The tipping point

A YouGov survey finds that UK public support for fracking has fallen below 50%. According to polls, support has been on a downward trend, from 58% in Jan 2012, to 54% Sept 2013 and 53% in January 2014. See report in the Guardian.

A comment below the Guardian story reads: “Falls below 50%? You kidding me? When was it ever above 10% (a completely unsupported statement I know but why not, the mainstream media does the same all the time, oh wait, that is another unsupported statement?).” A helpful reminder not to put so much faith in polls that we neglect the evidence of our eyes and ears. This blog has covered attitude surveys before, and it’s hard to reconcile this new Guardian/YouGov announcement with previous findings that only 27% were in favour…

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1,000 times more methane than expected

Up To 1,000 Times More Methane Released At Gas Wells Than EPA Estimates, Study Finds.

“An analysis of a number of hydraulic fracturing sites in southwestern Pennsylvania has found that methane was being released into the atmosphere at 100 to 1,000 times the rate that the Environmental Protection Agency estimated. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that drilling operations at seven well pads emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average, much higher than the EPA-estimated 0.04 grams to 0.30 grams of methane per second.”

Report in the Los Angeles Times.

New Fracking Sites Announced

Cuadrilla announces two new fracking sites in Lancashire, as reported in the Guardian.

The Guardian report links to the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s regular opinions survey [PDF], which found public views on fracking interestingly close: 27% in favour, 21% against, the rest undecided. Six percent said they strongly support it, and 7% said they strongly oppose it.

SHALE GAS:
sharp rise in awareness; a quarter support extraction, with half undecided

—More than half of people (52%) had heard of shale gas and knew what it was, a significant increase since July 2012 (32%), when the question was first asked.
—27% of people said they support shale gas extraction, with half (48%) saying they neither support nor oppose it. One in five (21%) were opposed.
—In December 2013 men (77%) were slightly more likely than women (64%) to know about shale gas.
People who know a lot about shale gas are significantly more likely to support it; owner-occupiers were significantly more likely than social renters to know about shale gas and were more likely to support the extraction of shale gas

The survey does not appear to ask about geographical area (would be interesting to know whether most support comes from London) but does have a rural/urban split. Cross tabulation of the respondents could be carried out on the full data set. If you want to do this, tell me and I’ll post findings here.

Mike Berners-Lee | Hexham Debate

Mike Berners-Lee spoke at the Hexham Debate last week, on the subject of climate change.

This excellent article by George Hepburn sums up some of the discussion and the wider issues with which it is concerned.

I wasn’t at this Hexham debate, but it sounds a lot more uplifting than the Yorkshire Geological Society and the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s seminar on unconventional energy, about which more in a later post

Fracking and Birth Defects

A study published via the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences finds an increase in congenital heart defects and neural tube defects among babies born close to fracking wells.

Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado Opens as PDF

It’s interesting to note that the study took a year to get published after being submitted to the journal, and presumably took the scientists themselves several years to conduct. This long lag time for academic research — perfectly normal — is why fracking companies allow themselves to claim that there is “no evidence” for public health problems from fracking. They know they have a few years to entrench themselves before the studies start coming out to prove what residents already know

Fracking company gets tough on old lady

A story in the Guardian explains the extremely heavy-handed tactics fracking companies use to quash opposition. Vera Scroggins has been barred from 312.5 sq miles of Pennsylvania.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/29/vera-scroggins-fracking-activist-pennsylvania

[With apologies to Vera Scroggins for referring to her as an old lady. Sixty-three is not “old”. Pete Seeger maybe was “old”.]

Helping to keep the north-east un-fracked