Posts Tagged ‘pollution’


Erik Blakeley says:
Fracking or Wind Turbines

Category: Fracking, Green Electricity & Gas, Renewable Energy, Wind Power
Tags: , , ,

Fracking or wind turbines?

Which would you choose?

I oppose fracking. My main reason for doing so is that I fear that fracking is being used as the means to put off developing our plentiful and clean renewable potential simply because it makes it easier for the Chancellor to generate a boom and bust economic recovery that will get him re-elected next year and perhaps in another 5 years time at the expense of a sustainable recovery and meaningful reductions in green house gas emissions. This is enough to make me oppose fracking. However there are lots of other reasons suggested for opposing fracking. Lots of frightening stories are out there on the internet. The problem is how to assess which risks are significant enough to be worth considering which is even harder than sorting the facts from the falsehoods. As a campaigner for renewables and therefore against fracking it is tempting to point out that some of the chemicals used in fracking in America are carcinogens and can have other toxic effects and fracking has been accused of causing earthquakes or of releasing natural gas into water supplies to the extent that gas escaping from domestic taps can be lit with a cigarette lighter. However it is not clear how comparable the fracking process in Britain would be to that use in America and, cynic though I am, I do still suspect that any use of the technique would be better regulated here than in the cowboy environment of the fracking industry of America. So it is hard to tell just how bad fracking would be for its potential neighbours in Britain. If you want to see the worst case scenario for fracking see this site:

Perhaps a better approach is to ask ourselves how is it likely to compare with the alternatives? We do need to do something. Our energy infrastructure is wearing out and will not meet the needs of the 21st Century. If we ignore the ethical element we might get away with being NIMBYs and expect others to put up with things that we want the benefits from but don’t want to see near us but we cannot be BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). The obvious alternative is wind turbines. Scare stories abound about noise and flicker and the amounts of concrete used in their foundation and of course there is the subjective aesthetic question of visual amenity. Now I have done much more research into the realities of the issues relating to wind turbines than I have into fracking and my conclusion is that every issue except the subjective question of visual impact is either grossly over stated by the antis or even absolutely untrue and that, when you are talking about small wind farms of less than ten turbines sited 500m or more from the nearest houses the visual impact is very much dependent on how much of a Victor Meldrew you let yourself become by staring at the turbines and winding yourself up into a froth about them. I truly believe that you have every reason to ignore them because they won’t do you any harm. It would be unfair of me therefore to suggest that you believe all the very worst stories about fracking and reject all the ones about wind turbines even though I believe that there is much more truth behind the fracking stories than the turbine myths (can you detect my bias there??!).

So what can we say for certain. Developing a fracking field involved months of heavy industrial work during which a great deal of noise and dust is created and millions of gallons of fracturing fluid will need to be tankered in or made up on site using local water resources and more concentrated chemicals which may or may not be a significant risk to you but certainly would not be something you would like to see spilled into your local stream if one of the many tankers was to have a crash. Most of the fracking fluid will come back to the surface via the bore hole and will need to be stored onsite until it can be tankered out again for safe disposal or reprocessing/recycling at another well. Part of the job of the fluid is to corrosively attack the rock the stop the cracks closing up again. This means that the fluid will return to the surface loaded with dissolved minerals. Now this might well not be the sort of thing you would bottle and sell as a health tonic as it is likely to include heavy metals in much the same way as the acid mine water does that has sterilized many a stream in Yorkshire or Wales. With the best will in the world I do believe that losses from storage lagoons and tanks will occur and sure, the firms will be fined by the Environment Agency etc, but only after the event when your environment is polluted.

Once the well heads are in place there will probably still need to be storage tanks on site and there may well be the requirement for periodic refracturing when the whole fluid insertion and pressurisation process will need to be repeated.

In comparison the building of a wind farm of 6 turbines is a minor inconvenience. Each turbine requires a concrete foundation equivalent to about 6 modern family homes and once they are in place the structure of the turbine itself can be erected in a single day especially if road links to the site are reasonable and it can be brought in largely prefabricated. Power electronics for the farm about the size of a single lorry container gather the electricity from the individual turbines and feed it into underground cables that connect into the 11kV mains at the sort of transformer station that you will already have in your village or community. Thereafter they run extremely quietly and require relatively low levels of maintenance for years of clean electricity generation.

In conclusion my main objection to fracking is because of the implications for the long term energy policies of our country but I am also in no doubt whatsoever, 100% certain etc etc that I would choose a wind farm in my back yard over a fracking site any day of the year but will I get the chance to choose? Of course I won’t. As long as the government thinks it can make a quick buck to boost GDP and it calculates that the anti-wind turbine campaigners are active in more marginal rural constituencies than the anti-fracking campaigners are they will push ahead with fracking in just the same way as 12 new nuclear power plants will be pushed through because it is a flaw in the democratic system that the unreasonable objections of 100 constituencies to wind turbines outvote the reasonable objections of 12 constituencies to nuclear expansion.

Localism is all very well but is must go hand in hand with a sense of the bigger picture. We can all share in the benefits of dispersed generation by renewables but we must all accept a little of something in our back yard unless we want to take our chances in the fracking and nuclear lotteries and condemn our grandchildren to suffer the longer term consequences.

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  • Keith Wheaton-Green comments:
    "I was going to suggest that you also put your blog on the DART websie but on investigation discover that they have no blog section! Presumably they don’t want to encourage discussion but simply appear as the font of all knowledge. "
    July 10, 2014 a 2:04 pm


Lets Get Energized says:
A conversation about coal

Category: Sustainable Energy Stories, Sustainable Living
Tags: , , , ,

A conversation about coal

Among ourselves we have been discussing coal and it`s problems – prompted by a recent news report - here


John W. Oliver said:

Coal is still advertised as an inexpensive fuel but the reality of its true cost is beginning to surface in North Carolina. Duke Energy has dumped the coal ash residue from their power plants along rivers and streams for decades. On Feb.2 of this year one of the dumping sites burst and polluted 70 miles of the Dan River. This finally got North Carolinian’s attention and there is a push for Duke to clean up its dumping grounds. Duke is opposed to the clean up because it would cost $10 billion, take decades and they’d have to lay the whole cost on their customers which would make the energy too expensive. From my point of view proper waste disposal should be counted as part of the true cost of coal which would mean it ain’t so cheap after all.

Erik Blakely replied:

Yes I agree although there is a problem with historic waste issues in that there comes a point when the only fair way is to fund the clean up by central govt. If you don’t then you just bankrupt firms destroying little old ladies life savings etc and end up without the capacity to keep the lights on. Here in Britain we have very expensive ongoing problems with acid minewater treatment and other legacies from our coal industry going back decades or even centuries. If we just billed the current coal producing firms in Britain for the cleanup they would go out of business and all our coal would be imported making the situation worse not better. If the firm in America was acting illegally in dumping then send the directors to prison. If not its best to look at ways that the bill can be paid by the firm in such a way that it is not immediately put out of business. We need to tell people about the true costs of fossil fuels now and in the past so that we make better choices for the future.

Simon Rayson responded:

It`s fascinating how renewables come under enormous scrutiny as to their precise harmfulness, and if they fail at being perfect then they are damned. Meanwhile rarely is such focus (and demand for perfection) placed upon such things as fossil fuel energy and nuclear. How to change that? Well it`s almost a whole shift in consciousness required – and that sort of thing doesn`t happen often (the change from the medieval to the age of enlightenment/science in the 17th century might well have been the last time it happened).

But all we can do is try – and recording our experiences of living a “greener”, more environmentally friendly life – warts and all, might be the best way. Or so it seems to me.

And then Vince Adams mentioned his experience:

As a kid I was brought up in North London. In the 50’s we experienced fog or smog called Pea Soupers when literally people walked in front of buses with lanterns and then amazingly we changed. Coal became smokeless, we began to use electricity and the smog went away. All of it was caused by coal and 60 years we saw the sense in reducing its importance. But slowly and by the back door it has comeback into usage at Power Stations where we don’t see it but it’s causing the same problems.

This time we have another factor the coal instead of being local is shipped from Australia, Canada and the USA causing a double whammy of global warming.

When will we learn ?

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