Published on 13 Jan 2014

Fracking cash offer – phase one of a very public negotiation

Am in sunny Lincolnshire to see how the prime minister’s charm offensive on fracking is going down with a community on the frontline for drilling.

No. 10 has announced that it will go ahead with the incentives/bribes/fair shares (delete as applicable) approach it first floated in July. Councils affected by drilling for shale gas would get to keep 100 per cent instead of 50 per cent of the relevant business rates.

The shale gas companies are due to announce a direct offer to local householders that could follow.

What we’re seeing today, though, is one of the first phases of a very public negotiation. Councils have felt emasculated on many levels over many years. On fracking they find power suddenly in their grasp again. No fracking can take place without the say-so of the relevant council planning committee.

The councils are at pains to emphasise their primary interest is environmental assessments, and their duty to the council tax payers. Any attempt to block permission not based on sound scientific and environmental factors could be appealed against and overturned by the Planning Inspectorate. But if you can’t see pound signs in many councillors’ eyes, you’re probably not looking hard enough.

At the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire border where David Cameron visited a potential fracking site today, the only demonstrators were not local but from Lancashire.

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These protesters say the 1 per cent of earnings offer to councils is a scandalous bribe and compromises the independent judgement of councils. The councils say it’s not enough. The government says it’s a sensible balance, given that we can’t be sure that fracking is actually going to be a huge money-spinner.

The problem is that the government is having to combat some of its own enthusiastic language on fracking. If anyone can be accused of raising expectations of some sort of energy salvation, it could be argued that it is Conservative ministers in the coalition.

Anyway, it is going to be a big feature on the political and local government scene in the coming years as “gold rush” fever and environmentalist warnings go to war.

One report suggested that Cornwall was the only English county that didn’t have possible reserves and would be the only one guaranteed not to get applications for exploratory wells.

Nottingham University polling suggests that the public are evenly balanced between pros and antis, with some movement towards antis and scepticism when demonstrations top the bulletins.

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3 reader comments

  1. Dave G J Rothwell says:

    There are 690 chemicals used in the extraction process, (Hydraulic fracturing also uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million US gallons (4.5 and 13 Ml) of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million US gallons (19 Ml). Additional water is used when wells are refractured.[64][117] An average well requires 3 to 8 million US gallons (11,000 to 30,000 m3) of water over its lifetime.[57][117][118][119] Back in 2008 and 2009 at the beginning of the shale boom in Pennsylvania, hydraulic fracturing accounted for a smaller proportion, by one estimate 650 million US gallons per year (2,500,000 m3/a) (less than 0.8%) of annual water use in the area overlying the Marcellus Shale.[118][120][57] The annual number of well permits, however, increased by a factor of five[121] and the number of well starts increased by a factor of over 17 from 2008 to 2011.[122] According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, greater volumes of fracturing fluids are required in Europe, where the shale depths average 1.5 times greater than in the U.S.[123])

    So between the chemicals used and the water, there is going to be a continue use of water that will have to be shipped in by tankers, so any gains made from the extraction will be wiped out by the 24/7 tanker shifts per well.. This whole exercise is not only environmentally unsound, the cost of actually getting it out of the ground, will end costing the citizen’s more… Sheer madness.. But what do you expect from a Prime Minister and a Government that hasn’t got an honest bone in their body..

  2. Gerald says:

    I love Cameron’s “lower prices, 74,000 jobs” quotes today.
    Last Cuadrilla themselves stated that the prices were unlikely to drop, or if they did, by a tiny percentage.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/cuadrilla-pr-man-admits-george-osbornes-shale-gas-revolution-wont-cut-energy-bills-8656246.html
    And Camerons “74,000” figure comes from a Cuadrilla-sponsored IoD report. The jobs fracking would bring peaks at 74,000 in 2077, 63 years from now!

  3. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    Just one more demonstration of how transnational energy companies wheel out the latest bought-and-paid-for neocon Front Man when they go for yet another rip off.

    Why pay a PR company when the Eton Head Boy will do it for free?

    Anybody who believes this latest version of the Fat Faced Liar deserves all the poisoned water table they get.

    Here’s a suggestion: If this latest scam is to go ahead, make it mandatory for the transnational spivs to split the profits 50-50 with the local authorities. That’s on top of the business rate bribe. After all, these “resources” have been in the ground for millions of years. The spivs didn’t invent them, Like all capitalists, they merely seek to rob as much as they can.

    Fair’s fair. 50-50 is fair. We’re all in this together aren’t we?………..Well, aren’t we?

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