by Leon Duveen on 23 February, 2014
At our Regional Conference yesterday held in Gainsborough, I proposed a motion (see Composite motion on fracking as amended) that called “the granting of further licenses to halted and existing licenses to be suspended, at least until these techniques can be show to be safe.” The motion combined separate motions fro me & from Barry Coward from the Gainsborough party
I am glad to say that with a small amendment from Lucy Care from Derby the motion was carried by a large majority and is now East Midlands Liberal Democrat policy.
Here is the speech I gave proposing the motion:
Conference, in proposing this motion I do not intend to give a lecture on the different types of fracking and other so called extreme gas extraction techniques. However it is worth noting that there are some forms of fracking that have been used for decades in oil & gas production, what we are talking about here is “High Volume” fracking of horizontal bores through shale rock and, more pertinently to the people around Gainsborough & Bassetlaw, coal bed methane extraction where the water in the coal seam or old mine workings is pumped out to release the gas that is trapped there, under pressure from that water. Unfortunately, the gas does not always obey the drillers and only exit through the bore hole, it will escape through the other fissures in the rock and through old mine workings in uncontrolled and far more dangerous ways. The water, which may well be contaminated with heavey metals or other toxins, that is pumped out also has to be removed from the site causing traffic issues to the local community. There is an excellent description of the technique on my “Mantonite” blog[i].
Colleagues, at best, the safety of fracking and these other extreme methods has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt yet parts of the Coalition Government seems hell bent on forcing this on communities across the country, even planning to amend the Law of Trespass to allow them access to gas & oil deposits under the land owned by those who oppose these attempts. Do we really need to wait until we have a dangerous spill or a fire (as has happened in the US a number of times) before putting a stop to this? At our Federal Conference in Glasgow last September, we passed a motion that said:
“Liberal Democrats would permit measured shale gas extraction, ensuring that regulations protecting water and land pollution and local environmental quality are strictly enforced at a national level.”[ii]
The motion also called for the planning decisions to be made locally. The policy being put into action by some in this Government is out of step with Party Policy. The “inducements” (which some call bribes) to the cash strapped County Councils and the threat of any rejection of planning permission being overruled by Eric Pickles has meant that local people are being ignored in this process. We also have yet to see any evidence that County Councils are insisting on baseline environmental & ground water quality surveys so that any adverse effects of the drilling can be properly assessed and the drilling companies held to account for damage done. Even the European Parliament seems to being wanting to apply stricter controls on fracking that the Government.[iii] This madness must stop before parts of our countryside are irrevocable destroyed.
Due to the reckless neglect of governments for the last 20 years, we are at a crisis point in our energy supplies. Many of our existing power stations, nuclear, gas & coal fired are nearing the end of their lives but there are few new facilities being built to replace them. Also, the gas supplies from the seas around us is running out. Those calling for the use of these extreme extraction techniques for gas and oil are trying to convince us that this is the way we can solve this energy crisis or give us cheap fuel but the truth is not even George Osborne believes this[iv]. In reality Fracking, Coal Bed Methane Extraction and other similar techniques are desperate attempts to eek out a bit more from hydrocarbons without any real regard to solving our future energy needs.
Which brings me to what we should be doing. It is simple, we need to invest in improving the exploitation of the abundant renewable energy and developing energy storage techniques. Much has already been done on this[v] but more needs to be done to make the technology more efficient. Then we really will have a cheap, clean, long term solution to the energy crisis. Indeed there is government research that shows over 50 years the cost of investing in renewables is no greater than the cost of using hydrocarbons[vi]. All that is needed is the political will to make the long term decisions required and we as Lib Dems should be showing the way.
Conference, please support this motion and show that our party is still cares about the environment, that our party wants a real long term solution to the energy crisis, that this party is putting the interests of the people of the East Midlands before short term profits for the oil & gas industry.