Tag Archives: Fracking

Ireland presses UN to agree a global fracking ban

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Can fracking rid us of nuclear waste?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Fracking is opposed by many communities for a range of reasons. But it appears the geology that holds hard-to-reach hydrocarbons could also be suitable for storing spent nuclear fuel. LONDON, 6 April – US scientists are proposing that the source of one controversial energy programme could provide a solution to the problems of another. Nuclear waste – that embarrassing by-product of two generations of uranium-fuelled power stations – could be stored indefinitely in the shale rock that right now provides a highly contentious source of natural gas for utility companies. An estimated 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored in temporary, above-ground facilities: for decades, governments, anti-nuclear campaigners and nuclear generating companies have all agreed that such a solution is unsafe in the long-term, and unsatisfactory even in the short term. Nuclear fuel remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years. Everyone would like to see it safely tucked out of harm’s way. But for decades, there has been disagreement and uncertainty about what might constitute long-term safety. But Chris Neuzil of the US Geological Survey told the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Dallas that the unique properties of the sedimentary rock and clay-rich strata that make up the shale beds could be ideal. France, Switzerland and Belgium already planned to use shale repositories as a long-term home. For decades, US authorities planned to bury American waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but abandoned the scheme in 2009.

Rare impermeability

For more than 60 years, miners and oil and gas companies have used controversial “fracking” or hydraulic fracture techniques to create flow channels to release oil and gas trapped in rock, and the approach has been amplified in the search for otherwise inaccessible natural gas or methane trapped underground. But fracking is necessary because shale rock is impermeable – hardly any water normally flows through shale beds – and this impermeability may actually make the rock perfect for long-term nuclear waste storage. Many shale formations are the product of very high pressures over many millions of years. Shale fractures may show up where roads cut through a hillside, but conditions deep underground are quite possibly much safer. Experiments have shown that water moves through the rocks only very slowly, if at all. “Years ago I would probably have told you shales below the surface were also fractured,” said Neuzil, who is examining a shale site in Ontario for the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organisation. “But we are seeing that that is not necessarily true.” However, one criterion for a safe burial site would have to be the absence of oil or natural gas or anything else that might attract the interest of a future generation of hydraulic fracture engineers. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Fracking is opposed by many communities for a range of reasons. But it appears the geology that holds hard-to-reach hydrocarbons could also be suitable for storing spent nuclear fuel. LONDON, 6 April – US scientists are proposing that the source of one controversial energy programme could provide a solution to the problems of another. Nuclear waste – that embarrassing by-product of two generations of uranium-fuelled power stations – could be stored indefinitely in the shale rock that right now provides a highly contentious source of natural gas for utility companies. An estimated 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored in temporary, above-ground facilities: for decades, governments, anti-nuclear campaigners and nuclear generating companies have all agreed that such a solution is unsafe in the long-term, and unsatisfactory even in the short term. Nuclear fuel remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years. Everyone would like to see it safely tucked out of harm’s way. But for decades, there has been disagreement and uncertainty about what might constitute long-term safety. But Chris Neuzil of the US Geological Survey told the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Dallas that the unique properties of the sedimentary rock and clay-rich strata that make up the shale beds could be ideal. France, Switzerland and Belgium already planned to use shale repositories as a long-term home. For decades, US authorities planned to bury American waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but abandoned the scheme in 2009.

Rare impermeability

For more than 60 years, miners and oil and gas companies have used controversial “fracking” or hydraulic fracture techniques to create flow channels to release oil and gas trapped in rock, and the approach has been amplified in the search for otherwise inaccessible natural gas or methane trapped underground. But fracking is necessary because shale rock is impermeable – hardly any water normally flows through shale beds – and this impermeability may actually make the rock perfect for long-term nuclear waste storage. Many shale formations are the product of very high pressures over many millions of years. Shale fractures may show up where roads cut through a hillside, but conditions deep underground are quite possibly much safer. Experiments have shown that water moves through the rocks only very slowly, if at all. “Years ago I would probably have told you shales below the surface were also fractured,” said Neuzil, who is examining a shale site in Ontario for the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organisation. “But we are seeing that that is not necessarily true.” However, one criterion for a safe burial site would have to be the absence of oil or natural gas or anything else that might attract the interest of a future generation of hydraulic fracture engineers. – Climate News Network

Frack first, repent at leisure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The arguments for and against fracking seem clear-cut. But it’s not that simple, and there is mounting evidence that exploiting shale gas may be neither necessary nor sensible. LONDON, 17 August – As the international debate intensifies over the arguments for and against exploiting shale gas, the largest British nature conservation charity has objected to proposals to drill at two sites in Britain. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is concerned that fracking – hydraulic fracturing of underground rock – at a site in northern England close to an internationally important protected area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans could disturb the birds. With the second site, in the south of England, the RSPB is objecting because it says the developers have not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the exploitation. But significantly, the conservationists are raising a second objection as well: that “increasing oil and gas use will scupper our chances of meeting climate targets.” Some supporters of shale exploitation say the cheaper and (relatively) cleaner energy it would produce could serve as a bridge to usher the UK into an era of secure supplies and low-carbon emissions. Others see shale not as a bridge but as a dead end. The RSPB concludes: “…concentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.”

Coal’s silver lining

But one climate scientist uses a different argument against shale gas: he says exploiting it could in fact worsen climate change, the very problem it is meant to solve. Tom Wigley, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, reported as long ago as 2011 in the journal Climatic Change that replacing coal with gas could increase the rate of global warming for decades to come. Dr Wigley concluded that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion could certainly be cut by burning natural gas rather than coal, as gas produces about half as much CO2 for each unit of primary energy as coal does. But coal does something else as well. It releases a lot of sulphur dioxide and black carbon, which help to cool the climate. The British journalist Fred Pearce, writing in the journal New Scientist, says Wigley told a recent conference that these releases counteract up to 40% of the warming effect of burning coal. Additionally, the technology used in fracking also causes methane to leak into the atmosphere. Methane is at least 23% more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and Dr Wigley says a change from coal to gas will bring benefits this century only if leakage rates are below 2%.

Easier low-tech solution

If they reached 10%, the highest current US estimate, the gas would increase rather than decrease global warming until the middle of the next century, though the overall effects on global average temperature over that century would be small. And even if resorting to shale gas does not worsen climate change, it can still be an unnecessarily hi-tech solution which blinds its supporters to a far simpler answer, some critics argue. The London Guardian quotes the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association as saying a tenth of the country’s domestic gas needs could be supplied by biogas, given the UK’s wealth of waste and agricultural products. This, the Association says, could save the UK at least 7.5m tonnes of CO2 a year, because the waste would otherwise be sent to landfill or left to rot and release methane. The country is estimated to produce 15 million tonnes of food waste a year, and about 90 m tonnes of another potent source of energy, animal waste. But only a small part of both is used for producing energy. One British company which is successfully exploiting the bio-waste market is producing electricity and fertiliser, and also preventing the release of thousands of tonnes of CO2 annually. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The arguments for and against fracking seem clear-cut. But it’s not that simple, and there is mounting evidence that exploiting shale gas may be neither necessary nor sensible. LONDON, 17 August – As the international debate intensifies over the arguments for and against exploiting shale gas, the largest British nature conservation charity has objected to proposals to drill at two sites in Britain. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is concerned that fracking – hydraulic fracturing of underground rock – at a site in northern England close to an internationally important protected area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans could disturb the birds. With the second site, in the south of England, the RSPB is objecting because it says the developers have not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the exploitation. But significantly, the conservationists are raising a second objection as well: that “increasing oil and gas use will scupper our chances of meeting climate targets.” Some supporters of shale exploitation say the cheaper and (relatively) cleaner energy it would produce could serve as a bridge to usher the UK into an era of secure supplies and low-carbon emissions. Others see shale not as a bridge but as a dead end. The RSPB concludes: “…concentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.”

Coal’s silver lining

But one climate scientist uses a different argument against shale gas: he says exploiting it could in fact worsen climate change, the very problem it is meant to solve. Tom Wigley, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, reported as long ago as 2011 in the journal Climatic Change that replacing coal with gas could increase the rate of global warming for decades to come. Dr Wigley concluded that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion could certainly be cut by burning natural gas rather than coal, as gas produces about half as much CO2 for each unit of primary energy as coal does. But coal does something else as well. It releases a lot of sulphur dioxide and black carbon, which help to cool the climate. The British journalist Fred Pearce, writing in the journal New Scientist, says Wigley told a recent conference that these releases counteract up to 40% of the warming effect of burning coal. Additionally, the technology used in fracking also causes methane to leak into the atmosphere. Methane is at least 23% more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and Dr Wigley says a change from coal to gas will bring benefits this century only if leakage rates are below 2%.

Easier low-tech solution

If they reached 10%, the highest current US estimate, the gas would increase rather than decrease global warming until the middle of the next century, though the overall effects on global average temperature over that century would be small. And even if resorting to shale gas does not worsen climate change, it can still be an unnecessarily hi-tech solution which blinds its supporters to a far simpler answer, some critics argue. The London Guardian quotes the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association as saying a tenth of the country’s domestic gas needs could be supplied by biogas, given the UK’s wealth of waste and agricultural products. This, the Association says, could save the UK at least 7.5m tonnes of CO2 a year, because the waste would otherwise be sent to landfill or left to rot and release methane. The country is estimated to produce 15 million tonnes of food waste a year, and about 90 m tonnes of another potent source of energy, animal waste. But only a small part of both is used for producing energy. One British company which is successfully exploiting the bio-waste market is producing electricity and fertiliser, and also preventing the release of thousands of tonnes of CO2 annually. – Climate News Network