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Discussion > “I’m not some swivel-eyed sceptic but...”: The debate begins.

The government’s decision to allow exploratory fracking has injected some high pressure common sense into the climate change debate. The Green movement is coming apart at the seams.
I’ve been following it on two discussion threads at the Guardian, Leo Hickman’s live debate at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/dec/13/fracking-shale-gas-uk-davey
and the discussion between Mark Lynas and David Santillo of Greenpeace at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/13/fracking-shale-gas

It’s a pleasure to see Greens tearing themselves apart. By banning any debate about CAGW, the media have ensured that the fissure opens up elsewhere, and splits the Green movement down the middle.
While the bright BH bunch pick the science and th economics apart on threads like
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2012/12/13/really-desperate-times.html
the discussion on the Guardian threads (and no doubt elsewhere in the MSM) is still in the stone age.
This is probably our best chance to be heard. Common sense is coming ot of the closet, often preceded by some such remark as “I’m not some swivel-eyed sceptic but...”.
It would be interesting to monitor the popular debate as it unfolds in the mainstream media. Tweets by Monbiot, Black, Carrington, and Lynas on the Hickman thread already indicate the way the argument is lining up.

Is anyone interested in contributing comments from the press and media here, so as to leave the technical and economic threads uncluttered?
As Mike Jackson says in a comment at 4.25PM on the above-mentioned thread:

Time for a major letter-writing campaign. To the press, to MPs, to anyone who will listen.
To make that effective, we need to know what’s being said, and by whom.

Dec 13, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Some of the Tweets gathered by Leo Hickman:

Richard Black @enviroblack
Forget local #fracking issues; big one is climate. Base your policy on gas, you bust climate targets; end of story

Damian Carrington @dpcarrington
#fracking: hmmm. Davey gives go ahead for shale gas exploration, then commissions study on climate change impact #cart-horse?

Mark Lynas @mark_lynas
If you want to leave shale gas in the ground because of global warming, fine. Say that. But the anti-fracking arguments are largely bogus.

GeorgeMonbiot @GeorgeMonbiot
As David Kennedy said on @r4Today, "You cannot tackle dangerous #climatechange w/ a gas based power system". #fracking.

Matt Ridley @mattwridley
Ed Davey in the Stone Age: "the wheel may bring some benefits but only v slowly; it must be continuously checked, monitored and evaluated"

keith kloor @keithkloor
So why when it comes to fracking do greens have a zero sum attitude? Why oppose instead of working (as EDF is) to make it safer?

Terry Macalister @TerryMac999
In two decades I have never come across such heavy lobbying than for shale gas. What a pity renewables cant get that financial muscle.

Dec 13, 2012 at 5:44 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Matt Ridley and geoffchambers: Wheels! good heavens, no. What ever are you thinking of? Wheels will be far more expensive than no wheels. Making wheels means your stone axe wears out really quickly and we shall all run out of stones to make them from. Bits of wood can get into the water courses and the fish will die from wood poisoning. Wheels can need oiling and the squeak is so painful to the ears, you will all go deaf! And the oil will run out. Wheels can break and tip your wheelbarrow over and everything falls out! Wheels can come off, and run away and crash into people and kill them! You must follow the precautionary principle and do things the way they were done in the distant past, when we walked everywhere, and carried things safely on our backs. It will be much much greener and the world will not come to an end and Mother Gaia will be pleased with us.

Dec 13, 2012 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Messenger
Thanks for the chuckle. You’ve caught exactly the flavour of much of the anti-fracking argument. For example, this, from Horsecart commenting on Damian Carrington’s article at the Graun:

I don't want fracking because it requires far too much scrutiny and care to avoid environmental damage.
Frankly, Britain could do with enduring some poverty so that it could learn to stretch its resources further and avoid waste. I don't care if people get cold in winter and hot in summer. That is no excuse to waste energy. This is Britain, and until 50 years ago, most of the people who lived here survived this climate with much less waste of energy. Why can't they do that now?
I was hoping on this thread to collect real examples of reactions to the news of the government’s decision - a kind of MassObservation insight into the thinking of the public - and of opinion leaders - at a moment which may well prove to be decisive in determining the future of the country.
I’m monitoring the Graun, but there must be reactions at a hundred other media outlets. It would be interesting to collate them and analyse them for the debate that is surely to come.

Dec 13, 2012 at 10:24 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

geoff

Just bear in mind that the full statement by Davey has pretty much stitched up shale gas production for " some years" unless Osborne/Camoran walk all over him ( and the Lib Dumbs).

Dec 14, 2012 at 12:07 AM | Registered CommenterDung

dung
Your assessment about who is winning, or will probably win, the shale gas wars, may well be right. Or not. My point is that the battle is on, and it’s not between us “swivel-eyed sceptics” (as one Guardian commenter termed us) and true believers, but between different members of the believers’ camp. When prominent warmists like Mark Lynas start calling for a dispassionate appraisal of the evidence, the official line is in trouble; the consensus is starting to fall apart.
This story is going to be overshadowed for a while by the AR5 leak - another story where the reaction of the media will be as interesting and important as the content of the report itself.

Dec 14, 2012 at 6:44 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

geoffchambers

Frankly, Britain could do with enduring some poverty so that it could learn to stretch its resources further and avoid waste. I don't care if people get cold in winter and hot in summer. That is no excuse to waste energy. This is Britain, and until 50 years ago, most of the people who lived here survived this climate with much less waste of energy. Why can't they do that now?

50 years ago the Guardian readership was the same as it is now, white collar, civil servants, council officers, teachers, lecturers, academics, BBC employees etc. They went to work on the bus or by bike and took their hols in Clacton. Only a very small percentage had cars and central heating, air conditioning was none existent as was the present norm of 2 cars per family.

Is Carrington seriously suggesting that his readership go back 50 years? If so I look forward to witnessing the outcome. Just watched 15 cars drive into the local primary school teacher’s car park. Think I might carry out a poll of the drivers when they leave on this cold December Friday afternoon, see what they think of Mr Carrington’s proposals.

Dec 14, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Mark Lynas had a head to head with Greenpeace about fracking in the Guardian - I thought Mark was very good: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/13/fracking-shale-gas

the tweets between Mark Lynas/Keith Kloor and Richard Black are worth a look..

Richard would NOT acknowledge that USA had reduced emissions because of shale gas. (and used less coal) despite all the evidence that Mark/Keith gave him...

Mark also mentioned that Richard is now working for an environment group (as yet unknown)

------------------------------

mark_lynas
@enviroblack @barryjwoods @keithkloor Of course not. This has only happened in last 2 yrs.
5:33 PM Dec 13th from Twitter for iPhone

enviroblack
@mark_lynas @BarryJWoods @keithkloor ... since the mid-90s
5:02 PM Dec 13th from web

enviroblack
@mark_lynas @BarryJWoods @keithkloor I did - tell me there's a trend here in gas if you can http://t.co/yjFTMfyA
5:01 PM Dec 13th from web

mark_lynas
@enviroblack @BarryJWoods @mark_lynas @keithkloor PS - see the graphs on http://t.co/PGq8scYF I don't see how you can seriously dispute this
3:45 PM Dec 13th from web

enviroblack @BarryJWoods @mark_lynas @keithkloor Conclusively au contraire, I think. Coal emissions down - gas emissions flat for nearly 20 years.

mark_lynas
@enviroblack @BarryJWoods @keithkloor So the US EIA got this wrong? You'd better send them a tweet!
2:19 PM Dec 13th from web

mark_lynas
@LeoHickman @BarryJWoods @enviroblack @keithkloor That's true so far as I know. More cheap US coal exports to Europe, esp. Germany!
2:02 PM Dec 13th from web

mark_lynas
@enviroblack @keithkloor @BarryJWoods and see http://t.co/1gT4OZSF for overall emissions trends.
1:49 PM Dec 13th from web

mark_lynas
@enviroblack @keithkloor @BarryJWoods Absolutely it's gas reducing US co2 emissions: http://t.co/PGq8scYF

keithkloor
@enviroblack @BarryJWoods Recession def a part. But not sure how anyone could exclude effect of shale revolution.
12:28 PM Dec 13th from web

enviroblack
@BarryJWoods @keithkloor The graph is the thing - coal use fell, but not replaced by gas. More likely recession, I wd think
12:12 PM Dec 13th from web

keithkloor
@enviroblack Richard, not been the case in U.S. (as you no doubt are aware), tho its been unintentional. http://t.co/21oLwUD4
11:10 AM Dec 13th from web retweeted by BarryJWoods

Dec 14, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Like many things, the graphs of CO₂ emissions are not as straightforward as you might think. See http://cleantechnica.com/2012/12/07/the-myth-of-u-s-carbon-dioxide-emissions-reductions/

Dec 14, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Dear Geoff

I hope you’re right about the cracking of the green political hegemony, even at the Guardian. I am not au fait enough with Twitter etc to help you track opinion formers, and inter-green debates, but would like to report my comment on the Daily Mirror site which today includes a ‘debate’ on fracking.

href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fracking-is-it-the-future-of-energy-or-a-disaster-that-will-wreck-1489163">

“Both Carolyn Lucas (Green Party) and the ‘science’ spokesman from Friends of the Earth (FOE) say that renewables and energy saving should be the focus of government policy, and won’t cost much at all. And that shale gas is a distraction and would, somehow, lead to higher gas prices. Given the US experience of a 40% drop in gas price because of fracking, the idea that locally UK produced gas will be more expensive, is palpably bonkers.

Also, there’s another fact that Eve McNamara, Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF) and the green anti-fackers ignore. No matter how much renewable electricity is produced, that doesn't help anyone heat their house or factory. We mostly use gas for heating, not electricity.

While REAF, and other green nimby Neanderthals make-up ‘evidence’ of fracking risks, and sing a siren-song of renewability and energy saving. British people have to heat their homes and workplaces, and pay the bills.

We’d be mad not to look a locally produced gas gift-horse in the mouth. Government and local people need challenge such green-inspired stupidities. Don't let such made-up rubbish insult our intelligence.”


With the collapse of the socialist dream (nightmare?), and a whole generation brought up on the gloom-laden Rachel Carson view of the humanity and ‘the natural world’, our political class has sold its soul for a mess of green potage. Politics, meaningful politics, has almost stopped and REAF and its ilk are a sad symptom and substitute.

Dec 14, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark P

Geoff
Happy to join in here if I can help but like Mark P I'm not into Twitter so I won't be much use in that area.
The DT's contribution today is "Communities could be paid to accept controversial gas fracking" and the comments there are a first-class example not only of the level of ignorance out there but the extent to which the UK appears to have more than its fair share of illiterate and inarticulate mining engineers and others with expertise in fracking, gas exploration, and hazardous chemicals to name only three relevant disciplines.
Allegedly!
A big problem is the ability of these illiterate and evidently ignorant opponents (and a few supporters, to be fair) to exploit what I have called the "stands-to-reason" factor — fracking uses chemicals so it stands to reason that this must be a bad thing; fracking creates holes therefore it stands to reason that houses are going to fall into the holes, and so on and so on.
We can try to inject a little sanity into these comments, I suppose, but I'm planning an assault on the lazy journalism that seems to have overtaken the DT these days. I'm happy to pass on my efforts including this contribution to the Graun, which I am not expecting will see the light of day!
"Somebody has just leaked 131Mb of the deliberations of the IPCC —the first opportunity ever for the public to get in advance of publication a good look at what that shady organisation is up to — but instead of making any sort of factual assessment of this goldmine, the best you can do is to reprint bits from the usual hatchet job by — of all people — Cook and Nuticelli, Australia's answer to Bill and Ben. No wonder the dear old Guardian is in terminal decline."
While I'm at it, it won't surprise anyone to know that BitBucket's link is — as ever — not what it seems. Apart from the fact that the article he links to is a rather incoherent and desperate attempt to debunk the US figures, he seems to have picked up the weird idea that a website devoted to plugging the solar power industry is in some way an objective and reliable source of information on CO2 emissions.

Dec 14, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

MJ, as ever with sceptics and their friends, takes the time-proven approach. If you don't like the message, attack the messenger. If the message were wrong, he'd be able to attack that instead.

Dec 14, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

...the article he links to is a rather incoherent and desperate attempt to debunk the US figures...
That's called "attacking the message". If you want to know what the EIA figures are, go to the EIA web site; if you want to know what the solar industry would like the EIA figures to be, go to cleantechnica.com; if you just want to be a nuisance and derail yet another thread, go to any web site that gives you what you want.
Simples. Trollery 101.
I love the idea of BitBucket as a "messenger". Messengers bring what they're told to bring; they don't go grubbing through dustbins to find what suits their agenda.

Dec 14, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Green Sand, they'll be all in favour. They will just assume that it wouldn't apply to them.

Dec 14, 2012 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

I looked at the Leo Hickman debate latest posts today, there is hardly anybody involved and the few that are posting are mostly idiots, nothing worth posting here.
It is already known that warmist blogs are not well supported (what few there are) so I dont think you are going to find that much of importance gets posted here :(

Dec 14, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Joss Garman (@jossgarman) tweets re shale gas announcement 13th Dec, 2012 (reverse chronological order). There are also some exchanges with Mark Lynas and Greenpeace EnergyDesk's Damian Kahya, interesting but probably much too lengthy to reproduce here:

Joss Garman ‏@jossgarman
@afneil 5 reasons as US-type shale boom won't happen here: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/newsdesk/energy/analysis/fracking-go-ahead-four-differences-between-us-and-uk …
11:18 AM - 14 Dec 12

Joss Garman ‏@jossgarman
Centrica on #fracking in UK: "not a game changer." http://bit.ly/SUa21J
6:33 PM - 13 Dec 12

Joss Garman ‏@jossgarman
@RobinMJTweeter @mark_lynas Five reasons US shale boom won't happen here: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/newsdesk/energy/analysis/fracking-go-ahead-four-differences-between-us-and-uk …
4:41 PM - 13 Dec 12

Joss Garman ‏@jossgarman
@SConwaySmith that isn't the issue: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2012/12/coalitions-support-fracking-based-ideology-not-evidence …
4:39 PM - 13 Dec 12

Lawrence Carter ‏@lawrencecarter1
Read my New Statesman article on why Osborne is selling us a fracking mirage: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2012/12/coalitions-support-fracking-based-ideology-not-evidence …
4:24 PM - 13 Dec 12
Retweeted by Joss Garman

Terry Macalister ‏@TerryMac999
In two decades I have never come across such heavy lobbying than for shale gas. What a pity renewables cant get that financial muscle.
11:02 AM - 13 Dec 12
Retweeted by Joss Garman

Joss Garman @jossgarman
@mark_lynas But a) issue isn't about shale squeezing out coal & b) fracked gas higher climate impact than conventional gas
9:39 AM - 13 Dec 12

Joss Garman @jossgarman
@mark_lynas Osborne isn't proposing a dash for coal, thankfully
9:35 AM - 13 Dec 12

Will Straw ‏@wdjstraw
Gov climate body: 83% of rise in energy bills from 2004-11 is result of wholesale & supplier costs; just 19% due to low-carbon policies
9:30 AM - 13 Dec 12
Retweeted by Joss Garman

Joss Garman @jossgarman
@mark_lynas New unabated coal in UK = illegal. Issue here is Osborne cynical use of flawed fracking argument to lock UK into high gas use
9:30 AM - 13 Dec 12

Joss Garman @jossgarman
@mark_lynas Where am I advocating for coal mining?!
9:27 AM - 13 Dec 12

Joss Garman @jossgarman
@mark_lynas The issue is climate change, and the fact there's zero evidence fracking will help lower consumer bills in UK
9:25 AM - 13 Dec 12

Damian Carrington ‏@dpcarrington
#fracking: hmmm. Davey gives go ahead for shale gas exploration, then commissions study on climate change impact #cart-horse?
9:21 AM - 13 Dec 12
Retweeted by Joss Garman

EnergyDeskUK @EnergyDeskUK
As Fracking gets the go ahead in the UK we look at five reasons why any shale revolution won't be "US style". http://bit.ly/VC91Ko
9:05 AM - 13 Dec 12
Retweeted by Joss Garman

Joss Garman @jossgarman
As Ministers say yes to #fracking, briefing on shale in UK: http://bit.ly/R6YXNR & why US shale boom wont happen here: http://bit.ly/SVr3dl
7:13 AM - 13 Dec 12 ·

Dec 14, 2012 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

I had a quick look at coverage in the New Statesman, which is, historically, the magazine of the intellectual left in Britain. Their article on shale gas was by a bloke from Greenpeace. They have a whole section of articles on energy. The most recent ones were by activists from the Green Alliance, 350.org, Oxfam, and the UK Youth Climate Coalition.
The NS has clearly outsourced news analysis to its key advertisers. It’s about as much use as an inflight magazine. What a shameful end for a once serious weekly.

Dec 15, 2012 at 6:56 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers