I complain the mainstream press don't take me seriously so I shouldn't gripe when out of the blue I get invited on BBC2 Newsnight, to have a discussion on Blackpool shale gas. For those outside the UK, some cultural awareness on the eminence of interviewer Jeremy Paxman would come in handy to understand the context. The discussion went fine actuallly, but the story itself! It was awful, especially in light of the recent positive news flow on shale worldwide. A very poor story.  

But despite anyone who has read this site laughing, the story was watched by a key audience of the UK movers and shakers. And right from the start that's what they wanted to talk about. No one mentioned the quakes of course in any kind of context of their size or comparison to damaging quakes.

Two minutes in the show, not rating expertise such as Daniel Yergin'sor the head of the IEA or that American guy Barack somebody, they introduced Mike Hill, an (unpaid) adviser to Fylde Borough Council.  Mr Hill's objection was not to fracking but to regulation,  saying he couldn't trust the HSE to inspect the wells because they were poorly staffed. Does that sound like call the whole thing off to you?  As I pointed out, we can afford lots of HSE staff, along with teachers, nurses and doctors with all the tax revenue we could generate.

The second objection was even more tenuous. He thought the well casings would be cracked by the seismic activity. One word answer to that: California.This from the New York State Environmental Impact study section on seismicity, page 6-326:

Wells are designed to withstand deformation from seismic activity. The steel casings used in modern wells are flexible and are designed to deform to prevent rupture. The casings can withstand distortions much larger than those caused by earthquakes, except for those very close to an earthquake epicenter. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake event in 1983 that occurred in Coalinga, California, damaged only 14 of the 1,725 nearby active oilfield wells, and the energy released by this event was thousands of times greater than the microseismic events resulting from hydraulic fracturing. Earthquake-damaged wells can often be re-completed. 

Induced seismicity from hydraulic fracturing is of such small magnitude that it is not expected to have any effect on wellbore integrity. 

Another old chestnut the show dragged up was the British Geological Survey estimate of 150 BCM from shale or 18 months. That figures comes from the pre-modern shale era and is being  updated this year. From last year the BBC could have found this 

The U.K. could have more shale gas the previously thought, Stephenson said. The British Geological Survey is reviewing its estimates for U.K. onshore shale gas resources. The survey originally estimated that there is about 150 billion cubic meters of shale gas onshore, compared with about 300 billion cubic meters of conventional gas resources.

“There is much more shale than we thought under Blackpool,” the British Geological Survey’s Stephenson said at the briefing,

Finally what is it with UK shale objections and people that own trailer parks?  First the Vale Says No Louise Evans,  and now someone who wants to protect the spring that feeds her caravan park. They could be filled up with frack crews from Texas 24/7/365 which has got to beat the current demographic. Words fail me on that, as did the final music signalling a despoiling of England's green and pleasant land. That explains my shell shocked look when introduced by Jeremy P:  I couldn't believe this show was so poor.

An interesting aside on the public acceptance issue. Readers here know all about the Gasland flaming faucet scene and how it's been debunked. But Jeremy Paxman had evidently never seen it before, he was visibly surprised and impressed by the scene when we were watching it in the studio. That shows how we mustn't assume that the public is informed, especially after watching that clip.  
If the clip was the first thing a mass audience saw about fracking the industry would have real troubles. Glad to have injected a little reality into the discussion,  just sorry we weren't given more time. Ill try and put up link to the show here, since iPlayer isn't available outside of the UK.

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