We’ll keep a fracking welcome in the hillsides

Gareth Clubb finds that the Welsh Government is prioritising jobs in dirty rather than green sectors of the economy

The Welsh Government has made great play of its focus on jobs – sometimes, it seems, at any cost and with scant regard for the environment. Carwyn Jones’ 2013 New Year statement revealed his “personal commitment” to ensure a focus on job creation in Wales over the next 12 months.

There is no apparent justification – other than jobs – for environmentally destructive developments such as a bizarre race-track in Blaenau Gwent, nuclear missiles in the Haven, fracking galore and a nuclear white elephant on Anglesey. What the Welsh Government fails to appreciate is that it’s possible to create thousands of well-paid jobs at the same time as benefiting the environment.

So we hear of taxpayers’ money splashed out for a race-track abutting the Brecon Beacons National Park on the frankly inconceivable promise of 6,000 jobs. We see that Carwyn “recognises the substantial economic benefits of relocating Britain’s nuclear submarine to west Wales” because of the “high quality, well paid jobs it would bring”. The potential environmental damage – 81 pollution incidents including 17 radiation leaks over a period of two years in Faslane – of no regard. Who cares, either, about the security of the energy industries in Milford Haven, not to mention the population of Pembrokeshire?

But it is in the field of energy where the employment debate is at its most polarised. Friends of the Earth Cymru has found that 3,000 jobs could be created in the Heads of the Valleys area in the green economy – if only the Welsh Government shared its level of ambition. But even though this is a policy area with astounding potential for genuinely sustainable job creation in retrofitting draughty housing and thrusting ahead with new renewable technologies, it’s the dirty industries that grab attention from the Welsh Government.

So the Welsh Government bent over backwards to ensure Pembroke power station was allowed to operate. It was no matter that four European Directives were breached in the process, with the potential to cause massive harm to a highly protected marine site.

Then there’s Wylfa. Despite Anglesey’s status as the fifth poorest region in the UK, Wylfa appears to be the sole strand to job creation on Anglesey. In Carwyn Jones’ mind, the “highly skilled jobs” that would be created are much more important than the radioactive waste that’ll be stored on Môn for 160 years, the potential for nuclear catastrophe, or the monumental cost. And that’s before taking into account the fact that more people in Wales are opposed to nuclear power than in favour, and even that most people in Anglesey are opposed to new nuclear development.

Meanwhile, it’s a welcome in the hillsides for fracking. The Welsh Government appears to be in hock with the UK Government’s unseemly rush to pour toxic chemicals into the rock strata underlying Wales. In response to Friends of the Earth Cymru’s petition against fracking, the Welsh Government stated that the “approach advocated in national planning policy is sufficiently robust” to protect the environment.

The First Minister has taken personal responsibility for the energy portfolio. What is his position on renewable energy?

Renewable UK Cymru have shown that 2,000 jobs would be created if the Welsh Government’s renewable energy aspirations were realised. These are real jobs, not fantasy fast-car or nuclear jobs. And if things progress at the current rate? Only 1,000 jobs, for a net loss of 1,000 jobs. And where is Carwyn Jones when these 1,000 jobs are in the balance because of unreasoned opposition from a vocal minority in Anglesey, Powys and Pembrokeshire?

Carwyn Jones tells us he will be chairing a “strategic delivery group [to] remove any barriers to achieving our vision”. But what exactly is the Welsh Government’s energy vision? The Energy Wales document tells us that, “We will set out our vision – clearly and consistently”. And a year on, we have a clear and consistent vision vacuum.

28 thoughts on “We’ll keep a fracking welcome in the hillsides

  1. An impassioned piece and easy winner of ‘best article headline of the day’. Fracking is certainly not welcome in my hillside – its an industrial form of bubble and squeak, eeking every last inch out of yesterday’s meal (and so disappointing with clear alternatives). The only difference in the culinary comparison? Fracking comes at considerable cost for our generation and those that follow.

  2. Thanks Simon. The point is that the whole approach that the Welsh Government appears to be taking shows scant regard to the environment, even to the extent where the Welsh/UK Governments are approving schemes that are apparently in breach of several EC Directives. Fracking is just one example where the Welsh Government has the power, through planning law, to put in place a moratorium but is refusing to do so. Surely this is one of the huge advantages of devolution – in this case, wait and see what damage the industry causes in England before deciding if we want the industry to operate in Wales.

    And in terms of renewables, the comparison is easily made with Scotland. The Scottish Government has pledged its future to renewables and is actively promoting them. The wind industry regards Wales as the hardest place in the UK to do business. The stats speak for themselves. Since 2003, renewable capacity in England has increased 18-fold, in Scotland and Northern Ireland 10-fold, and in Wales? Not even three-fold.

  3. Vast shale gas reserves have been discovered in Chesire. Expect the Welsh government to try and piggy back this find. Also, expect the speeding up of the Chesire city region implementation. And lastly, expect breadcrumbs for Wales.

  4. The same negativity from the usual suspects. I wonder what the GREENIES attitudes would have been in the 1960’s/70’s when oil was discovered in the north sea,and the huge wealth that has generated for the UK as a whole.Lets hope that the gas found offshore can be EXPLOITED as soon as possible and the wealth created,along with less imports from unstable regions used for benefit of all people who live in the UK. I believe some people on this forum are worrying themselves into an early grave as they sound like YOUNG fogies of the worst kind. The future with a)Nuclear Power,b)great utilisation of oil/gas reserves in UK waters looks good and I’ll worry about the future when I’m in my grave!!

  5. David,
    I think Golwg will have an article about shale gas/fracking in tomorrow’s edition that’s probably well worth a read.

  6. “Since 2003, renewable capacity in England has increased 18-fold, in Scotland and Northern Ireland 10-fold, and in Wales? Not even three-fold. ”

    I’m afraid those figures mean nothing without telling us what each respective nation’s starting point was in 2003.

  7. So nice of Howell to be thinking about future generations and people in countries less well-off than our own. If you have offspring, Howell, I hope they read your post.

  8. David, 2003 was the first year in which statistics were disaggregated to national levels, which is why I’ve used that as the baseline. You will find all the references here: http://commissionondevolutioninwales.independent.gov.uk/files/2013/03/Friends-of-the-Earth-Cymru.pdf
    Installed capacity of wind, wave and solar in 2003 (all in MWe) https://restats.decc.gov.uk/cms/assets/Uploads/Regional-Statistics_2011/Regional-spreadsheets-2003-27Sep2012.xls:
    Northern Ireland – 37.9
    England – 170.2
    Wales – 232.3
    Scotland – 308.3
    You’ll notice I’ve excluded hydro from this assessment. That’s because the huge bulk of capacity was installed decades ago, certainly well before devolution, and so it doesn’t really tell us anything about how different policy approaches have affected performance in renewable development.

  9. “and even that most people in Anglesey are opposed to new nuclear development.”

    Typical cherry-picked data from the payroll greenwashers! Using your link,


    from Q2.3 and Q.2.4 we find that only 29% of those questioned felt they had had a lot of information about renewable energy – meaning that 71% would have to be classed as uninformed respondents – but 91% claimed that renewables were a good or a very good idea! This is the blind leading the blind – it is absolutely meaningless data because the survey shows the people asked do not have the requisite knowledge to make a value judgement or to give meaningful answers to the survey questions.

    One of the biggest problems with all supposedly science-based public policy is that far too few in government, in the media, and amongst the public at large have enough knowledge or experience to make the necessary evidence-based decisions. And because the science has been systematically misrepresented since 1984 by the Club of Rome, IPCC, and many others on the red-green payroll/ activism trail then we are now in grave danger of sleep-walking into a 30-year cooling cycle ‘looking the wrong way’ and with totally inadequate infrastructure to cope with a series of extended winters of the kind we have seen this year.

  10. Northern Ireland – 37.9
    England – 170.2
    Wales – 232.3
    Scotland – 308.3

    So with England being 20 times (approx) the size of Wales, aren’t you chastising the wrong Dragon? On these figures, Wales is doing pretty well per head of population.

  11. I wonder what people like Howell Morgan are going to do, if they are around in 2040, when all the Earth’s natural resources have been raped and there’s nothing left to take. I know people like Mr Morgan obviously don’t care too much as long as ‘he’ is all right at this moment in time, the preverbial will eventually hit the fan! I am an ordinary woman of average intelligence with a family and career, I am certainly not going to sit on my back side and do nothing while oil and gas companies line their own pocket and ruin every piece of beautiful land! They are not interested in our welfare. It’s quite sad that some find it too much hard work to stand up and be counted. The only jobs that will be created by the likes of Shale gas exploration and Fracking for instance will be the extensive clearup after they have polluted all our drinking water,etc. Wake up if you think something wonderful will come of this!

  12. Gareth,

    Mr Morgan’s offspring work in banking in England no less. They’re doing their bit to destroy the planet as well.

  13. @David. And MIGHTY proud of them!!.Long hours/cut throat competition/demanding consumers/never heard of ‘flexi time’/.Sounds just like what the public sector in Wales need asap. if the planet needs the little Morgan family to stop it being destroyed then gawd help it. Have you read about the massive investments going on at Heathrow,which is in England and all funded by capitalist/foreign money whilst our little ‘tiddler’ is now owned by US. The real world keeps on revolving whilst we are going back to 1815.Going back to Ms.Evans it appears that more welsh people are flying from English airports rather than from our ‘tiddler’ which shows they are MORE like the English than the nationalist like,or desire.PS. Mrs. Morgan asked if you still like mince pies at Christmas?.Happy days!!

  14. The passion/frustration in this article is as clear as the truths it voices. The job creation mantra that goes with energy developments is supposed to blind us to all other considerations, especially if the prefix ‘local’ can be added. ‘Creating local jobs’ is presented as an over-riding moral imperative. No matter that the jobs created contribute to militarization, environmental degradation or increased social risk. The real driver of energy policy in Wales, though, is price. At the moment cheap imports of US coal are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, at least it makes the continued development of a new generation of opencast mines in Wales less likely. On the other, it is impeding the climatically urgent transition to renewable sources of energy…

  15. I must thank Howell for the young fogies rebuke. I haven’t been called young for eons (certainly not since my mid-30s)! Many thanks. As for ‘greenies’, strongly belonging in one camp or another leads to it’s own problems. I try to think of things in practical, common sense terms; weighing up the options, whilst factoring in risk, longer term strategies and the precautionary principle (in my view, balanced thinking is preferable to a staunch political position).

    Sadly we’re no longer in the 60s or 70s and have the benefit of 50 years of scientific research and 50 years of industrial hindsight – would the Japanese like to build another nuclear reactor at Fukushima for instance – that is, in a quake zone and on the coast? The next 50 years will be defined by environmental pressures – increased demand on decreased resources. It’s a challenge to embrace and use creative thinking to resolve – minus hardened political positions. So I’m green. And Blue. And red. (and even… yellow).

    P.S. If Mrs Morgan is giving away mince pies, I love ’em. Organic ones, naturally .

  16. John Walker: Question 2.3 29% – have had ‘a lot’ of information about renewables and 42% ‘a bit’ of information – total = 71%. Find me comparable levels of informed public on any other topic of relative novelty.

    Question 2.4 – 2% think renewables to be a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ idea. I guess you’re one of the ‘special’ 1 in 50 John.
    Please provide references for your assertion that “the science has been systematically misrepresented since 1984 by the Club of Rome, IPCC, and many others”. Conspiracy theorist par excellence.

    Glyndo: The data I quoted were from 2003. Since then England’s new renewables capacity has increased 18-fold and Wales’ less than 3-fold. I think that’s an appalling record, particularly given the resource we have in Wales.

  17. Gareth Clubb

    So you think having a bit of information is enough to make a value judgement on a highly technical subject? I don’t! I suppose it depends on whether the survey result goes the way you want it, or not?

    It all depends on the question – had the question been ‘do you favour renewables even though they will double your energy bills every 5 years?’ then the outcome would be rather different… I wouldn’t be one of the 2% then would I?

    Actually, I have nothing against renewables if they are technically efficient and cost effective – that would currently include hydro as gravity or PS but seldom wind turbines anywhere and seldom PV in the UK. I would rather the corrosive sea contained less rusting steel and more fish. I have nothing against burning wood (or other bio-mass) but the facility should be in the forest rather than burning timber which has come from the other side of the world. E.g. what Drax is doing makes no sense to me at the operational level – doubly so when they’re sitting on a coalfield. But they should not have to operate in a world where subsidies based on false premises form part of the costing equation so I tend to regard them as victims of environmental policies outside their control.

    Where I draw the line is subsidy – if renewable output needs to be subsidised by the taxpayer and/or the consumer to make it remotely affordable then it fails my test of viability. Same goes for nuclear. And I regard any attempt at carbon mitigation as fraud because there is still not one shred of empirical evidence that CO2 is anything other than plant food despite the billions spent on research trying to show that it is heating the planet. Computer models that don’t fit real data are no more valuable to base public policy upon than uninformed survey results!

    When the greenwash industry starts to cost into their OWN figures the 100% back-up generation capacity required to be maintained for most of the installed renewables capacity – e.g. for when the wind fails to turn up on time to meet demand – then maybe I will start to take renewables seriously. Not only does the renewables industry fail to provide real-world costing but when they displace traditional generation capacity they also increase the unit costs of those traditional forms of generation so the consumer and industry is paying for 3 types of inefficiency. That’s not sustainability, it’s insanity.

    Renewables are not win-win – when the wind blows or the tide is running then some other capacity has to come off-line and they don’t get paid – so their unit costs go up so prices go up. Making industry unviable in the developed world appears to be a big part of the red-green sub-plot for wealth re-distribution… Fuel poverty isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s a killer!

    The problem the greenwash industry now has with shale gas is that you can no longer claim that fossil fuel sources are in danger of running out in the next 5 minutes. The carbon fraud false justification is falling apart at the seams as the models deviate further and further from the measured data – the CO2 keeps going up but the temperature is now coming down again despite all the tricks being used to try and make it look as if it is going up! There is no link between either natural or MM CO2 and temperature which falls outside natural variability. So you are slowly but surely running out of semi-plausible justifications for promoting what are, in reality, energy solutions which are frequently less sustainable than the traditional fossil fuel and fission based technologies.

    “Please provide references for your assertion that “the science has been systematically misrepresented since 1984 by the Club of Rome, IPCC, and many others”. Conspiracy theorist par excellence.”

    I try not to ‘do’ conspiracy theories because I doubt if my blood pressure could take it! I’m sure you know more about the red-green sub-plot than I do. Why don’t you tell us about it?

    Corruption of science – just read the ClimateGate 2009 Email archive from beginning to end – there you will find ample evidence of the corruption of climate science in several of the perpetrators own words…

    The IPCC’s AR4 report has been torn to shreds all over the internet. Now, for the first time the draft of AR5 has been substantially leaked into the public domain by concerned reviewers who see many of the same errors which existed in AR4. All of the models upon which your carbon-based nonsense is based are still failing to fit with real data – their deviation from measured data is growing!

    In fact, very few of Big Green’s red-green scare stories are really coming true, apart from the odd bit of pollution and even that frequently fails to live up to your scary billing because nature has an uncanny number of ways to mop up the mess we do leave from time to time. I don’t condone preventable pollution but I don’t tend to panic about it either. As a non-productive industry you’re starting to look more and more like the proverbial boy who cried wolf!

  18. The Welsh government wanted to build wind farms and were put off by the determined opposition of people in Montgomeryshire objecting to pylons. We don’t want CO2 emissions. We don’t want wind farms because of visual pollution. We don’t want nuclear because of nuclear waste. We don’t want fracking because of water pollution. We don’t want to do without electricity or being poorer… This debate is pathetic. Are any of you bunch of naysayers ever going to come up with a positive and practical proposal?

    It’s obvious we’ve got to build Wylfa B. It will save massive CO2 emissions, save the economy of Ynys Mon. The investment is all being done by the private sector and the problem of nuclear waste is completely soluble. Moreover. most locals want it because they don’t see what other well-paid technical jobs will come their way. If James Lovelock the original ‘green’ can learn to love nuclear power, it’s about time Greenpeace got real too. Sitting weaving baskets in blissful rural poverty is not an adequate vision for a Welsh population of 3 million. Wise up Clubb.

  19. Interesting points R.Tredwyn. I definitely agree that a one size solution does not fit all and there are consequences associated with any of the options. It underpins the point that weighing up the options, considering the consequences and considering long term strategies (and living with them) is essential.

  20. What mystified me is what John R Walker knows that the 98 per cent of scientists in relevant disciplines don’t know since they all think CO2 is a factor in global warming. If we’ve made our mind up in advance we can all select the bits of evidence that confirm our prejudice. Mr Walker, how can you be so sure? There’s a Nobel prize waiting for someone who can show CO2 does not cause global warming. Don’t think I’m going to bet on anyone winning it.

  21. Tredwyn

    Try getting your climate and environmental information from different sources – definitely not from the payroll red-green NGOs, the sympathetic media who do lazy cut-n-paste journalism from press releases and/or have their pension funds tied up in ‘green’ investments, or from the IPCC cabal.

    Try reading these 3 blogs carefully – they are fairly readable and give you everything you need to know that the usual suspects are not telling you and probably never will:

    1. WUWT – http://wattsupwiththat.com/ – which covers a very wide range of material including this highly visual recent analysis of the failed climate models relative to actual measured temperatures


    2. Climate Audit – http://climateaudit.org/ – which is fairly technical but dissects errors in climate related papers in a very forensic way

    3. Jo Nova – http://joannenova.com.au/ – which is run by a woman and I wouldn’t want to be accused of discrimination by only offering you sources run by men! She also carries a wide range of material.

    You will also see several eviscerations of the Cook ‘97% consensus paper’ that has been touted around by the usual suspects recently. It just shows how desperate the CAGW lobby is now to cling on to their sinking ship! Having said that, quite a number have also jumped off and come over to ‘our side’.

  22. Interesting point made recently about Thatcher’s most significant contribution to winning the Cold War was actually energy based. North Sea Oil and Opec agreeing to increase output put downward pressure on oil prices at a key point where if Europe had been dependent on Soviet gas for its energy- as the UK increasingly now is on Russian gas – the Soviets would have stayed in business and survived into the 21st century. Imagine being dependent on the Soviet Union for energy.I raise this point because dumb ‘green energy’ policies have left the UK anything but ‘resilient’. We need nuclear energy and fracking (properly regulated). And boy does Wales need the jobs.

  23. I had a look. None of these websites gives a dispassionate account of the matter. You would look in vain for an article giving the evidence for the effect of man-emitted CO2. It is all climate sceptic stuff preaching to the choir. Very little actual empirical evidence is offered, just critiques of other people’s results.
    Here is a sad fact. Either global warming is happening, aggravated by human emissions of CO2 or it is not. To decide would require assessing a mass of evidence and probably require some expertise in climate science. Few people put the work in or are qualified. Yet an amazing number of people like Mr Walker have strong opinions. Now here’s a funny thing. If you know someone’s views on climate change you can predict with a high degree of accuracy how they will vote. The majority of sceptics are on the political right; people on the left tend to believe in man-made warming. That is very sad. A scientific issue should not be decided on the basis of political prejudice. Mr Walker tells us nothing about the climate but he’s told us how he votes.

  24. Tredwyn

    Clearly you haven’t read any of the three sources carefully! You have simply dismissed them because they don’t agree with what you think you already know. And I get called a denier!

    It’s true that CAGW sceptics tend to be from the so-called right of politics – probably because we tend to be naturally sceptical people who prefer evidence driven politics in the same way we prefer evidence driven environmental policies. No apologies for that whatsoever! Having said that, I know people from the extreme left of politics who also dispute the pal-reviewed climate science of the IPCC cabal and their fellow travellors.

    Gareth Clubb

    Such drivel passed off as ‘rebuttals’ shows how low your science base must be! Obviously you are quite used to taking people for fools and getting away with it! One piece of trivia from 2009, one inaccurate virtual ad hominem, and one piece of de-bunked de-bunking from 2008. Some us like to, at least, TRY to keep up to date with the science and the data. But I guess there’s less need when you get paid anyway…

    The evidence that the kind of climate modelling the IPCC relies on isn’t even remotely accurate is now beyond scientific doubt and I note you have made no effort to ‘de-bunk’ the evidence in this link:


    Even Science Magazine – traditionally a fairly uncritical cheer-leader for IPCC style of pal-reviewed climate science based on models that don’t work – is beginning to ask why the GCM climate models don’t work?


    Sadly the full article is paywalled. But the WUWT article is free – even though Big Oil isn’t subsidising it!

  25. Well done Gareth for effectively moderating the conversation and responding to points raised in reaction to your piece.
    Interestingly, Nicholas Stern – he of the globally influential Stern Review (2006) – delivering the British Academy Lecture at the Hay Festival this year, was asked a question about the role of the media and it’s influence on the Climate debate. The questioner asked (I paraphrase) whether Stern thought the British Media are hindering progress on the devising of an effective strategy and action to tackle climate change by hindering the acceptance of a diagnosis that 99.9% of the world’s peer reviewed scientific papers agree on in the name of “journalistic balance”. The answer was unequivocal: yes.
    Come on, Click on Wales, so many of the comments in response to articles (not just in the environment pages) are entrenched views, leading to adversarial exchange – the on-line equivalent of a slanging match at a poorly managed public meeting: a few loud voices shouting inanities. There is very little spirit of enquiry, of seeking to explore options that require a better collective use of our intellectual capital. For that, you need a different format. How about framing a set of questions for commentators to answer / address that move thinking forward?

  26. One problem with trying to have a dispassionate view on where Wales stands is the difficulty finding accurate data on which to base a view. As an example, I live in Ceredigion. Based on DofE Brown Book data, I THINK Ceredigion only has renewable generation sources (wind and hydroelectric) and yet generates more electricity than it consumes, making it a net exporter of green energy. But the data is not clearly stated, and I have been unable to find confirmation of this despite a fair amount of effort. You would have thought that, if true, the Green Energy enthusiasts would be trumpeting this to the hills, but nothing..

    Of course, in reality Ceredigion is very much a special case due to its exceptionally low population density, pretty much total lack of heavy industry, and windy hills. Also, no fossil fuel resources. But nonetheless, if true, it would be nice to know that, in the right circumstances, it can be done and is being done. It would help to inform the debate when people dismiss mass Green energy as a pipe-dream which could never be achieved.

    What is best for high population density, heavily industrialised areas is another question, though. In such locations I see an increasing role for green alternatives, but have difficulty accepting that there will not be a slowly decreasing role for fossil fuels as well for the forseeable future. The alternatives, as far as I can make out, would involve agrarianisation on a scale not seen since Pol Pot. The Severn Barrage might help (at considerable environmental cost), but overall would be little more than a drop in the ocean (pun intended).

    I don’t have answers – I just wish I had more reliable unbiased sources of information on which to base my opinions.

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