Articles from 2013
The Gasland town: What's happening in 2013?
- Written by Administrator
- Published: 07 October 2013
Although the majority of UK residents have only heard of shale recently, I’m in year six of the journey. That means not only have I heard it all before as the various myths I refute above show, I’ve also seen how the shale story has evolved.
A key lesson has been how using whatever happened in the US before this year is pointless in predicting what European shale gas exploration or production will look like. The US has been a negative example to follow in some ways, which means that our shale in Europe will be cleaner, safer, more productive, far more transparent and ultimately, even cheaper.
I first reported on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania in August 2008, when even many US experts were doubtful about it’s prospects. The argument then progressed to make Pennsylvania in general and, thanks to Gasland, the town of Dimock the epicenter of the global anti shale movement.
I’ve met European antis from Ireland to the Ukraine, from Sweden to Spain.They invariably ask me about alleged US contamination, but I have yet to meet a single European anti who has visited Dimock. I have and found plenty of residents happy to show me around, proud of their town and more than a little irked that it became the Shale Chernobyl to people who have only heard one side of the story.
This is by way of showing how the next evolution of European shale will also follow the US model, where antis start to say in public what many of them now tell me in private:
For years, activists have warned that fracking can have disastrous consequences — ruined water and air, sickened people and animals, a ceaseless parade of truck traffic.
Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas.
In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows.
A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes. Dimock was the centerpiece of Gasland, a documentary that galvanized opposition to fracking, and Switzer was also featured in this summer’s Gasland Part II, which aired on HBO.
“We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” said Switzer, who recently formed a group that seeks to work with drillers on improved air quality standards. “Tunnel vision isn’t good. Realism is good.”
For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal. Either way, it was a sign that anti-drilling activism is evolving, with some opponents shifting tactics to reflect that shale gas is likely here to stay.
When I visited last year, Victoria Switzer and company wouldn’t have spoken to me, but her endorsement of John Hanger for Governor is important. John Hanger was the regulator who finally had the guts to walk out on Josh Fox in Gasland. John Hanger has consistently been the voice of reason, balance and science in a debate where the other side rarely has wanted to speak to the other side at all - or at least in public. In that it's not much different from Europe and the UK today, where some antis insist on backing themselves into a self-created corner of certainty that simply won't brook any arguments.
European antis are slowly losing every part of the battle. Governments, with the only exception of France (until Friday this week we hope) are increasingly supportive of shale. Alleged environmental consequences are shown to exist mostly in the realm of the anecdotal, not the real. The methane emissions angle is disappearing under a raft of scientific studies. Trying to get people excited about earthquakes they can’t even perceive is a tough angle. Trying to convince consumers they can only pay more for energy is not a vote getter. Antis have a track record of exaggerating their influence more than anything. One would think that in my business I would have a vested interest in exaggerating this alleged power. I prefer to solve the issue of climate change instead of using it to perpetuate my job as any number of green businesses flail out as their business model based on high cost energy evaporate.They particularly overestimate their power as if it's still 2006. Let’s remember the UK Green Party has one MP and hundreds of candidates who couldn’t even recoup their election deposits.
Sooner or later, the news will come from Dimock and reach even France.The positives of shale far outweigh the negatives and pragmatic Greens will replace the purists.
This year, I’m off to China shortly. Climate Change caused by by CO2 from Chinese Coal is the problem - not Europe’s inconsequential emissions. I hope European greens will join me on that journey, physically or otherwise. They have been asked, but judging from the Pennsylvania experience, they’re a year or so behind. That’s fine. It takes time for some to face up to reality. Some will wither away and be in the same position as the remaining bitter enders of Dimock and equally as ineffective. The important thing is for us to all get to Paris 2015 together. Most of us will. The ones left by the side of the road will eventually be seen as the black helicopter/faked moon landing wing of the Green Tea Party and be as effective.