 

How good for the economy, if at all, do you think it would be?

 

Very good

27
Fairly good 41
Not very good 11
Not at all good 3
Don't know 18

 

How damaging to the environment, if at all, do you think it would be?

Very damaging 20
Fairly damaging 27
Not very damaging 27
Not at all damaging 4
Don't know 22

 

Some people think that Shale Gas fracking would be good for an area as it would provide jobs and investment. Other people think it would be a bad thing for an area as it would damage the local environment and cause pollution. Do you think it would be a good or bad thing if Shale Gas fracking began in your own local town or area?

A good thing 25
A bad thing 43
Neither 14
Don't know 18

 

Do you think the government is right or wrong to invest money to encourage the development of the following forms of energy generation?

Nuclear power
Right 49
Wrong 28
Don't know 23

Wind power
Right 65
Wrong 23
Don't know 13

Solar power
Right 78
Wrong 10
Don't know 12

Tidal power
Right 76
Wrong 7
Don't know 17

Power from shale gas
Right 40
Wrong 33
Don't know 27

"Clean coal" power
Right 57
Wrong 13
Don't know 30

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Reader Comments (25)

For those who think fracking will damage the environment, I would've liked a follow up question:

How?

Fracking has been done for a century in the US and no one noticed till it interfered with the AGW movement.

Aug 5, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterChip

From the answers to the last question it appears the population want energy wherever it comes from. I have my doubts about the reliability of the very favourable wind and solar votes though.

Aug 5, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

How about ...

If we don't exploit shale, would you like your electricity cut off ...
A. Whenever the wind doesn't blow, or
B. Whenever the sun isn't shining


If we don't exploit shale, do you expect energy prices to rise
A 100% or
B 150% or
C 200%

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I think the numbers are probably correct - people really do know so little about practical engineering that they think that wind, solar and tidal will deliver the goods.

Just one simple example: a relative living in Scunthorpe thinks that the small windmill in the carpark of a local supermarket powers the whole place (the store, not the town). She has never treally thought any further. I asked her: "would one car engine be enough to turn that windmill?" - she answered yes. Next question: "How big are standby generators?" She replied that they were usually lorry-sized - maybe a small shipping container. With a tiny amount of thought she could see that the windmill was not powering the whole shop - but that is the problem the tiny amount of thinking has never happened (before now).

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Isn't youguv linked/owned to/by the labour party ?

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Surely these polls just guage the effectiveness of the various PR campaigns not the true answers to the actual questions themselves. That flaming tap is a memorable icon to the 10-second attention span part of the population and must have a profound effect on anyone who has seen it but not read the background to it.

Get the Swampies and greens out of the way, get the safety tests done sharpish and have them independently audited. Assess the impact in other areas (globally) where similar operations have been undertaken. Then put it all into the context of size/availability/risk/pollution/environmental impact etc of the other means of generating energy to meet our future needs (ideally ignoring CO2 as irrelevant).

If it passes that priority test, get on and do it. If not, back to the drawing board.

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Registered CommenterSimonW

As a local councillor, nowhere near (as far as I know) any proposed fracking site, I have just received this email, headed ITS A FRACKING DISASTER

"I’m very concerned about the prospect of fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - in our area. I have been observing the terrible struggle taking place in Balcombe where the locals have fought to prevent a dubious and potentially harmful technology foisted upon them. It appears that there are individuals within the coalition and the House of Lords whose commercial and political interests will override any public demonstration against this technology. This shameful and disappointing arrogance is turning our democracy into something dictatorial and greedy.

Fracking has been linked to contamination of water supplies and atmospheric pollution, as well as increased traffic to construction sites. The government has promised lower energy bills if gas and oil from fracking is produced, but even the fracking companies admit this is unlikely to happen.

I would like to know if any companies are planning to carry out fracking in this area and whether any relevant licences have been sold. If so, I would be grateful if you could let me know your position on the matter and what steps I can take to register my objections.

If there are no current plans or licences, I would be grateful if you could keep me informed of any future developments."

I googled the emailer and she was, and perhaps still is, a member of the local Green Party. 'Nuff said?
Seems as if they are going for max publicity.

I do not see why I should do all the investigative work for her. If she has a specific query about a specific site in my ward then she can ask me, but this blanket approach does little except piss me off. How should I reply? Short, sharp and sweet, as in, there are no sites as far as I am aware, so frack off. Or, give her the full monty about it not being the locals in Balcombe, MPs/Lords' vested interests - should I mention Yeo and Deben? A longer reply could be highly amusing.

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

The answers to Tidal Power tell you something:

Right 76
Wrong 7
Don't know 17

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

As usual the Microcosmographica Academica captures the essence in chapter 7:


There is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing.

...

Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.

Aug 5, 2013 at 2:46 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Looking at another part of the survey, the people questioned seem equally uninformed about how social media works.

I'd suggest (unfortunately) that these results merely reflect the "information" presented to them by the MSM on the relevant topics.

Aug 5, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Registered Commenterthrog

I think the poll does accurately reflect what people *think* on these topics - their thoughts may be incorrect or inconsistent but they are still what people think/feel if you ask them. One missing factor is whether people are even thinking about these topics at all. I have only once heard the expression "carbon footprint" in real life. And when people mention "global warming" they are usually being funny.

I think it was Keith Kloor - writing about "climate fatigue" - that said that public opinion on climate change is currently at this stage:

Yes go ahead and solve these environmental problems - but don't ask me to do anything, and don't send me the bill. And don't bother me again.

Aug 5, 2013 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

@ Grumpy 2:34pm

You could reply that the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have both stated that fracking is safe with appropriate safeguards, safeguards which are in place. You could also point out that fracking is not new but has been used for very many years by both the oil and gas industries; all that is different now is that it has attracted a lot of publicity because it has unlocked access to valuable energy resources.

Aug 5, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

The survey, like most comments on shale gas recovery, ignores the essential element of the recovery method. What makes shale gas recoverable is not hydraulic fracturing per se, which has been used in oil and gas well completion for many decades, but the ability to accurately drill holes along the bedding plane of the shale, usually horizontally. This then gives a relatively long hole dimension over which to perform fracturing as opposed to a short vertical or near vertical intersection. What is also lost is the fact that by means of accurate directional drilling, drilling can be carried out from a relatively remote location which can be selected for minimal impact during the drilling and fracturing process, after which there will be little but well head pipework. Also, by virtue of directional drilling, numerous wells can be drilled from that one location.

Aug 5, 2013 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterseedy

Grumpy, I also have an email for you:

"I’m very concerned about the prospect of wind turbines in our area. I have been observing the terrible struggle taking place in many villages where the locals have fought to prevent a dubious and potentially harmful technology foisted upon them. It appears that there are individuals within the coalition and the House of Lords whose commercial and political interests will override any public demonstration against this technology. This shameful and disappointing arrogance is turning our democracy into something dictatorial and greedy.

Wind turbines been linked to contamination of water supplies, damage to human health and atmospheric pollution, as well as increased traffic to construction sites. The government has promised lower energy bills if wind turbines are built everywhere, but even the wind companies admit this is unlikely to happen.

I would like to know if any companies are planning to construct wind turbines in this area and whether any relevant permissions have been granted. If so, I would be grateful if you could let me know your position on the matter and what steps I can take to register my objections.

If there are no current plans or licences, I would be grateful if you could keep me informed of any future developments."

I would reply to the woman with copies of the DECC and Viscount Ridley papers on fracking.

Aug 5, 2013 at 5:52 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I really do not believe that the government ministers understand what a shale gas well looks like or how it changes over time, this might explain the lack of a government PR campaign. One thing that should be admitted is that in the north west things will be different to what happened in the USA.
A derrick is only present on a well during the fracking process, there is no derrick during the production process (I am sure this is not understood by ministers or the population). However because the Bowland shale is so thick each well will be fracked many times and so derricks will keep returning to the well heads.

Aug 5, 2013 at 6:22 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Thanks oldtimer and Phillip Bratby. I'll send her a bar of Lush soap while I'm at it so she can wash her hands of me when she recives the contamination of the DECC and Matt Ridley reports. I shall enjoy replying tomorrow so any more helpful comments - not too facetious, please - will be gratefully received.

It makes a change from thrashing away at trying to prevent bloody wind turbines from damaging our landscape.

Aug 5, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

"Do you think the government is right or wrong to invest money .............."

Should be ....................

Are you personally prepared to subsidise ..............

Aug 5, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Are these the same people they then asked on their veiws about immigration.

Or Capital Punishment, HS2 , WindTurbines, Gay Marridge, Assisted Suicide, Hospital Closures, EU Referendum, Army Cuts, The Smoking Ban, Internet Porn Filters.etc etc.

Aug 6, 2013 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

The survey results probably reflect the one sided nature to the debate on fracking and on renewables.

The government of all shades, assisted by a compliant media, have rammed home the message on the necessity to save the planet for so long, while at the same time down playing the true costs of renewables.

They have now painted themselves into a corner from which they are finding it difficult to extricate themselves. Instead of lauding the arrival of shale gas as an honest government did with the introduction of North Sea oil and gas, they sought to impede its development in order to protect the renewables industry, both in terms of its costing and in terms of it being home grown energy free from the vagaries of fickle foreign governments. And they also wanted to protect snouts in troughs as well.

Then it was realised by some of the more pragmatic members of the government that we were in the proverbial economic s**t and that shale gas would not only be our economic saviour, but would seriously reduce fuel costs. But the damage has been done and it will take a massive PR campaign to reverse it. They are not only up against all the NGOs, the media, the local nimbys and the Swampys of the hippie movement campaigning against the technology, but our own government departments such as the DECC and the Secretary of State for Climate Change and local MPS more concerned about their constituents and the Rectory syndrome than the national interest.

And until the government start to be honest about the truth of climate change and the lack of it, they will continue to fight an uphill battle.

Aug 6, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterColin Porter

Oldtimer

“it has unlocked access to valuable energy resources”

And has totally upset the greens’ plans, which relied on the steady collapse of abundant energy, enabling them to steer us towards ever-loopier alternatives that they lacked the knowledge, will or experience to think through.

I am undecided, however, as to whether they will ruin the economy before their schemes collapse around their ears and they are laughed out of court. It still doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that the depredations they wish on the rest of us will inevitably affect them.

Aug 6, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

In the UK, the Shale Gas industry could not sell a life belt to someone who was drowning. They need to show oil sites in the UK -(Wytch Farm ) which work perfectly well without causing problems.

The problem is that engineers solve problems and do not understand modern day protest: mostly use the Alynski Rules - ignore facts and demonise opponents . Accusing people of doing something they have not done, to close down arguments and control the discussion are effective methods . Very few people can cope with a shrieking mob. One needs to keep calm, keep it amusing, stick to the facts and be able to ask questions of the accusers in a jocular manner- very few engineers can do this .

Picture tells a thousand words: the Shale gas needs to do the following
1. Show pictures of depth of units being drilled and overlying units.
2. Horizontal drilling and construction of wells .
3. Site after restoration.
4. Place all above ground installations in local vernacular architecture. If they made all installations look like medieval tithe barns there would be no problems.If necessary place installations in excavated depressions and plant full grown trees to hide them ( probably need to import from Netherlands). Many of the public water supply buildings constructed up to the 1920-1930s are often attractive brick built structures

Shale gas lacks imagination and the ability to tell a story . Modern day politics is about creating a narrative and the competition between narratives.

Aug 6, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Perhaps the '65%' who think that the government should back wind power, might care to ponder about the fact that wind is currently providing a whopping 0.8% of electricity demand....
WHEN THERE'S NO WIND, THERE'S NO ELECTRICITY...
Not rocket science, surely..?

Aug 6, 2013 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

To "Grumpy", I too am a councillor and I think that the advice given is excellent. My council (New Forest DC) takes a very sensible view of global warming and in 2011 they passed a motion to ask the government not to reduce CO2 emissions further or faster than any other industrialised nation, as this would push up the cost of energy causing hardship to both business and individuals. We are now considering whether to sign up to the latest LGA scheme called "Climate Local". I would be very interested in your council's attitude to this.

Aug 6, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek

Derek - 'Climate Local' seems to have passed me by. As a lowly backbencher, you ain't told very much even if you're part of the majority group. Unless you make waves..........I'll rock a few boats and see what happens. I have suggested we get rid of our climate change officers to save a few bob, but I think our cabinet member has gone native and my proposal may fall on stony ground.

Aug 6, 2013 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

I too am a lowly backbencher, but I keep plugging away, just as you do. I was surprised to find so many of my fellow councillors shared my view and supported my motion. It was passed by 48votes to 5 (exactly on political lines with 5 Lib Dems against). My council signed the Nottingham Declaration back in 2008, but that was in the previous council when we had about 15 Lib Dems. What we need is a website for climate sceptic councillors. I am happy to offer my own website Climatescience.blogspot.

Aug 8, 2013 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerek

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