How long can the Welsh Government sit on the fracking fence?

Gareth Clubb asks, if the Welsh Government is concerned about fracking, why is it still doing nothing?

At Friends of the Earth Cymru, we’ve been calling for a moratorium on fracking and other unconventional gas in Wales since 2012.

The government’s usual response to calls for a moratorium is that “oil and gas licencing is a reserved matter.” Yet there’s been no move to gain the power to determine where in Wales fracking could take place. In response to a question from Llŷr Gruffydd AM, the First Minister revealed, “We have had no discussions [with the UK Government] over the devolution of oil and gas licencing to Wales.”

But the Welsh Government could stop fracking in its tracks in Wales immediately. With full control over planning, it can insist that permission for unconventional gas operations will be refused if there is any unreasonable risk of adverse environmental or social impacts. It can insist the proposal does not compromise UK and Welsh duties in relation to climate change.

Thousands joined our Wales Against Fracking day in the summer, and on Saturday 11 October people will be travelling from all over the country to demonstrate against fracking outside the Senedd.

They’ll be demonstrating against the UK Government’s plans to remove people’s rights to object to drilling under their homes. In August the Scottish Government attacked Westminster’s “gung-ho approach”, but we’ve still heard not a squeak from the Welsh Government.

They’ll be raising their voices about climate change. After all, it was nearly three years ago that experts at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change showed that the extraction of shale gas cannot be reconciled with our climate change commitments.

And they’ll be highlighting their concerns over the safety of fracking. This summer, the then Environment Minister, John Griffiths, revealed that the Welsh Government shares these doubts. He wrote in a letter to Friends of the Earth Cymru, “Whether gas from unconventional hydrocarbons that may be present in Wales can be safely extracted and bring benefits to the people of Wales requires more research.”

More and more communities across Wales are campaigning against the threat of fracking. Experts have made the climate change impacts and safety concerns clear. The case for the economic benefits is doubtful; even fracking companies have long since admitted it won’t lower fuel bills, and it may well destroy more jobs that it creates.

If the Welsh Government doesn’t get off the fracking fence soon, it’s likely to be pushed.

Gareth Clubb is Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru.

9 thoughts on “How long can the Welsh Government sit on the fracking fence?

  1. Meanwhile ‘back at the ranch’ the energy crisis is being partially solved by the USA in obtaining new supplies of gas/oil due to fracking. The price of oil is dropping like a stone and is forecast to be around $70 per barrel in coming months which will reduce costs to a)industries,b)consumers so freemarket economies can then bound ahead once again. it is going to be vital for us to generate as much energy as possible from our shores to reduce reliance on the middle east which is surely going to in continual strife for many years. Listening to the green lobby it appears that they want to take our standard of living back to 1720,when most people through the ballot box/consumer demands want higher and higher standards of living,particularly in flying to greener pastures. The WAG seems to have a split personality in continually sucking up to the green lobbly,whilslt a)purchasing airport to encourage more people to fly,and b)lauding the production wings for Airbus which seeks to supply many of the addition 3000 planes needed in next 30 years. In years to come the green ‘lobby’ will be seen to have been yet another middle class ‘obsession’ which has no grounding in facts.

  2. Given that politicians from all three major British State Parties now refer to the ‘Nations’ that make up the ‘United Kingdom’ then surely recognition of a nation includes the right of that nation to make its own decisions when it comes to the exploitation or not of resources belonging to that nation. Or is fracking in Cymru about to become yet another Tryweryn albeit gas underground! No Welsh politician oppose Tryweryn then and Westminster certainly had no conscience when it came to expelling people from their homes and flooding the valley why should y Cymro expect anything to have changed now when the Govt in Cardiff Bay march to Westminster’s tune and Westminster dances to the strings pulled by the establishment and big business. Perhaps a nation wide judicial use of the vote in 2015 might put fear into the souls of the governing elite in London and a spine in the AM’s and MP’s who represent Cymru and her national rights.

  3. Still so few or no public comments from the Green party in Wales, despite Neath Port Talbot’s recent rejection of planning consent to UK Methane’s application to drill in the Pelenna Valley, and local communities’ objections, and frustrations with government and political attitudes to the issues. Other parties have spoken up, admitted their views, or else supported objecters, and yet the Green Party’s manifesto states that it “will ban fracking”. Clearly politicians in Wales have reservations about rejecting fracking but have not so far thought to debate the issues in public where we can all listen to them and respond.

  4. Howell, perhaps you’d be interested to read some of the references in the article. Lord Browne, for example – Chairman of Cuadrilla and darling of the UK Government, who says that fracking is not going to have a material impact on energy prices in the UK. I agree with you that “it is going to be vital for us to generate as much energy as possible from our shores” but differ on the solution. At some point in the future, like it or not, Wales is going to be powered 100% by renewable energy. So we face a choice. Do we strive for that goal as soon as possible, gaining what remains of ‘first mover’ advantage? Or do we get dragged there, the last bastion of dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuels?
    And just to note that the green ‘lobby’ has been around for more than 40 years so far, we receive support from every part of society – rich, poor and middle class alike – and our point of view is always grounded firmly in the facts.

  5. If the dreaded ENGLISH do go ahead with fracking and there are huge commercial finds of oil/gas and consequently huge public funds,presumably we will encourage the English to say English gas/oil funds for English people. There is a MADNESS around in Wales which is not a separate region of UK which is taking us into economic/linguistic isolation!!.The REAL world is a dangerous/unpredictable place and reality must drive our economic/energy/security needs rather than the welsh chattering classes!!. If I remember the same people objected to the FIRST Severn Bridge,as presumably they would object to railway from London-Pembroke.

  6. More 3rd rate propaganda from the payroll red-green lobby funded by the EU, and others, to promote their own brand of destructive environmentalism. In 2013 the EU gave Friends of the Earth and their partners 5,751,825 € over 10 projects just in case anybody still thinks it is a representative grassroots organisation.

    Howell Morgan hit the nail on the head with pricing – the renewable energy/anti fossil fuel lobby, whether they be red-green payroll NGOs or the taxpayer draining renewable energy subsidy farmers which so many large corporates have now become, have relied for too long for their economic justification by using the DECC’s totally unrealistic energy pricing projections to make unreliable uneconomic renewables look viable.

    With so much bad news around at the moment it was not difficult for the DECC to slip its recent revised 2020 energy price projections out under the radar – every day is a good day to bury bad news these days and DECC’s new projections are indeed bad news for consumers, industry, and for generators of efficient reliable electricity which have now been so damaged by the subsidised renewables keeping their reliable plant on stand-by that they are also now beginning to need subsidies themselves in order to guarantee keeping the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun don’t shine.

    With the current and projected glut of available oil and gas and falling world prices, plus the potential for UK produced shale gas to reduce prices even further, we can all look forward to reducing energy prices from nice clean efficient gas powered generation can’t we? Errr – no – because successive UK governments with their insane red-green policies run by Ed Miliband, Chris Hulme, and now Ed Davey have locked the consumer and industry into so much long-term over-priced intermittent renewable electricity that even a drop in fossil fuel prices is unlikey now to result in a drop in real energy prices for consumers and industry.

    The details are laid out here – read and weep:

    So it doesn’t matter all that much whether fracking goes ahead in the next few years because it won’t make all that much difference to pricing if the DECC’s latest Mystic Meg projections are correct… But if it does go ahead then it needs to be under UK government control, like everything else…

  7. David. thanks for your comments.There is a ‘seismic’ change going on because of USA and ‘fracking’,but also solar power and its costs of production are reducing dramatically as compared to Germany which is the economic powerhouse of Europe.I agree with JWR above in that our elite in Westminster/Brussels have become overly ‘green’ and are pricing us out of markets. We have created a very ‘worried’ society who seem to think that you can remove ‘risk’ and ‘change’,and as GOD is dead we need another religion!!.For 20/30 years it was nuclear power that was the big no no for lefties and greenies,however now back in fashion and one being built in north wales with its Plaid Cymru travelling to Japan (theres good of him) to see ones in operation.The same goes for GM foods which frighten some people,however everyone who travels to America eats GM foods without seemingly major impact on their health. We either adapt or die!!. How are the brothers??.

  8. The greens (some of them) have come around to nuclear power because it does not emit carbon and climate change is a bigger threat than nuclear waste. Fossil fuels do emit carbon and at present rates of emission we are highly likely to raise global temperatures above the 2 degree Celsius thought by climate scientists to be the threshhold for irreversible climate changes. So what are we going to do about it, sit complacently like the frog in slowly boiling water? It is rich of Howell Morgan to talk about religion when scientific research and opinion is overwhelmingly pointing to man-made climate change and it is the deniers who are relying on pure faith. Moreover the talk of “leftists” is a giveaway. It shows denial is not based on science but political prejudice. In fact ideology should only come into it when we decide how to tackle the problem. It is irrelevant at the level of diagnosis. The weather doesn’t care whether you’re left or right.

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