BBC Program on Fracking, featuring Professor Iain Stewart.

ReBlogged from Lack of Environment:


Professor Iain Stewart


Letter written to Professor Stewart by Lack of Environment, author Martin Lack:

Herewith appended below is an email I sent today to Professor Iain Stewart (and copied to all those named in it).

Dear Professor Stewart,

I wanted to express my appreciation for the sensitive way in which you handled the issues in last night’s Horizon programme and for all the facts, figures and research findings it contained.  I was particularly interested in the evidence that shale gas has escaped from poorly-constructed wells in the USA.  Even if the UK can improve on the 6 to 7% failure rate in the USA, 100% success (i.e. no failures) is highly improbable.  Therefore, if fracking must be pursued (for whatever reason), this would make it imperative that the BGS establish baseline monitoring for methane as soon as possible. Would it be possible to get a copy of the transcript of the programme (or a list of References)?

Given my geological background and my MA in Environmental Politics, I have written a great deal about Fracking and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on my blog.  However, having started out very much opposed to both Fracking and CCS, my position has evolved as a consequence of ‘exchanges of views’ I had last year with Professor Peter Styles (Keele) and with Professor Robert Mair (Cambridge/Royal Society).  As a result of these exchanges – summarised or linked to here on my blog – I would agree with Peter that we probably need shale gas.  However, I believe Peter also agrees with me that we probably cannot afford it*.  I also understand that the remit of the Royal Society specifically excluded the long-term sustainability implications of pursuing fracking.

Nevertheless, this leaves me wondering whether you could encourage the BBC to do a second programme to address the consequences of humans burning all the Earth’s fossil fuels simply because they are there; and/or the need for ‘Western’ per capita energy consumption to be drastically reduced?  Having read David MacKay’s book, Sustainable Energy: Without The Hot Air, I think our biggest problem is that most people do not think holistically about the problems we face or, even worse, they seem to think concepts such as ‘ecological carrying capacity’ are just eco-Marxist propaganda.  However, although it would seem that CCS is now going to be essential in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), I think it is also the biggest obstacle to getting politicians to take decisive action to decarbonise our power generation systems.

Even if such a second Horizon programme is not likely, I remain very appreciative of all you have done – and are doing – to raise the profile of ACD as an Earth Science issue that should be of concern to all.

Kind regards, [etc]

ReBlogged from Lack of Environment:

* If fracking becomes the new energy boom, it is very hard to see how CCS will ever be able to be rolled-out on a global scale to keep pace with unabated CO2 emissions.


5 thoughts on “BBC Program on Fracking, featuring Professor Iain Stewart.

  1. Thanks for re-blogging this, Denise.

    Those hoping for a re-run of Gasland or The Sky Is Pink by Josh Fox will be disappointed. What viewers will see is a very thoughtful presentation of the real dilemma humanity faces: Unless we reduce our profligate consumption of energy, we are heading for widespread energy blackouts. Nevertheless, I think:
    1. His questioning of the wisdom of fracking from an economic perspective is far too subtle.
    2. He fails to point out the extent to which the countryside is being trashed.
    3. He does not mention that most jobs created do not benefit the local communities affected.
    4. He mentions and then sets aside the question as to whether it is wise for us to be pursuing yet another carbon-based energy source; and (therefore)
    5. The significance of his closing remarks will probably be lost on most viewers.

    Despite all of the above, I remain a great fan (and I understand why he tried so hard not to appear to be a ‘rabid’ environmentalist).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comments Martin. Iain Stewart presented a balanced perspective, but he could have addressed your concerns more thoroughly (1-5) with the problems of USA fracking methods. I was interested to see the actual well, and the methods used in the extraction process. There is a moratorium in California to stop fracking along the San Andreas earthquake fault line in the Monterey, CA area. The secrecy in the USA about the chemicals used in the fracking process was informative. Also, the Halliburton trucks parked next to the well were disturbing for me to see. Halliburton is not a company that we trust!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fracking is one of the reasons I left Ohio (in the U.S.). There was already a problem with methane gas in the county I lived in. With so much money (greed) involved, it seems unlikely fracking will be stopped anytime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too was disappointed and concerned about the lack of emphasis on the destructive effects of continued carbon emissions from burning shale oil and the fact that global warming or climate change was never mentioned. Additionally, there were other very important aspects that were omitted. One, was the a serious discussion regarding the source and the discharge of the water used by these fracking operations and looking at whether there is any potential for aquifer depletion or contamination.
    Second, seismic activity. There are reports of increased numbers of earthquake occurrence in areas where fracking is taking place. This is worth a serious look and to have not even mentioned it could look like industry bias.
    Third, the idea that most of the people, in the areas the programme visited, in shale country were getting rich from shale, and previously from coal, is not borne out by the economic indicators of where historically these extractive practices were most prevalent.
    All in all, no passing grade for Professor Stewart from me but I have hopes that a thorough revision will do the trick. I look forward to seeing that next programme.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s