Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Greens spin fracking report

The Greens called for a Royal Commission on the science behind Genetic Engineering—then demonstrably spat the dummy when the Commission came out overwhelmingly against the luddites. (Because it was never “all about the science.”)

The Greens also demanded “evidence-based policy” to ban fracking, and have come out with spin now the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has looked at the evidence and said “fracking is safe if it is properly regulated and managed.”

Which is to say fracking is safe if property rights are properly recognised and protected.

The Greens want to pretend she didn’t say that however.  The ParlCommish’s report they say “is not a green light for fracking, but a red flag.” And this is a party that will always keep the red flag flying. By lies and spin, if necessary:

* * “The PCE’s report does not say that fracking in New Zealand is safe,” says the Greens’s Gareth Hughes.

Well, yes it does. “Fracking is safe,” says the report, “if it is properly regulated and managed.”

* * “…the report concludes that fracking companies do not have a ‘social license’ to operate and that the regulation is fragmented and light-handed.”

The report concludes that fracking can be managed effectively provided, to quote the Royal Society
of London, “operational best practices are implemented and enforced…”; that “oversight is [presently] complex and fragmented” and (confusingly) at the same time “may be too light-handed”;  and that “if this new industry is to prosper, it needs to earn and maintain its ‘social licence’ to operate,” to earn it in the face of “concerns” that are “many and wide-ranging,” yet as she says herself are unproven.
This is certainly not any sort of libertarian conclusion, but it is subtly different than the one Gareth Hughes is trying to insinuate.  And the ‘social license’ she talks about is simply better public understanding of the technology, in the face of lies and spin from the likes of Gareth.

* * “The PCE has identified numerous ways in which fracking can cause environmental harm…”

Well, it has identified four: location of the well site, design and construction of the well, surface spills and leaks, and waste disposal. All of which, as the PCE recognises, are generally managed by common sense.

** “I believe these are good arguments for a halt until better rules are enacted… That’s why I am renewing my call for a moratorium on fracking…”

Which they are not. But which he was going to do whatever the PCE said…

** “…and urging the Government and councils to take a safety-first approach until we have strong regulations in place to ensure the health of people and the environment.”

…which regulations he will never every agree would be sufficient.

* * “Kiwis are right to be concerned about fracking’s environmental impact,” Hughes continues. “What we’ve seen of fracking with less than 100 well sites in New Zealand, mostly in Taranaki, doesn’t provide much confidence in the status quo.  We’ve seen fracking jobs being done without specific consent, returned fracking fluids dumped in a local stream in Southland, groundwater and soil contamination from storing fluids in unlined earthen pits, shallow fracking and fracking close to aquifers that increases the risk of water contamination, flaring of gas and fracking fluids from ground-level pits … and lack of scrutiny and transparency of fracking chemicals.”

Let’s be clear, these are genuine objections, but not one of them is unique to fracking—and nor are any of them fatal to it.  All of them essentially amount to problems of waste disposal—problems that are all easily managed by proper protection of property rights through common law, i.e., the same sort of protection that for several-hundred years, before statute law came along, stopped anyone legally dumping waste over your fence.

And notice that he’s not bothered to mention the alleged impact of fracking on earthquakes, presumably because even the ParlCommish is only prepared to allow a risk of “very tiny” localised earthquakes. And that her mention of risk to aquifers being “very real” is also made in the context of waste disposal—not of fracking itself. Because as the commissioner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted to Congress recently, after over sixty years of fracking in continental America, “"I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water…"

“"I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."–Lisa Jackson

So in summary, the objections of the Greens’s Gareth Hughes to the report hold up to any scrutiny. As a commenter said in response to Gareth: “You called for an inquiry. You said wait for the outcome of the inquiry. It doesn’t go your way, so you renew your call for a moratorium… So much for evidence-based decision making.”

The commissioner said fracking is safe and should continue. His objections to that are spin, pure and simple.

The same can be said about his conclusion:

Renewable energy will always be cleaner and safer than fracking [he says] and is a better future for New Zealand.

Not only does this not follow, not only is it utterly unproven, so-called “renewable energy” does not really even produce real energy. Which is why the Greens like it so much—and why they oppose any form of genuine energy production: because without energy our industrial civilisation could not survive, and it is our industrial civilisation they are really against.

Here’s Anne McElhinney:



  1. There have been over 1.1 million frac jobs in the US in the past 60 years, to bring some context to the statement by the US EPA.

    Unfortunately misinformation is all pervasive. TV One last night used the footage from Gasland of the man able to light his faucet. Unfortunately for the environmentalists, this has been completely discredited and unrelated to fraccing. And Hughes' comment on soil contamination is specious: this has absolutely nothing to do with fraccing as it was standard practice in the industry to flow back wells to earthen pits, fracced or not. I'm well familiar with the pits in question.

  2. Again the "evidence based" "science matters" Greens are found wanting.

    A bunch of scaremongering, head in the sand ideological luddites, who are the same on fracking as they were with GE, as they are on food irradiation, as they are on anything with the word "nuclear" attached.

    The fundamental belief is NOT about evidence, but a hatred of fossil fuels. The Greens want fossil fuels abandoned and should just be honest about that, and argue why they want that. The thrust of the policies on energy, industry and transport is to make petroleum based products unaffordable and/or illegal.


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