Fracking Week in Parliament: 24-28 October 2016


In this Fracking Week in Parliament:

  • Jim McMahon on landowners’ rights and fracking
  • Caroline Flint on using the shale wealth fund for energy efficiency
  • Scottish Parliament on post-Brexit impacts on the environment and trade deals

Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts


25 October 2016

Debate on Neighbourhood Planning Bill

jim-mcmahonQuestion by  Jim McMahon, Shadow Communities Minister, Labour Oldham West and Royton

I am not usually a suspicious person, but during that contribution there was a voice at the back of my head saying, “Is this all about fracking?” Is this about the Government’s newfound commitment to fracking and about trying to remove landowners’ rights, trying to create temporary compounds and trying to create opportunities to drill without going through the full and proper procedure? That may not be for today, but I would certainly appreciate the position on that in writing.

gavin-barwell-mpReply by Gavin Barwell, Communities Minister, Conservative, Croydon Central

I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman and provide him with a full response to that question. I can reassure him that these provisions do not come from that particular policy area. It was before my time—I am looking for inspiration—but I think I am right in saying that there were compulsory purchase provisions in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. It was in the discussion and debate around those provisions that these issues got raised, and that is why the Government are seeking to clarify the law in that regard. I will happily write to the hon. Gentleman and hope that I have now addressed the points that the hon. Lady raised, so I ask her to withdraw the amendment and hope the clause can stand part of the Bill.

Link to the debate


Questions to the Chancellor on regional infrastructure

Caroline Flint.jpgQuestion by Caroline Flint, Labour, Don Valley

Does the Chancellor agree that energy efficiency should be a priority for infrastructure development, both nationally and regionally? To that end, will he seriously consider earmarking the proceeds of the shale gas sovereign wealth fund for energy efficiency measures so that we can not only save on bills, but create jobs and encourage innovation?

philip-hammondReply by Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Conservative, Runnymede and Weybridge

I am not necessarily in favour of earmarking or hypothecation of funds for that specific purpose, but the right hon. Lady makes an important point. We have a serious challenge on this country’s energy capacity over the next 20 years, and we are going to have to invest eye-wateringly large sums of money—perhaps £100 billion—just to ensure that the lights stay on. Of course it makes sense to look at ways of reducing demand for energy through energy conservation measures alongside the demands for new energy generation plants.

Link to questions


27 October 2016

Debate on environment and climate change following EU referendum result

mark-ruskell-mspExtracts of speech by Mark Ruskell, Green, Mid Scotland and Fife

On the moral imperative that is climate change, our targets have been set in the context of a Europe that is driving hard progress on carbon and energy. A weaker set of UK climate targets agreed with the United Nations would take the pressure off the UK, and with a Westminster Government that is mad keen on nuclear energy and fracking, it is likely that energy market rules established in the wake of Brexit will stifle Scotland’s ambitions for renewables instead of realising them.

[Referring to international trade agreements] In Quebec, corporations have sued Governments over fracking bans. It is unthinkable that such a thing could happen here in Scotland, but all Algy Cluff would need to do to sue the Scottish Government would be to open up an office in Vancouver—he would not even require an office here.

Neil Findlay

Extract of speech by Neil Findlay, Labour, Lothian

If—it is a big if—Governments then put in place policy and legislation that run counter to corporate interests, those democratically elected Governments could be taken to court and sued. It has happened in Canada, Australia and elsewhere. What arrogance; what an affront to democracy. I believe that it is for those reasons—and many more—that voters across the UK voted leave.

We must not think that such things could not happen here. Imagine if TTIP had been up and running: Ineos or some other similar company might be dragging the Scottish Government through the investor-state dispute settlement system to stop a democratically elected Parliament deciding its own policy on an issue such as fracking.

Gillian Martin - SNP - Aberdeenshire EastExtract of speech by Gillian Martin, SNP, Aberdeenshire East

I do not feel particularly comfortable knowing that research funding is reliant on the UK Government, given that neither emissions reduction nor climate change issues are a priority for it. I have to admit that, when I read the Tory amendment and saw the phrase “recognises the positive impact that being part of the UK has had on climate change in Scotland”. I had to take a wee moment to calm myself, remembering how former Tory chancellor George Osborne swept aside the CCS projects and diverted the money elsewhere.

I am also nervous of a UK Government that has allowed fracking contracts to be awarded under national parks with no debate and which has ploughed on with that technology without carrying out any serious research into the environmental consequences. I wonder whether the very heartfelt comments that were made by Mr Golden and Mr Burnett about establishing more woodland mean that they agree that fracking under areas of national significance is an abomination. Do I trust a Government that takes such an approach to support renewable energy or emissions reduction research programmes? Frankly, I do not.

Link to debate


11 replies »

  1. The Labour Shadow Minister does right to be suspicious – as these sort of tactics have been employed elsewhere in the world to facilitate fracking.
    As for Ms Flint – I think she will find many endorse energy efficiency and believe this should be a government priority. However, there are likely to be many people that completely oppose a Shale Welfare Fund. And given her party intends to ban fracking perhaps she should either put up, shut up or join the Conservatives, as they are the only mainstream party in Westminster that still support fracking.

    I do find Philip Hammond’s response quite telling – there is no fracking, fracking has yet to be proven viable in the UK and there may be no profit/little revenue to rely on. Given the industry is reneging on paying landowners in the US and going bust – that could well be the case!


  3. I hadn’t seen Phillip Hammond’s reply before Ruth posted it here and to my mind it’s the most telling statement by a minister I’ve heard regarding the advice they’re receiving about the dreadful state of energy production in the UK.

    It’s worth repeating here “We have a serious challenge on this country’s energy capacity over the next 20 years, and we are going to have to invest eye-wateringly large sums of money—perhaps £100 billion—just to ensure that the lights stay on.” I guess he’s inferring that if we don’t spend that amount of money there is a serious danger that the lights won’t stay on. The phrase “eye-wateringly large sums of money ” is an unusually strong phrase from this generally restrained Chanchellor.

    I’m sure we all have our own ideas about how the money might be spent but in view of the weather dependent nature of renewables (barely 1% of our electricity coming from wind and solar tonight) my guess he’s going to have to subsidise new gas plants (relatively quick to build and less polluting than coal). Of course energy conservation will be in the mix but I suspect it wion’t be enough.

    • Mark- Seeing as shale gas cannot meet our base fuel needs what would you like to see happen to our 20 billion plus barrels of home grown North sea oil and gas and the 440,000 strong experienced workforce? Remember It is the North sea that has kept you warm and your lights on for the last 40 years. I am sure you must be keen to support it’s ongoing success.

      Have a look at this detailed research into the UK offshore renewable potential. What do you think?

      Click to access 467ac5b8919.pdf

      If the country is to invest heavily in keeping the lights on we need to make sure it is the right energy source. I like the idea of maximising the ones where the source is infinite and free and then using our home grown 20 billion barrels reserve as back up.

      Remember you are working hard to subsidise the UK fossil fuel industry by 6 billion pounds a year.

      It’s worth repeating here that shale gas cannot meet our base fuel needs

      0% of our electricity coming from shale gas today. Is your boiler still firing up? mine is.

      • From the Guardian a few days ago:

        “The fact is that the UK consumes 800,000GWh of gas a year and only a quarter of that is used for electrcicity generation – no amount of wind turbines and solar pv will replace the gas boilers in 23 million British homes that rely on them – let alone business use.
        95% of our hydrogen supply comes from natural gas. It will take many decades for us to wean ourselves off gas and so in the mean time we should make sure we source it and use it as efficiently as possible.

        The importation of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is the unavoidable consequence (given where we are) of declining domestic production.. And that LNG has a substantially higher carbon footprint than cracked or conventional gas. So logically a case exists whereby domestic fraccing is better than the alternatives.

        LNG (because of the cryogenics, treatment and shipping etc) has a 70-90gram (CO₂) /kwh greater carbon footprint than domestic fracced gas.

        That is 70-90tonnes CO₂(e)/GWh – and at present we consume 800,000GWh of gas, an increasing amount (149,000GWh) of which is LNG because our North Sea gas is declining. That’s 13.4 million tonnes of CO₂ that we are unnecessarily emitting (and rising) because of the actions of self styled ‘environmental’ lobby groups.

        Add in the £12bn loss to our balance of trade through gas import and fraccing is not nearly as bad a thing as it is painted.”

        So John, you are right in that we should produce more UK North Sea conventional gas. But we are not doing this. Because it is too expensive. Unfortunately your 20billion plus “reserves” and 440,000 (now 320,000 after lay offs) strong and experienced work force (I know, I am one of them, are not going to be realised. The evdidence is plain to see, only 7 exploratuon wells in the UK this year. All the big fields depleted and sold on to minnows with no cash and huge abandonment liabilities……..

        • Sorry Paul you are incorrect. North sea gas is not to expensive.

          The energy analysts tell the House of Lords Energy Select Committe that it is 30% cheaper than shale.

          The problem as you well know is the crippling tax regime killing off investment. Declining unnecessarily.

          Reduce the tax to 30% (as being offered to shale) and the North sea will see everyone employed and abundant cheap home grown gas.
          See these stated facts at


          As you know the landed price of LNG is way cheaper than the price the shale industry has stated for UK production costs. You have said people want the cheapest source. That would therefore either be, shale tax matched North sea gas, imported secure piped Norweign gas, or LNG.
          As there is surplus of all those sources UK shale is a non starter on cost.

          • John – the above quote was not mine but put up for discussion. I believe we should buy gas from the lowest cost source. If prices are similar then look at CO2 etc. It would be intersting to see what cutting the UK offshore tax regime would do. Personally I don’t think it would help find any huge gas fields – you cannot find what is not there. But the latest licensing round gives you some idea of where there is oil prospectivity (see OGA report copied below). So there may be more associated gas as long as the GORs are reasonable. For tax discussion there are some interesting points in the link below (e.g. UK vs Norway):

            Click to access Oil-Tax-Facts.pdf

            UK: OGA reports promising applications received for UKCS frontier licensing round
            The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has attracted 29 applications covering 113 blocks in the latest offshore licensing round which targeted under-explored areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
            The 29th Frontier Licensing Round is the first licensing round in two decades to focus on frontier areas. Applications were received from 24 companies ranging from multinationals to new country entrants. Some of the proposed work programmes include firm well commitments.
            Frontier areas on offer included the East Shetland Platform and the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas which were the focus of the 2015 UK Government funded seismic acquisition programme. The OGA subsequently provided an openly available, geophysical dataset allowing companies to identify and target a range of opportunities.
            Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the OGA, said:
            ‘Despite the difficult climate, industry has responded strongly to our offer, using analysis and insights to identify new prospects and submit high quality applications on blocks that did not attract interest in recent licensing rounds. This confirms the high remaining potential in the UKCS’ frontier areas.
            ‘Long standing investors continue to seek new acreage and we also welcome the arrival of new entrants. This is encouraging and supports the OGA and MER UK Exploration Board’s joint approach to revitalise exploration. The UK Government funded seismic programmes and the OGA’s ‘Innovate Licence’ were developed through an industry task group and offer a flexible, pragmatic and focused approach to licensing.
            ‘Licences awarded will provide continued opportunities for our world-class service sector to develop technology and expertise, and ultimately, should provide new energy supplies to the UK.’
            The upcoming 30th Offshore Licensing Round will cover mature areas of the UKCS, and will offer significant opportunities, including some blocks not available since the 3rd Licensing Round.
            The recently completed 2016 UK Government funded seismic acquisition programme of South West Britain and the East Shetland Platform will inform future frontier licensing. More than 13,500 km of new seismic data plus approx. 20,000 km of reprocessed legacy seismic data is scheduled to be released to industry in Q2/Q3 2017.
            Source: OGA

            • An interesting article in the Guardian today:


              The biggest subsidy yet??? But well hidden. Same applies over here, including the very high auction prices to turn them off when it is very windy and the excess power is not needed and of course cannot be stored.

              “Windfarms and solar power could soon lose the privilege of getting priority over other energy sources on European electricity grids, leaked documents show.”

              Paring back the “priority dispatch” system could increase carbon emissions by up to 10%, according to a confidential EU impact assessment seen by the Guardian. But the document goes on to model four scenarios for doing just that, in a bid to make Europe’s energy generators more flexible and cost-competitive.

              Some industry sources have told the Guardian they are alarmed and think it highly likely that priority dispatch for clean energy will be scrapped from the EU’s renewable energy directive, which is currently being redrafted for the post-2020 period.

              Oliver Joy, a spokesman for the WindEurope trade association, said: “Removing priority dispatch for renewable energies would be detrimental to the wind sector, which would face more curtailment across the continent. It also seems to be at odds with Europe’s plans to decarbonise and increase renewables penetration over the next decade.”

              “Investors took priority dispatch into account when projecting revenues in the original investment decisions, and it could have a bearing on existing projects if they are not protected from the change.”

              • I guess governments across Europe are realising that unless they level the playing field, investment into the necessary new fossil fuel plants will be difficult to attract. I really don’t know where the back-up power is going to come from unless it’s gas. Coal looks to be both unacceptable and unaffordable. Nuclear will take years to bring on stream and in any case the French experience illustrates the dangers of putting all your energy eggs in one nuclear basket.

                • Mark, I agree. Renewables are maxed out, the grids cannot cope with what are currently installed and the priority given to renewables is causing more problems and higher cost than any perceived benefits. Same in the UK. Coal greater than wind, gas greater than 50% for electricity generation this morning.

  4. I don’t get Neil Findlay’s point:
    ‘I believe that it is for those reasons—and many more—that voters across the UK voted leave.’

    … the UK is less protected outside of the EU (which has denounced TTIP: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ttip-trade-deal-agreement-failed-brexit-latest-news-eu-us-germany-vice-chancellor-a7213876.html) and our government is busy setting up back room trade deals with no transparency.

    Then, without the EU directives on Clean Air and Clean water (and a few others), the UK has fewer up to date regulations to call O&G corporates to account.

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