Blog Archives

Fracking – 1: will government listen to corporate friendly MPs or to research evidence?

 1. Advocate MP Peter Lilley

MP Peter Lilley regularly makes the case for fracking – and was once again interviewed on Radio 4 today. Hansard records that he expressed gratitude for the reassurance given by John Hayes, when Minister of State for Energy, that in the US experience, “so far as we know there has been no confirmed instance of any person being poisoned by water contamination or of buildings being damaged by earth tremors as a result of fracking.”

Vested interest

tehys petroleum logoMr Lilley is currently Vice Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director at Tethys Petroleum, sitting on all its committees. For this position he has received $400,000 worth of share options, in addition to regular payments – over £23,000 from January to June this year for 12 working days.

As MP Caroline Lucas, describing him as ‘a senior oil industry figure and well-known climate sceptic’ said: “Lilley’s position as a oil executive means that he is likely to be far more concerned with the short-term profits of the dinosaur polluting fossil fuel barons than tackling the huge threat posed by climate change – or recognising the opportunities of switching to a green economy.”

Latest news: Conservative MP Tim Yeo, who chairs the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, is alleged to have used his position to help a private company influence Parliament, secretly filmed by the Sunday Times investigators.

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2. Gwen Harrison: working for a transition towards an environmentally sustainable future.

Gwen is an environmental consultant who recently made her case with clarity and force in the Financial Times, (Factors to consider before you invest in shale gas). After reading its recent articles on fracking, she presented three important issues which had been largely overlooked:

First, methane leakage and groundwater contamination. Whatever fracking companies tell us, anyone in the gas industry knows that well-integrity failure is a fact of life. This is particularly true when you subject your well to sustained explosions (fracking), then leave your cement-filled hole marinating in a cocktail of aggressive chemicals. If just a fraction of the anticipated tens of thousands of wells fail, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to foretell investor gloom in the form of delays, clean-up costs (if clean-up is possible) and tighter regulation.

Second, climate change. Sceptics have done a splendid job persuading Joe Public that the 97% of climate scientists believing in man-made climate change are wrong. Nevertheless, organisations that, until recently, would not have deigned to mention climate change, are now popping up everywhere, warning us to ignore it at our peril; PwC, the International Energy Agency – they’re all at it. The tide of public opinion is turning and, when it does, the government must turn with it, leaving the gas industry and its investors high and dry.

Third, of course, public opposition, the true extent of which is severely underestimated. Locals have already repeatedly thwarted Cuadrilla Resources’ adventures in Lancashire in the UK, and that’s before anything much has happened; Cuadrilla has drilled just four wells, and fracked one. It proposes 800 more in Lancashire alone.

Your article “UK shale Eldorado – just off the M62” (Companies, June 3) quotes Andrew Austin, IGas chief, as suggesting northwest Britain could hold enough gas to rival America’s richest shale plays. Even in the US, opposition has led to fracking bans. To think it could be developed on anything approaching the same scale in the UK, where a more environmentally aware public has a head-start, and with a countryside so full of people, is absurd.

Simply chucking a few pounds at the natives won’t cut it – apart from anything else, it’ll take some sweetener to compensate for the likely drop in local house prices.

I, for one, would not want to be the investor sinking millions into gas that may never see the light of day.

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Gwen recommends the 38degrees petitions

1. to stop Centrica investing in fracking in Lancashire: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-centrica-investing-in-fracking-1

2. to demand that communities be given the power to block fracking projects:  http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/give-communities-power-to-block-fracking-projects

 

Next: mainstream research evidence supporting the case against fracking

 

 

VERY bad decisions by government – 29: privatising the work of the Audit Commission

eric pickles23jpgBefore referring to the decision of Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles to scrap the Audit Commission, protector of the ‘public purse’ which pays for local government, health, housing, police, fire and rescue and other public services, David Hencke questions the wisdom of doing this.

Will its work be done more effectively by private companies which are part of that corporate-political nexus (‘cosy relationships’) deplored by the Vested Interest in Politics people and the public in general?

Hencke says:

david hencke2“Basically Pickles wants to leave it to local councils, health trusts and the new NHS commissioning bodies to police themselves by appointing their own auditors, taking away a whistleblower hot line to the Audit Commission, and allowing big accountancy firms free rein to up their charges by picking off individual councils. It also allows even more cosy relationships to be built between the auditor and the local council and leaves whistleblowers nowhere to go”.

The Commission has already had to start outsourcing

In March last year it awarded the following contracts to:

  • Grant Thornton (UK) LLP, a total notional value of £41.3 million a year covering four contract areas in the North West, West Midlands, London (South) Surrey & Kent, and South West;
  • KPMG LLP a total notional value of £23.1 million a year covering three contract areas in Humberside & Yorkshire, East Midlands, and London (North);
  • Ernst & Young LLP a total notional value of £20 million a year covering two contract areas in Eastern and South East; and
  • DA Partnership Ltd a total notional value of £5 million a year covering one contract area in the North East & North Yorkshire.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has come to some damning conclusions on what the government is about to do – see Hansard. Points include:
  • The government claims it will save £137m a year but the MPs say the figure is more likely to be £2.4m.
  • The audit regime will be fragmented and more complex.
  • The proposals for self-appointment of local auditors risk compromising the independence of audit.
  • There are risks of duplicating governance structures, losing economies of scale in audit fees, diminished quality of audit and increased tendering costs
It also stresses that there must be provision to enable auditor removal, whistleblowing and public interest reporting.

There is a full report by Hencke on the Exaro News website.