Why climate arguments against shale fail

Campaigners like Gayzer Frackman have tried, and failed, to argue that shale is bad for the climate. This is one reason why.


Gayzer made climate change the centrepiece of his challenge against the Secretary of State's decision to award planning permission to Cuadrilla on appeal in 2016.

His challenge was thrown out first by the High Court and then again by the Court of Appeal.

He's not the only one to try and argue this point. Friends of the Earth advanced the same arguments at the Public Inquiry in February 2016, made on their behalf by climate campaigner Professor Kevin Anderson.

But they've all failed to convince.

One of the reasons is that gas produced in shale exploration and flared during the initial well test at any given site would produce CO2 emissions equivalent to just 0.02% of the UK's GHG inventory. Gas fed into the pipeline during the extended well test will not be additive, it will simply displace gas from elsewhere.

Another reason, however, is probably that it would set a very dangerous precedent where new housing is concerned...

In the 2016/2017 reporting year, there were 2,955 new private sector homes built in Lancashire. If we assume the England average applies, we can assume that 84% will have gas central heating - that's 2,482 new homes.

Modern gas boilers emit, on average, 220 g of CO2 per kWh. National Grid and Ofgem say the average home uses 16,500 kWh of gas a year. 2,482 homes x 220 g/CO2 x 16,500 kWh = 9,009 tonnes a year of CO2. And those houses will last at least 60 years. That's a lot of CO2.  

It's significantly more than a shale gas exploration site - or even a production site.

If planning authorities, local or national, took heed of the Gayzer Frackman and FOE arguments, it would mean they'd also have to apply the same thinking to new housing. And that would no doubt significantly limit the number of new homes being built at a time when we can least afford that as a country.

Interestingly, we're not aware of Gayzer Frackman or FOE ever objecting to a proposed new housing scheme based on climate change arguments. Funny that, isn't it, because you'd think they would as such committed eco-worriers.

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