Politics

Fracking moratorium back – PM

Rishi Sunak has hinted that the moratorium on fracking for shale gas in England will be reinstated.

Rishi Sunak answering a question from Caroline Lucas at prime minister’s questions, 26 October 2022.
Photo: Parliament Live TV

Speaking at prime minister’s questions this morning, he said he “stands by” the Conservative party 2019 manifesto on fracking.

The manifesto said:

“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”

Mr Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, announced on her fourth day in office that the moratorium would be lifted.

Her business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, officially ended the moratorium on 22 September, in a written ministerial statement.

The Financial Times is reporting this lunchtime that a senior government official said that decision would be reversed.

The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot has tweeted from a lobby briefing : “confirmed fracking ban is here to stay as per 2019 manifesto”.

Mr Sunak’s response followed a question by the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas. She later tweeted:

“A major result today: after my question at #PMQs, PM just committed to maintain ban on climate-wrecking #fracking. Rees-Mogg’s dangerous, destructive & deeply unpopular plan to frack the nation is dead in the water – now we must ensure Govt sticks to its promise.”

She also tweeted:

DrillOrDrop asked the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) whether the moratorium would be reinstated – and if not, what evidence had been used to prove that fracking could be done safely. The department has not responded.

A review of the science of fracking, commissioned by BEIS, concluded that forecasting induced-earthquakes remained a scientific challenge and there were “significant knowledge gaps”.

BEIS is facing a legal challenge over lifting the moratorium from three campaign organisations. The department has until Friday 28 October to respond to a letter before action.

During the leadership campaign against Liz Truss, Mr Sunak said he supported fracking with local consent.

The moratorium covered only shale gas fracking which met the definitions in the Infrastructure Act

Transcript

Caroline Lucas said:

“The prime minister’s reckless predecessor took a wrecking ball to nature, prompting millions of the RSPB, the National Trust and the Wildlife Trust to rise up in opposition. Yesterday, he promised to fix her mistakes, as well as to uphold the party’s 2019 manifesto. So if he is a man of his word, will he start by reversing the greenlight she gave to fracking – since it’s categorically not been shown to be safe – and instead maintain the moratorium, which was pledged in that very manifesto that he has already promised to uphold.

Rishi Sunak replied:

“I’ve already said that I stand by the manifesto on that.

“But what I would say is that I’m proud that this government has passed the landmark Environment Act, giving more protection to the national environment than we’ve ever had, with a clear plan to deliver. And I can give the honourable lady my commitment that we will deliver on all those ambitions, we will deliver on what we said at COP, because we care deeply about passing our children an environment in a better state that we found it ourselves.”

24 replies »

  1. I’ll only beleive it when the announcement by Jacob Rees-Mogg, which officially ended the moratorium on 22 September 2022, is reversed fully in writing, and written in a ministerial statement, signed sealed and delivered to the public.
    There is another possible fracking ‘get out of jail free card’. That is the limit of 10,000cubic metres in 1,000 cubic metres per frack. – https://www.frackfreeunited.co.uk/why-is-the-fracking-moratorium-so-confusing

    *’This article from ‘Drill or Drop’ – *’Fracking moratorium – the unanswered questions
    By Ruth Hayhurst on November 4, 2019’* – https://drillordrop.com/2019/11/04/fracking-moratorium-the-unanswered-questions/

    *’The definition of fracking should be simple, consistent and without constraints about the volumes of fluid used.
    The rationale for this is set out below.
    Geoscientists have suggested that the narrow definitions of fracking could allow fracking in the UK to “creep under the radar”. (1)
    Professor Haszeldine told The Guardian that analysis of more than 17,000 gas wells fracked in the US from 2000-2010 showed that 43% would not be defined as fracking under UK rules. Of 4,500 US fracked oil wells, 89% would not be covered by the UK definition. (2)’*

    It would appear that even a reinstatement of the fracking moratorium, that Jacob Rees-Mogg, officially ended on 22 September 2022, would still allow for fracking under the USA definition, but not the United Kingdom definition. To allow ‘fracking’ to proceed unabated if it’s defined by present United Kingdom legislation, as stated above.
    (That is ‘cubic metres’ in EU metric definition, not ‘cubic meters’. Which is similar to ‘litres’ in metric definition, not ‘liters’ as was stated in one post only recently. Reference *’ – October 25, 2022 at 3:00 pm’*. Quote – *’Noticed diesel was 21p/liter more than petrol.’* *’Liter’* being a very American spelling of the EU metric definition of *litre’*, which is used universally in the United Kingdom.

    Therefore, in order to remove any further doubt, that Rishi Sunak’s word is his bond, any reinstated moratorium by the restatement of the conservative party manifesto, must also close that legal loophole – *’not called fracking if it’s less than 10,000 cubic metres total, or 1,000 cubic metres per frack’* ‘fracking get out of jail free card’ for good and for all.

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

    • The government’s definition of fracking has been in place all along but the moratorium has still held since 2019. If they’d wanted to get round the moratorium by using the definition there was nothing to prevent them. They could try but I imagine that employing weasel words in that way would infuriate the public even more, especially at a time when Sunak is crowing about his ‘integrity.’

      • True, but the last six weeks have been useful; it has confirmed the UK’s abhorrence of fracking.
        With gas stocks back up to target levels across Europe and the wholesale price falling, the recent panic desire for shale gas had already ebbed away.
        Not only do we not want it, we don’t need it.

        • Well said David Burley, we can scrap the need for LNG imports by improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. Something Cameron was made aware of back in 2016 but he chose to ignore the science and continued to “go all out for shale” . As we know, shale gas would not lower energy costs and with renewables nine times cheaper than gas, why would we want to leave ourselves more dependent on expensive gas? Not only that, gas use must reduce considerably by 2030 if we are to achieve net zero.
          A recent study showed that if we are to stay on the pathway of a 1.5C increase in global temperatures there is no capacity for any new oil and gas reserves to be extracted.
          Fracking is dead, we must now focus our efforts on greener, sustainable options that will lower energy prices and improve energy security.

          • Hahaha… what a ridiculous comment KatT! We live in the northern hemisphere, people, ‘not you’ are struggling whether to heat or eat and you are bartering insulation?!? Well I never!!

            • You are so ill informed Eli- Goth, you really are. Why are people struggling to eat or heat? Answer because of the high cost of fossil fuels. What will lower bills, apart from cheaper renewable energy? The answer is better energy efficiency ie insulating our homes and buildings because less energy is consumed. And what has living it the northern hemisphere got to do with anything? Scandinavia has some of the most energy efficient homes and buildings and one of the highest use of heat pumps. Way ahead of us in scrapping gas and oil boilers.
              Britains housing stock is some of the least energy efficient in Europe, we waste and lose a huge amount of energy this way.

      • Yes I agree Pauline, but wouldn’t it be essential for this new government to put their money where their manifesto is, and to close all the possible ‘fracking/not fracking’ loopholes once and for all?
        After all, it would be a ‘confirmation of closure’ for Rishi Sunak, or whoever it falls to be responsible for the ultimate reinstatement of the fracking moratorium, wouldn’t it? Maybe the word ‘Ban’ would be better employed as is used elsewhere?
        Perhaps, it just goes to show how little trust there is yet to be dispelled by this government, that anyone should even consider the possibility of their back door employment of their already stated ‘weasel words’ as you so amply and accurately put it? As you say, an infuriated public would result from the lack of ‘integrity’ of this government if they did manage to sneak the (un)definition of fracking in at the back door.

        • I agree that it would be good if the government would close all the ridiculous loopholes and get out clauses. It would give us more confidence that they will keep their word but we have to be grateful for what we’ve got at this stage. Hopefully reality will dawn eventually and there will be a complete once and for all ban and concentration on insulation, conservation and renewables. Maybe they could be avoiding the word ‘ban’ in case the frackers attempt to sue as INEOS did in Scotland.
          In a way, Truss and Rees Mogg have done us a favour by giving us the opportunity to bring the dangers of fracking and the fact that it would make no difference to energy costs or security and isn’t needed into the public arena again. Since 2019 fracking had all rather gone off the radar. Now with much more opposition by the public , their own MPs and local authorities the government will hopefully realise fracking is once and for all a dead duck.

          • Agreed, Pauline, and also to the excellent points you raise. I bow to your wisdom, and I will refrain from the ‘B’ word for now.
            Yes, I also agree with you on the Truss and Rees-Mogg fiasco. In spite of claims to the contrary, the fracking vote really did bring about the demise of the previous ‘new government’ and discouraged any future attempt to raise the fracking moratorium again with the ‘new, new government’.
            Perhaps even in the conservative party, their every cloud, has a silver lining? There must be some very heavy clouds out there. In my younger days, I read profusely from any book I could find. I still do, when life and jobs don’t intrude. One of the most memorable, was Charles Dickens ~ *’A Tale of Two Cities’* The opening sentence is very long –

            *’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.’*

            Profound writing, I’m sure you agree. Resolution tends to derive from conflict. Everyone makes their choice as to which direction they take. I would surmise that there are further, and perhaps far more divisive conflicts yet to come from the World Economic Fund ‘Young Leader’ ideologically trained Rishi Sunak? A Great Reset style General Election may yet set that back. However, the present array of U/U turns will suffice for now.

    • The 2015 Infrastructure Act definition of fracking can be got round and included lawfully in development plans by describing the process. And I think there would be outrage if the government tried to get round the moratorium deceitfully. The last fracking vote played a large part in bringing the last government down. I feel this is the final straw for fracking, and rightly so.

  2. Ban the cheapest fuel on the planet , that will save millions from poverty.

    Rishi doesn’t cares that gas and electric costs could go to £5000 a year and £100,000 a year for businesses.

    All he cares about is, that the green lobby and their investments are happy, and that the globalist elite can profiteer from buying putin’s energy on the cheap.

    • Fracking will not lower energy costs, the size of the reserve, if viable, is too small to impact global prices. There would be no significant quantities of shale gas for several years so again, even if viable, it would not help consumers anytime soon.
      A 2019 study by the BGS and Nottingham University stated the shale gas reserve may be much smaller than originally estimated and there may be only a few years worth of gas supply.
      A study by ReFINE found that because of fixed infrastructure in the small, densely populated U.K., fracking operations would be reduced by over 70%, so again less gas would be produced.

      • Contrary to your sources, actually tests from Bowland shale at Misson by IGAS proved there is substantial gas and concentrations found were larger than Permian basin in USA.

        UK foreign owned energy companies will continue to buy gas at a premium from other nations to the detriment of the economy.
        Many people will freeze to death and die of poverty due to this decision.

        • The review by the BGS of the Preese Hall events states,

          “There is a strong indication from the data in the consultants’ reports that the strength of a seismic event is linked to the
          amount of fluid injected”

          The total amount of fluid into the Preese Hall well was 8,399 cu metres, under the 10,000 cu metres limit. If such a relatively small amount can cause 50 seismic events and an industry stopping 2.3M quake I doubt Cuadrilla would be gaining anything by trying to work under the threshold to avoid ‘fracking’

          An increase in fluid may allow more gas to flow but will increase the number of seismic events and magnitude rise. UK shale gas never was or ever will be commercially viable.

          Click to access 5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf

          • With gas concentrations higher than the Permian basin, it is obviously commercially viable.

            It is more about the decision to exploit abundant resources on our own turf.

            The seismology rumours are all scare mongering.

            Half of our electric consumption is gas and 80% of our heating is gas.

            The British mentality has always been to exploit the resources of other countries through invasion and get other countries to do the dirty work…….
            It is a mindset that puzzles me, when we have such natural resources.

          • John Powney:

            Thanks, but for the accuracy of the historical record please do not underestimate:

            It was not, as you said ”a 2.3 M quake.”

            It was in fact, a 2.9 ML fracking induced earthquake ”caused by a fault that could not have been detected on survey data.”
            There were 197 reports of structural or household damage to the British Geological Survey (BGS)
            Cuadrilla has not revealed how many complaints it received, nor the value of any damage or compensation paid.
            The BGS said it also received several thousand reports from people who felt the earthquake.
            BGS recorded the seismicity at intensity level 6.: ”Felt by all with some mild structural damage eg fallen chimneys etc.”

            • I think John is referring to the BGS report o the 2011 seismic event at Preese hall which was A 2.3ML . That event triggered the first moratorium and though not as powerful as the 2.9ML at PNR was nevertheless widely felt. More seriously, it caused damage to the well which Cuadrilla didn’t report for 6 months, causing Minister Charles Hendry to rebuke Cuadrilla for their shoddy practice.
              It’s interesting to note that Jacob Rees Mogg and the industry were now suggesting a level of around 2.5ML, that’s higher than Preese Hall’s 2.3ML which damaged the well, as the level at which work should stop for a while, rather than the 0.5ML previously used in the TLS. No wonder Rees Mogg said we locals should tolerate a higher level of risk and disruption. If they weren’t even expected to pause work until they reached a level higher than Preese Hall goodness knows what level would be allowed before work was actually stopped altogether.

              • Yes Pauline, that was my point:
                It was the later PNR 2.9 ML, intensity 6, which was the relevant, in John’s words ”Industry-stopping” fracking induced earthquake.

        • Jon Jones – if fracking is so nailed on, why does the industry itself say they would have to drill circa fifty wells just to determine if there is a commercially viable reserve? Why would the founder of Cuadrilla state publicly that fracking in the U.K. is not viable because of our geology? And why would fracking expert Professor Richard Davies state on BBC Radio just yesterday that it was the right decision to reinstate the moratorium because the BGS could not produce any new scientific evidence to justify lifting it and that he does not see a future for fracking in the U.K. because the reserve is not big enough, would only provide a small amount of the gas the U.K. consumes and would require hundreds of wells drilling every year?
          A company will always spin positives when they are looking for investment, permissions and trying to look after the share price. Interesting also that iGas allowed the planning to lapse at Misson.
          I would say the few sources I have quoted here, which are just some of the numerous out there, are far more credible

  3. Given the very large number of blocks recently offered in the North Sea by the NSTA, I cannot see why we are even talking about onshore fracking. Given that we know from scientists that it is not possible to go on exploiting hydrocarbons without the human race commiting suicide, we have got enough licenses now. This is just about specific comanies wanting to make a profit it is not about what could be needed.

  4. Well its possible that UK prime ministers fear Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyrep……. indepedence could throw some spanners in the works for England!

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