The government has no clear idea on how much it has spent supporting fracking, what the benefits would be and how much investment would be needed in future, the UK’s spending watchdog has revealed.
In a report published this morning, the National Audit Office said ministers could also not explain who would pay for clean-ups if fracking companies went out of business. National Audit Office report on Fracking for shale gas in England
The National Audit Office (NAO) report highlighted:
- risks of the self-reporting system of shale gas regulation
- unprecedented public opposition to fracking planning applications and falling national support
- slower than predicted development of the industry
- lack of progress on carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) needed for shale gas to meet climate objectives
Environmental groups and anti-fracking campaigners have welcomed the report, describing fracking as a “failed industry”.
The industry representative said onshore oil and gas had a role in the future and that delays were not uncommon. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) did not respond to our request for a comment.
Who pays for clean-up?
The cost of decommissioning an onshore well has been estimated at £195,000-£1m, depending on the design and depth. But according to the NAO report, there were no clear answers on who would pay this cost if operators went out of business.
Under the 1998 Petroleum Act, the government has a statutory liability for decommissioning costs of offshore wells if the operator could not pay. But there is no equivalent legislation for onshore wells, the report said.
“[BEIS] does not recognise any responsibility for decommissioning onshore wells, including shale gas wells, and does not include a contingent liability in its financial statements.”
BEIS had said landowners could take out insurance but it recognised that they may not fully understand the liability they were taking on. Landowners told the NAO that the legal advice they had received about liability was unclear.
In May 2019, BEIS said former operators and landowners could be pursued for decommissioning costs under environmental liability and damage directives. But it accepted that the powers were “relatively untested”. Earlier this month, the Environment Agency, which regulates decommissioning, contradicted this. The report said:
“[the Environment Agency] has since considered the extent of these powers and determined that it is unable to use them to pursue either insolvent operators or landowners.”
The report added:
“The Department [BEIS] was unable to explain who would meet decommissioning costs if the landowners were unable to do so.”
BEIS had also resisted creating a contingent liability for government by counter signing insurance polices or introducing a new statutory onshore decommissioning regime, the report said.
Costs and benefits
The NAO said BEIS believed shale gas would provide the UK with greater energy security and support economic benefits.
But according to the report, BEIS had not conducted an independent assessment of the potential costs or benefits of supporting the shale gas industry. BEIS said this would “not be meaningful while the industry is in the exploration stage” and “in the absence of more evidence about how much shale gas can be extracted.”
The report also said:
“The Department does not know the full costs of supporting shale gas development to date or the future public investment that may be required.”
“On the basis that its spending to support the shale gas industry has been relatively low, the Department has not undertaken an analysis of the opportunity costs of supporting the shale gas industry versus other energy sources, including renewables.”
The NAO said it had identified known costs of government support for fracking since 2011 of at least £32.7m.
This included £13.4m spent by three police forces on managing anti-fracking protests. But it did not include the costs of appeals, judicial reviews or the time and expenses of public officials.
BEIS will have spent £8.4m supporting fracking between April 2012 and March 2020, the report said.
This figure excluded staff costs and expenses. But it did include £88,000 for a shale gas commissioner, who was in post for just six months and has not been replaced, and £75,000 for a National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, which has not yet been established.
The report said:
“The Department has not estimated the extent of the infrastructure required or what public investment may be required because it is still unclear what the size of any future industry would be.”
Unprecedented interest and opposition
The cost of deciding an application for fracking, excluding judicial challenges and appeals, was around £300,000, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has estimated.
Councils can apply for up to £250,000 for each shale gas planning application but they cannot claim for appeals.
The report said local authorities had reported unprecedented public interest in planning applications for fracking.
Lancashire County Council dealt with 36,000 representations for Cuadrilla’s plans at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
The council incurred extra costs of £330,000 for a planning inquiry on the two planning decisions, one of which was upheld.
Public support for shale gas is low and has fallen over time, the report added.
“Local authorities we interviewed said the strength of public opposition for shale gas planning applications was unprecedented.”
Risks of self-reporting system
The NAO said the regulators had:
“so far focused on the exploratory stage and mainly rely on a system of statutory self-reporting by the operator, which presents risks.”
This system was a source of concern, the NAO said, among environmental groups it spoke to. It also said it had found that a self-reporting approach in the packaging recycling obligation “presented risks”.
The report confirmed that after regulators had signed off decommissioning at an onshore site there was “no requirement on any public body or the operator to monitor the well for any leakages or emissions”.
“Regulators will need to respond and build capacity quickly if operators begin producing shale gas at scale.”
The Committee on Climate Change has said that gas would be needed to produce hydrogen to decarbonise industrial heating and heavy-duty vehicles. But it also said the development of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) was essential to ensure shale gas consumption was compatible with UK climate change objectives.
The NAO said:
“The Department [BEIS] considers it can meet its climate change objectives while developing shale gas, but it has not yet developed the necessary technology.”
BEIS held two unsuccessful competitions to develop CCUS in 2007 and 2012, the report said, and in 2018 said it aimed to develop the first facility in the mid-2020s.
Slow progress on shale
The report said only three wells – two at Preston New Road and one at Preese Hall – have been hydraulically fracked so far.
In July 2013, ministers had said they expected operators to have drilled between 20 and 40 exploration wells in two years. In 2016, a Cabinet Office report expected that between five and 20 wells could be fracked by the mid-2020s.
The government has blamed low public acceptance, while operators said it was because of the time taken to obtain consents and permits and the threshold for managing fracking-induced earth tremors.
“Report exposes fragilities of government policy on fracking”
Steve Mason, Frack Free United
“What we have here is a truly independent verification of the facts and questions posed by the anti-fracking campaign. This report has exposed the fragilities of the government’s policy on fracking, leaving so many unanswered questions. The government has no idea how much gas they can extract, what the economic benefits are and they do not have the technologies available to limit emissions if we frack.
“It is highly likely that taxpayers will have to pay for the clean-up costs. Anyone reading this report must surely be thinking: ‘What on earth is going on? How can the government support this industry that is fast becoming more fantasy than facts?’ We advocate an urgent ban on this dirty fossil fuel industry.”
“Government support for fracking is ill-considered, reckless and based on ideology”
Nick Danby, Frack Free Lancashire
“This report from the National Audit Office reveals what we have always suspected: this government’s support for fracking is ill-considered, reckless and based upon ideology rather than cold, hard facts. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) appears to have little idea as to how much gas there is, how much is recoverable and what is the potential contribution to the UK energy mix.
“It is very worrying that our government should have such little regard for facts and figures and it is especially concerning that it should continue to champion a new fossil fuel industry in the face of the threat of climate breakdown. We urge the government to stop subsidising fossil fuels and to ban fracking with immediate effect.”
“No sound business case”
Spokeswoman, Preston New Road Action Group, the residents’ campaign group closest to Cuadrilla’s site:
“This report demonstrates that the cost-benefit case for shale gas has not been made satisfactorily. It is not clear how much shale gas can be extracted and without this knowledge, the benefits cannot be fully calculated. The technologies to manage risk from emissions are still not available. There could also be a huge cost burden on taxpayers in the future if they have to fund the decommissioning of sites. However, from the fracking that has taken place to date, some of the dis-benefits such as earthquakes and greenhouse gas emissions have been proven. Shale gas extraction just does not appear to have a sound business case.”
“Government keeping fracking on life support”
Joe Corré, head of Talk Fracking:
“This is more doublethink to come from the government. A report which condemns fracking is at the same time still offering a faint flame of government support for the rapidly dying shale gas industry. Shale investors are finding it very difficult to give up the ghost. Unfortunately, their friends in government are still keeping it on life support despite all the science and public opinion giving a fatal prognosis for England. Fracking is over.”
“Confirms local fears”
Maureen Mills, Halsall Against Fracking
“This analysis is totally bewildering in that it reveals in one place the extent of the gross negligence by a government department. It confirms all the fears, and more, of local communities who have educated themselves about fracking and have witnessed Cuadrilla’s ineptitude on the Fylde with incredulity.
“It confirms the impotence of the so-called regulators that we were assured would ensure “Gold Standard” regulation. Unforgivably, the very clear climate change impacts of leakages and emissions have completely bypassed the BEIS [Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] despite the scientific evidence. Surely in the face of this concise and damning report, the unprecedented and mounting public opposition to fracking will now be given due weight against industry favours from government?”
“Offshore regulations could be applied to onshore decommissioning”
Researcher and campaigner Ben Dean:
“I’m disappointed that the NAO report fails to reference section 38a of the Petroleum Act 1998 when it refers to the taxpayer ultimately being liable for offshore decommissioning. If the OGA and its predecessors do their job thoroughly then 38a requires the offshore licensee to ‘ring fence’ the agreed cost of decommissioning all infrastructure prior to any development works commencing.
“The NOA could have recommended 38a to be applied to onshore hydrocarbon development. That would be a positive recommendation which would negate Model Clause 20.13 of The Petroleum Licensing (Exploration and Production) (Landward Areas) Regulations 2014, Schedule 2. This states that all casings and fixings left at the expiry of the licensee’s rights become the property of the Secretary of State.
“So, in the case of an onshore licensee becoming insolvent, it is the taxpayer that pays, not the landowner, as the NAO and EA seem to be fudging.”
“Public will be left to foot the bill for decommissioning when operators go bust”
Eddie Thornton, campaigner and Ryedale resident who is bringing a legal challenge against the Oil & Gas Authority over Third Energy’s change of ownership
“This damning report shows a total failure of the government to protect British tax payers from the clean up costs when fracking companies go bust
“It’s clear from existing legalisation that it will be the public left holding the bag. That’s why we’re taking urgent legal action against the Oil and Gas Authority to force them to properly assess the finances of all fracking companies before it’s too late.”
“A mark-your-own-homework industry”
Jamie Peters, fracking campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“This is a quietly critical report that doesn’t give the fracking industry any revived sense of hope. The NAO have several concerns including the ‘mark-your-own-homework’ approach to regulation and the lack of clarity over who should be responsible for clean-up costs if fracking ever got going.
“Nothing has changed: fracking isn’t wanted, it’s a failed industry, and the future is renewables and energy saving.”
“No demonstrable benefit to local people, communities and country at large”
Daniel Carey-Dawes, head of rural economy and communities, at CPRE said:
“The NAO report casts a critical eye over the government’s commitment to developing a shale gas industry in England. For several years now, local communities have been bamboozled by shale salespersons, promising economic boom, lower energy bills, all at no cost to the environment. The NAO report highlights the lack of evidence to support any of these claims, and the lack of clarity on who will meet the costs of decommissioning wells when the fracking circus leaves town.
“The report also highlights the lack of progress on carbon capture and storage, which is essential for fracking to be compliant with reaching net-zero. In this state of climate emergency, we should be doing everything we can to cut our emissions as quickly as possible, and not, relying on a future non-existent technology.
“Findings in this report chime with CPRE’s warnings that fracking could lead to the industrialisation of the countryside and contribute to the climate crisis. If even this impartial summary of the facts as presented in this NAO report can be so damning then it’s hard to see how the government can justify ploughing ahead with this pro-fracking agenda. It is time to bring an end to this nonsense and halt fracking.”
“Government needs to accept fracking failure and move on”
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said:
“It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong, but fracking has been a failure and government needs to accept it and move on. They say they want lower bills for people, but they’ve already wasted well over £1 per UK household propping up a pointless and divisive pursuit of a fossil fuel that our commitments to decarbonisation mean we can hardly use. We’re in a climate emergency, public opposition is sky high and fracking won’t bring us lower energy bills. It’s time to call an end to this farce.”
“Report details compelling environmental and economic benefits”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas
“We welcome the wide-ranging report put out today by the National Audit Office, which summarises the industry position reached over the last 6 years.
“The report highlights what is already known: there is a very significant regulatory structure in place, the Environment Agency have assessed our operations as low risk and they have put in place a significant compliance visit schedule. Further to this, the Health and Safety Executive have confirmed there have been no breaches of their regulations – including for well integrity.
“The report also highlighted the delays in the planning system which have contributed to slower than expected progress. The shale industry, as the report highlights, is in the early exploration stages. It is not uncommon to see delays in the energy sector, as experienced in the development of the North Sea oilfields, onshore wind industry and new nuclear.
“Early results from our wells in Lancashire and Nottingham, plus data from the British Geological Survey, confirm that we have a very significant natural gas resource that can be brought to the surface. On top of this, the report comments on the need for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, recommended by the Committee on Climate Change as essential in meeting the net zero target. There will be a significant need for natural gas in 2050 and beyond to meet these objectives. The Committee also recommended not to further offshore our emissions by relying on imported fuels. There is therefore a significant role for both onshore oil and gas in the future, which if allowed to reach potential will bring the compelling environmental and economic benefits as detailed in the National Audit Office report.”
“Sensible policy decision”
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources
“Public opinion ebbs and flows. The most important thing is the underlying need for energy. That isn’t going to go away and nor is the underlying need for gas going to go away. It’s fine to say the world is awash with gas and we can buy it from here and we can buy it from there, until you can’t buy it from there and then it’s too late. It’s a very sensible policy decision to have at least some of your energy source come from local resources if you can do it. Not everyone can do it. But certainly the UK will be in a position to do it.” Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme in response to the suggestion that the “writing was on the wall” for the UK fracking dream
Call for government to protect landowners – CLA
Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said:
“The report reinforces our long-held concerns around landowner liabilities and fracking. It clearly states that ‘arrangements are unclear and untested’ around decommissioning costs, echoing points we raised to the Energy Minister in August 2017 where we highlighted the overall lack of protection for private landowners with regard to fracking development. Above all else, landowners take a long-term view of land management and the fact that they will be liable, long after an operator has left, remains a barrier to further adoption.
“We urge the Government to put the right protections for landowners in place not only to ensure the long-term integrity of well-sites is maintained, thus removing any risk to future use of land, but also to guarantee that the residual liability of a site should never fall to the landlord. We are pleased that the National Audit Office’s conclusions agree with our position.”
“Millions wasted on unpopular industry”
Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary
“The Tory-Lib Dem Coalition and now the Tory government have wasted millions pushing an industry that is unpopular across the UK and fiercely opposed locally.
“Fracking threatens air and water quality, and it contributes to the climate crisis. And as this report reveals, the government’s plan for making fracking sites safe after they’ve been used is unclear and untested.
“Well let me be crystal clear – Labour will ban fracking immediately.”
Report calls out the cheap gas prices myth
Gina Dowding, MEP for north west England, including Cuadrilla’s fracking site
“I think the first thing that the public would be interested in this report from the National Audit Office is what is actually going to happen to energy prices. What is clear is that the NAO has finally called out the cheap gas prices myth and that energy prices are not expected to fall: that’s because the shale gas industry cannot be easily compared to the North American model both because of difficult geology here and how our communities are much more densely populated.
“Aside from the myriad issues surrounding fracking, to even think of progressing with a new fossil fuel industry during a climate emergency, is nothing short of stupidity.”
“Conservative support for fracking is delaying climate action”
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Climate Change
“We can make all or nearly all our electricity from renewables by 2030. There is no place for fossil fuels in the power sector after then. By continuing to support fracking, the Conservatives demonstrate they are the party that delays climate action.”
I just listened to Francis Egan on the radio try and defend himself against a barrage of questions on how badly the industry was doing. His answers did him no favours. He implied that Cuadrilla had done their bit and that it was the Government who were holding them back.
Simply saying there is lots of gas down there means very little if that is all you can prove in 10 years.
Cuadrilla state they have the relative experience to frack and produce gas. They state that they can produce cheap safe gas and not exceed agreed 0.5magnitude thresholds. They say there are thousands of well paid jobs to be had.
To date they have proved nothing other than that there is gas trapped in shale rock. A fact that has been known for decades.
Cuadrilla have had plenty of support from the Government but now try to suggest they are being held back by them.
Another delay tactic and a good inroad into blaming others.
This report should see investment pull away from this desperate failing industry.
Egan has also said, “If people don’t want it, they don’t want it.”
Well, we don’t want it.
Except the royal “we” is your opinion, and not a fact, David.
Meanwhile, I note XR have cost far more from the public purse in 1 year than testing of fracking in 8 years!
If this is about cost, then it is easy to see where a ban would produce greatest cost saving.
You could just as easily say that the fossil fuel industry’s denial of anthropogenic global warming and world govts inaction has cost us all that money – and vastly more worldwide of course. XR have merely highlighted that inaction, in addition to David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and countless climate scientists. The level of policing for XR protest is also the decision of someone at a high level of our govt – clearly not based on any cost benefit analysis.
Wrong again, Mike. The policing costs for XR are only part of it. What about the lost income and spoilt holidays for London tourists-or, is it just XR who are “allowed” to fly around the world? What about the costs of removing all that rubbish left by XR in London?
The level of policing is down to the Met., who were better employed adding to the County Lines campaign. What would you estimate the cost to families of police resources being spent on XR rather than that campaign?
Collateral damage seems to be nothing to XR, but it looks as if this time it has rebounded. I think a few commuters conducted a very rapid cost benefit analyses and it seems that many sympathised with their analyses that public transport is indeed an environmentally beneficial means of transport supported by many of those countless climate scientists-although some might ask why are there countless climate scientists and whether that might just be part of the problem rather than all of the solution.
Ah, studiously avoided my main point Martin. Fossil fuel companies lobbying and govt inaction remain the primary problem. XR and all the rest is just the desperation of ordinary people who prioritise saving our, and countless other species from the people who prioritise short term monetary gain. I heartily agree that police would be better employed countering County Lines and many other crimes, but I don’t get a voice in that decision. I have no influence on the tactics of XR either and suspect that some are counter productive, but nevertheless, I agree that we have reached (or perhaps passed) the point where something must be done urgently to rein in the greenhouse effect.
Well, Mike, perhaps work up the “something” into a realistic proposition and you may find it would be eagerly accepted. Until then, saying what you don’t want is just a mirror of Parliament, and that mirror has been accepted as broken.
A few more headlines along the following:
“The fire engulfed the car and burnt Dr. Awan beyond recognition-all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk”, the lawsuit states.
An unfortunate one off?
“The family of an 18 year old man who lost control of his Tesla in Florida last year and crashed into a wall said that the crash was “entirely survivable” but an explosion of the battery made it fatal.”
Rushing to “something” and ending up with those issues will not win many converts. No wonder reaction will not be budged from his diesel. Even with a huge subsidy I prefer not to be killed in that way.
I would also suggest XR are no longer viewed as “ordinary people”, so that may be attempting to build upon sand.
There is no logic in comparing the costs of policing XR with the costs of fracking as outlined in this report. The government CHOOSES to police XR heavily It could choose differently This report makes it clear that clean up costs would fall by default to the tax payer with no alternative available
No. The Met. have a responsibility to police any event proportionate to mitigate against danger of public reaction, for safety reasons and to enable other people to enjoy their human rights. It has obviously decided what was required, and the number of arrests indicate perhaps more, rather than less, might have been justified.
Who is paying for the clean up and disposal of the 80 tonnes of rubbish? Oh, the tax payer!
Irony is alive and well.
Well, that is 3!
Thanks for proving the point.
If we get Big Green Jack, will that be one more, or three more, as spokesperson for Big Blue Jack and little blue jack?
Nevertheless, it justifies David’s use of ‘we’.
Me saying “I’m Smart-icus” states as much!
And the original of that was fake news too.
Ah, but mine is the royal ‘me’ – counts for millions…..
It warms my heart to know that I’m in your thoughts.
In bringing my name on to the forum page, as on many other previous occasions, I will take it as another cry for help .
Well MARTIN old buddy , what can I help you with today ?????
( 1 ) How Fracking is dangerous to human and animal health .
( 2 ) Why Fracking is dangerous to the enviournment .
( 3 ) How Fracking leaves a toxic legacy and an ongoing financial burden for future generations.
( 4 ) How living close to a fracking site greatly devalues your home and makes it almost uninsurable.
( 5 ) How fracking is nothing more than a great plump ponzi scheme, that will leave taxpayers picking up the tab .
OR MAYBE you just want me to pass on my advice as to how the lucky 90% of residents living within the PNR fracking zone could invest or spend their huge windfalls of £150 offered to them by Cuadrilla .
I’m here to help MARTIN and remember that unlike yourself, Mr Opinion ONLY , I back up ALL I say with LINKS from professional people and organisations.
Well, hello Jack. Back from the re-education program! Shame they didn’t add in some multiplication this time. You were educated on that a while ago, but it seems to have slipped away, so a refresher might be of value next time.
Shame that you STILL rely upon those selected LINKS Jack, and have yet to find a way of accessing all the data the rest of us in the UK can, even when we helpful point you to the source with a full reference. Elvis still working in that chip shop?
But, nice of you to confirm that you have access to selected information and that is how you decide upon things and that is how you suggest others should.
“Professional people and organisations”-ermm, like RT!! I suppose they are on one level, but please excuse me for not being drawn into the useful idiot throng.
The Gold Standard re-education programme might have been a better investment.
Talking of professional people and organisations, pass on my best to Big Blue Jack and baby blue jack.
An utterly damning govt report on the govts handling of fracking. Yet another nail in the coffin and now running out of space for more. The title could realistically read ‘Government clueless on fracking costs, benefits and clean-up – spending watchdog’
It might be the stake though the heart rather than another nail in the coffin Mike 😉
Three wells fracked, all in the same geological domain. Definitely not a statistically significant result. I just wish all these protesters would back off & let exploration go ahead, so that we have some statistically significant results in a representative sample of UK geology (which varies greatly). I just wish we had politicians who are trained in science & engineering, but sadly so few. This does not bode well for an economy that has aspirations to lead in the post Brexit disaster it appears it wants to embrace. Never mind all the other reasons why we should explore & test our natural resources in an increasingly dangerous & unpredictable world.
Suspect any “contentious” issues will be shelved for a while, Nick. Equally, Lib Undems will avoid any chat about student funding, Greens will studiously avoid falling into the brave new economics chat again and Labour will have very little to talk about, and certainly not to any serious interviewer as demonstrated last night!
Post an election and a Brexit it may be that the fog disappears, and the wood can be seen within the trees.
‘ I just wish we had politicians who are trained in science & engineering’
If that was the case, we would very likely be in an entirely different place regarding AGW. It would, of course, entirely depend whether those politicians prioritised the science or the party politics, dogma and self interest. Most politicians will be very clever, well informed people, but it doesn’t mean their motives are entirely supportive of their constituent’s needs.
‘I just wish we had politicians who are trained in science & engineering’
Cuadrilla have experience in 3000 drilling and fracking developments yet they have not been able to carry out a successful fracking operation. More training required?
‘we should explore & test our natural resources in an increasingly dangerous & unpredictable world’
Already done. Renewables work well, are dropping in price, and we have the ideal weather system to maximise our wind energy potential. We are pushing ahead with offshore wind. No reason not to maximise on popular cheap onshore wind power.
MIKE POTTER ,
PLEASE find a little more space , BBC news gives fresh nails for the Fracking Coffin .
Is The Future Of Fracking Now In Doubt ??????
Is Jack real????
There we are, a question, but is it a nail?
Oh dear Jack-with LINKS like that you need to follow the Motley Fool!
(I must be old fashioned. I still believe news is different to speculation-with, or without links.)
Sounds a bit like yesterdays “news” that apples were rotting in fields due to a shortage of pickers! Really? News a few weeks ago was around a record harvest of apples. Perhaps the stores are full and the contracts completed, so the market is stuffed? Ever thus.
“Lincolnshire farmers ploughing in cauliflowers”-happens quite often when there is a bumper crop.
Used to be that BBC could be relied upon to stick to news, but the Internet success has seen an end to that. Compete or lose seems to be the mantra. Good job that people are getting better at spotting news against fake news and/or speculation.
“Jack is flogging a dead horse”.
News, fake news or speculation??
A little clue. As far as the UK is concerned the NOW is the giveaway. If there was any realism, then until it was fully tried, tested and economically proven it would ALWAYS be in doubt. Seem to remember oil/gas extraction from N.Sea had similar “insights”.
Anyway, have fun. I have to prepare for a weekend of Rugby.
oh the voice of ‘zombie nation’……