sumber : guardian.co.uk
27 April 2011
Thank you for your article on shale gas drilling in Lancashire (In leafy Singleton, drilling chief’s safety pledges ring out yards from village church, 20 April). As a UK citizen living in the US, I am concerned that the kind of tactics and damage related to fracking we have seen over here will be repeated in Britain. The reassurances offered by company officials, as quoted in the article, are notable for their avoidance of important issues: cumulative impacts, water disposal, true greenhouse emissions, and true economics.
“About five Olympic swimming pools of water” is roughly 2 million gallons. That means hundreds of heavy truck trips. Not quiet. And that’s just one well. Note that wells often need re-fracking every few years. The immediate flowback water will be “cleaned and recycled” – but it eventually needs disposal, and typically contains radioactive and other toxic materials leached from the rock. How will this be done, and where? Same question for the produced water that emerges over the life of the well. See Ian Urbina’s recent articles in the New York Times. The network of pipelines and compressors needed to pump the gas are a major infrastructure project, requiring forced purchases of land. The (huge) compressors are typically not quiet either.
Illustration: Gary Kempston
A recent study by three researchers at Cornell University explodes the myth that shale gas is “clean”. Methane leaks in the fracking process plus the energy consumed by drilling operations and pumping add up to a larger greenhouse gas footprint than coal-fired electricity.
Finally, the economics of shale gas are a speculative bubble. Shale gas is hard to produce and thus expensive. Production from shale-gas wells declines steeply – to maintain production new wells must be drilled continually. Shales produce unevenly – the only way to find the limited “hot spots” that produce in quantity is to drill a lot of holes. Shale-gas drilling is sustained by low interest rates, creative writeoffs of costs, and unrealistic decline projections – in the hope that energy prices will eventually spike sufficiently to give a good return.
Spencer, New York, USA
• We believe the energy industry has been misrepresented in your article (Big firms’ gas bonanza threatens green energy, 21 April), which claims energy companies are lobbying governments and business to reject renewables in favour of natural gas. At Shell, we have never argued for such a policy. The world will need renewables, and our scenarios show that by 2050 they could be 30% of the energy mix. The real question is how we get there, and we believe that gas can play a role in buying time for the renewables sector to develop the scale it needs at economics that work.
The European Gas Advocacy Forum report has shown that in the next 20 years Europe could save about €500bn by more reliance on natural gas and less on coal. This would free up capital and provide the time for alternative technologies to grow and reach the scale we need.
As energy demand grows we will need a full range of energy sources. But we also need to reduce CO2 emissions in the most cost-effective and feasible way, as soon as we can. Thanks to new technology gas is now abundantly available – and yes, it is a hydrocarbon, but it is the lowest-CO2-emitting hydrocarbon.
Country chair, Shell UK
• Your special report on the government’s green policies (Coalition accused of a year of broken promises, 23 April) is damning but fails to mention proposals for planning reform which could turn out to be the biggest threat to the environment we have seen for a long time.
In last month’s budget statement George Osborne asserted, with no real evidence, that planning is an impediment to economic growth. He abolished brownfield targets and said the default answer to development should be “yes”.
The planning system exists to prevent unsustainable, unnecessary and environmentally damaging development. It has done this remarkably well for over 60 years, and CPRE will be campaigning hard to ensure it continues to do so. If George Osborne has his way we may lose one of the most powerful tools we have for protecting our countryside and urban areas, and enhancing everyone’s quality of life.