UK energy security at risk as gas imports surge


Britain must find new sources of energy fast as the quantity of imported natural gas is expected to increase at a much faster rate than the government had previously expected, the chief executive of Centrica has warned.

“In primary energy, the UK’s production of gas is falling rapidly,” Sam Laidlaw has told an international energy conference in Houston. “North Sea oil and gas output has fallen by 38pc over the last three years. By 2020 we will be reliant on imports to meet 70pc of the country’s gas needs. So when it comes to security of supply, there is a pressing need for solutions.”

Energy Minister Michael Fallon had previously said in November than Britain would import three-quarters of its natural gas by 2030, up from about 50pc at present. Late last year, Centrica signed a new deal with Qatar to import liquefied natural gas by tanker. The Gulf state already accounts for 15pc of UK supplies.

Rising energy bills and a growing dependence on imported gas have increased pressure to step up development of shale resources in the UK through fracking. The vulnerability of UK energy supplies has also been exposed by the unfolding dispute between Russian and Europe over Ukraine in Crimea. Russia is Europe’s largest supplier of gas and a significant exporter to the UK.

Half of Britain could be opened up for fracking to tap 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas that is estimated to be locked under ground in the North of England alone to ease the growing dependence on imports.


The Wisdom of Solomon – plotting the coordinates of the dead

article-0-1B02879E000005DC-897_970x1267It was never Donna Young’s plan to raise a racket about fracking. She grew up around coal mines and bears no brief against the grunts who work the rigs and the men who own them. “I’ve got one son commuting to North Dakota” to work a rig and “another who’s done every job there is, from tearing down the rigs, putting them on flatbeds and driving ’em clear back from Kansas,” she says. “I believe we can live with drilling — as long as the politicians make sure it’s done responsibly.”

But then, nothing in Young’s life has gone to plan — not that she minds the left turns. The impulse to become a midwife at 39, then move back to Utah nine years later so she could help her ailing father run his ranch — it’s all been improvised and guided by feel. She was born in Moab to a Mormon family, raised around horses and miners and men on old tractors who came home reeking of cow shit. Her father was a range rider for the Bureau of Land Management who bred and trained racehorses on the side.

When he retired to Idaho, Young joined her folks there and opened a health-food store. A mother of two, she earned a degree in naturopathy, then found her true vocation, birthing babies. “I’d been working with lots of people, some cancer patients and chronically sick people, and here were these clients who had a clean slate — or would have, if their moms had ate healthy. I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I’m put here to do. Bring ’em into the world with no drugs or toxins, then teach the moms to raise them that way.’ ”


After 20 years and hundreds of births, Young has every reason to be proud. But in the fall of 2013, her client Caren Moon was pregnant with her third child and not doing well in the first trimester. She was cramping a lot and feeling weak; Young ordered bed rest and a natural progesterone cream to help with the bouts of mild bleeding. Moon was up on her feet again shortly, chasing after her toddlers, both birthed by Young. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, an early snowstorm led in a cold-air inversion. Moon felt ill again, took to bed, and lost the pregnancy while her house was filled with holiday guests. “It was right in that period of heavy ozone,” Moon says. “I thought we’d taken all the precautions.”

The Moons live on Bonanza Highway, a major conduit between Vernal and the oil fields due south. All day and into the night, massive trucks barreled by, farting CO and diesel soot that hung over the yard like clouds of no-see-ums. Five minutes east, her friend Melissa Morgan was also struggling to keep her baby. “I got pregnant about the same time Caren did, and was sick with all the stuff that she had — bleeding, cramping, feeling bad when I went out,” says Morgan. “There was a horrible, thick haze hanging around here for weeks. You could see it when you drove up the mountain and looked back at just this blanket of gray . . . yuck.”

Morgan spent weeks on bed rest while women from her church cooked and looked after her kids. The baby, her fifth, somehow made it to term, but weighed nearly a third less than her previous four and was in and out of doctors’ offices until she was eight months old. “It’s a miracle she’s here at all,” says Morgan. “When I saw the placenta, it was small and deformed, like it had used up all its tissue to protect her.”


heard some version of that tale all over town. Avery Lawton, a radiant redhead, was pregnant that winter with her second child, but the fetus wasn’t growing. It was so frail at 30 weeks that an obstetrician told her it could die during labor, and she should deliver at the hospital and not at home. Defying him, she went for a second, and third, opinion; her daughter, almost two now, was born with a rare and profound vision disorder, for which she wears Coke-bottle goggles.

In all the years Young has delivered babies, she says this was her first with a birth defect — and four more followed in 15 months. A girl with a shredded epiglottis, choking her when she tried to feed; a boy born tongue-tied and with a clubfoot; a girl born tongue-tied and lip-tied as well, preventing her from latching onto her mother’s breast. All required surgeries days after birth. Still others were born tiny or with mangled placentas — but at least they were alive and intact.


In May 2013, Young delivered a girl who was pink and fully formed; the child never took her first breath. She came out of her mother and collapsed in her arms; Young performed CPR, then raced her to the Ashley Regional Medical Center while the mother remained at home. She called 911 on the way, and a uniformed officer escorted her into the emergency room. Efforts to revive the child proved useless, however, and Young, who was heartsick and staggered by the loss, decided to join the mother at home. But a staffer, Young claims, wouldn’t let her leave the building. She says he put Young and her daughter Holt, a 15-year-old who often accompanies her during the births, in a room. (“We did not prevent Ms. Young from leaving our hospital,” a spokeswoman for ARMC said via e-mail. “Police onsite who were gathering information may have, but no one from our hospital was involved in that.”) After an hour, Young says, she was let go at the insistence of the dead infant’s father. She got home at 5 a.m. and wept and paced her bedroom well past sunup.

At 10 a.m. that day, a detective drove out and interrogated Young. She explained how a typical home birth happens and took him through the evening step by step. At the end, he concluded she’d done nothing wrong and declared the matter closed from his end. Devastated, she joined the bereaved parents at the graveside that week. There, at Rock Point Cemetery in Vernal, an acquaintance pulled her aside and whispered, “This isn’t the only baby to die this year.” She led Young to a pair of fresh-dug graves; two newborns had been laid to rest there since the first of the year. Young went home and combed through online obits: four other babies from Vernal or close by had died already that year. It was a shockingly big number for a small town.


Then she plotted the coordinates of the dead, and another bolt went through her. Three of the babies, including the one she’d just lost, were from moms who lived or worked near the intersection of 500 West and 500 South, a four-way stop sign that bottlenecks traffic and forces big-rig drivers to brake-start-brake, which drapes the block in shrouds of hydrocarbons. “Looking back, there were red flags,” says Young. “Every time I’d visit for a checkup, I’d come back with a splitting headache and my eyes and nose running.”

Five more babies would die that year, bringing the body count to at least 10 in Vernal; three more were lost in towns nearby. Young searched back to the start of the decade. In 2010, there were two, about average for a small town, then one in 2011 and four in 2012, including one whose mom worked at the senior facility on that smog-bound corner. And then the big jump in 2013, on the heels of a historic run in production that began a decade earlier.

The Uintah Basin alone was home to more than 11,000 wells – that’s an enormous concentration of soot and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) drifting into Vernal, then sitting there; in that inversion-filled winter, the VOC count was equivalent to 100 million cars’ exhaust. Reached for comment about the region’s pollution, Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, a trade association for the drillers, said,

“We acknowledged that the emissions were our responsibility, [and] have worked with the state to reduce them.” Asked about a link between those toxins and infant deaths, Sgamma said that “the epidemiologist showed there was not enough data to find the cause, and to make the jump you’re making is not supported.”


By June 2013, Young had seen enough. Accompanied by Bo Hunter, her 23-year-old son, she paid a call on Joe Shaffer, the TriCounty health director. She didn’t know these mothers or their medical histories — so had no idea what was killing their babies — and acknowledges that the cause may never be determined. But she was acutely fearful for her other clients’ babies and wanted Shaffer’s advice on keeping them safe. She and Hunter say she’d barely broached the subject of infant losses when Shaffer admitted he too had concerns about the air quality in Vernal and the effect it might have on area families, including his own. (Shaffer, who retired in the summer of 2014 and hasn’t spoken publicly since he left, was reached by phone at his home but declined to comment.)

Frantic now, Young called a local advocacy group, who connected her with Dr. Brian Moench. Moench, an anesthesiologist in Salt Lake City who co-founded Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, is a cross between Bill Nye and Bill McKibben, a science-geek activist and erudite spokesman for a growing clean-air coalition.

With the roughly 350 doctors in Utah he’s recruited to the cause, he and his colleagues gathered dozens of studies about pollution and its long- and short-term damage to the unborn. “What we know now,” he says, “from several blue-ribbon studies, is that the chemicals Mom inhales in industrial zones are passed to her baby through the umbilical cord, exposing them to many complications. We also know these toxins like to live in fat cells — and the brain is the largest fat reservoir in a developing fetus.”

At Moench’s urging, Young ordered her clients to stay in on bad air-quality days, and to equip their homes with high-end filters that trapped both soot and gases. Finally, in May 2014, LeFevre, the state health official, met with the TriCounty Health Department to present his proposed method to study the deaths. It would not, however, look at environmental factors; this was strictly about the statistical significance of the infant deaths.

That might have been the end of it if not for Moench. He looped in a contact at The Salt Lake Tribune, who sent a writer down to cover the announcement. For the next two days, the Tribune ran page-one stories about Young’s efforts to learn the truth about those deaths.


That’s when some people in Vernal started to turn on Donna Young. The phone calls went on for months. Several times a week she’d pick up the phone to snarling curses and personal accusations that she was “trying to bust up the economy.” Staffers at Ashley Regional Medical Center trashed her to clients, she says, and denounced her in online comments as a baby killer. (The ARMC spokeswoman denies this, adding that “if anyone employed by our facility said this, it was not on behalf of our hospital.”)

Ben Cluff, its CEO, threatened Young with legal action for “[communicating] inaccurate information regarding the number of infant deaths at our facility.” When Young took Avery Lawton for an ultrasound there, both women recall that a staffer told Young that everyone was out to destroy her, “and it’s political.”


It’s sad but unsurprising that Young would get pushback from a town that leans on oil as much as Vernal. Since crude was first pumped in this High Plains town shortly after World War II, its fortunes have tracked the price point of gas, riding its fluctuations up and down. Then along came the fracking boom, which extracted fossil fuels at rates undreamt of 10 years back, and Vernal was suddenly awash in real money.

Virtually the whole west side is newly constructed, with big-box chain stores, midrange hotels and three brewpubs serving the roughnecks who rent the prefab townhomes. Oil money helped fund the new City Hall, as well as the 32-acre convention center, one of the largest such spreads in the West. There’s the juice bar hawking T-shirts that say ‘I Heart Drilling,’ the July 4th parade featuring girls on derrick floats and the yearly golf tourney called Petroleum Days.

So it’s moot to expect much Green Party ferment from a place where boys quit high school in boom years to work the rigs at 16. But where are all the worried parents? “A huge number of my kids have breathing problems — it averages six or seven in every class,” says Rodd Repsher, a health teacher at Uintah High who hails from Pennsylvania. “Come January, they’re out sick for a week at a time. I never saw anything like it back home,” says another teacher, who relocated from the Northeast.


I met the two teachers at a town-hall forum led by Moench and three of his colleagues from Salt Lake City. Though they’d papered the town with fliers about the forum — a primer on pollution and ways to protect your family from it — and invited the mayor, Sonya Nelson, and the three Uintah County commissioners, only 40 people showed up at the Vernal Junior High School auditorium. Several were Young’s clients and their husbands and kids. Young was there, too, along with her daughter Holt. As a precaution, she’d brought a bodyguard.

In an easy-to-follow slide show about the air in the Basin and its calamitous level of pollution, Moench and his fellow doctors, two of them obstetricians, spent an hour and a half building a brick-by-brick indictment against the effect of those toxins on fetal neurons. “Think of them as bullets to developing brain cells,” said Moench. “They either kill some of those cells, alter them or switch them off, blocking their connections to other cells.” Citing a wave of new studies that link inhaled contaminants to everything from diabetes and obesity to ADD, he added that babies “are being born now pre-polluted. Lower IQs, less serotonin, less white-brain matter: We’re literally changing who they are as human beings.”

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Lord Howell offends — but does he have a point?


Lord Howell’s comments will create a debate over the North-South divide. Illustration: Stephen Collins.

Oh Lord Howell, you’ve done it again. Offending the North of England oncewasn’t enough, so he’s had a second go — warning today that the Conservative party will lose votes in their heartlands if fracking goes ahead. In an online article for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, George Osborne’s father-in-law lambasts the government’s fracking plans:

‘Trying to start in southern England, and in the home counties, or in rural and countryside areas anywhere, north or south, is a guarantee of longer delays, higher costs and increased hostility from both green left and countryside right. ‘Every time ministers open their mouths to claim that fracking must start everywhere around Britain, and not just in carefully selected and remote (derelict) areas, they lose thousands of Tory votes. ‘In the northeast, the northwest and all the places where the Industrial Revolution has left the worst historical scars they do have just such areas, they have the gas and they have the local wish to see fracking investment’

And just to remind those in the North that properties in the South East are far more valuable, Howell also says it is pointless bribing rural communities to accept fracking:

‘Spending time and money trying to bribe and cajole rural communities is a complete waste, as well as putting backs up and losing rural votes on a major scale. Villages and their environs where homes are worth a million will be unimpressed by £100k offers, and by assurances that ‘only’ two years of heavy truck traffic will disturb them.’

For the Tories, comments such as these are extremely unhelpful and reopen the debate about the North-South divide and whether they care about the region at all. Although Howell’s remarks are politically ill-advised, he does have a point.

Dear God! Another One?!

hqdefault Our name is legion for we are many….One might well believe it  where Conservative party climate warming deniers are concerned, but who does what Peter Lilley did? Check out the ‘They Work For You’ website wherein you will discover that, from April to December 2014 Mr Lilley was paid £35,250.00 for ‘consultancy work’ . The company who paid him? None other than Tethys Petroleum Ltd.

One could say that Tethys Petroleum is quite a treasure, after all in this age of Exxon Mobil, Shell & Cuadrilla, a petroleum company that operates at a loss is really quite exceptional. Year over year, Tethys Petroleum Limited has seen revenues shrink from $36.9M USD to $27.4M USD, though the company was able to grow net income from a loss of $17.1M USD to a smaller loss of $16.0M USD. How exactly does the whole ‘operating in an industry where profits are being made hand over fist, yet still operating at a loss’ thing work? Somebody savvy in business will have to explain it to me…..

Meanwhile, Tethys appears to have solved its financial woes by entering into a major new funding deal with the Assaubayev family of Kazakhstan. John Bell, Tethys’ executive chairman, believes the deal will solve the company’s funding issues. Would that be the Assaubayev family who allegedly entered into a deal with Scot Rudmann to invest $100 million dollars in his hedgefund, if he allowed them to withdraw $25 million? Apparently the deal soured, kind of like Peter Lilley’s relationship with Greenpeace, no $100 million materialised, and Mr Rudmann found himself obliged to take them to court. Nice company Tethys is keeping eh?

As for Mr Lilley, former member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee up to & including March this year, here is what he had to say in favour of renewable energy, In the video, Lilley said that the chancellor, George Osborne, “wanted to get people into key [government] positions who could begin to get the government off the hook from the [climate] commitments it made very foolishly.” He added: “We could well see certain amendments to the Climate Change Act, cease to make it legally binding, make it advisory.”. Aren’t we lucky he won’t be attending the UN’s  global summit on climate change in Paris? 2015-01-01-paris

New York State Ban On Fracking Made Official


After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative.”

Those were the words many activists in New York never expected to hear from Joe Martens, head of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, but they were included in a statement released today as New York made the state’s ban on fracking official.

This step in the process was expected after the release in May of the massive 1,448 page report on fracking that was seven years in the making which also was preceded by the Cuomo administration announcing they planned to ban frackingback in December.

While there had been some mentions in the media that the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on fracking and drinking water contamination might cause trouble for the Cuomo administration, it appears that trouble was limited to predictable Republican statements about Cuomo’s decision being based on “controversial scientific studies.”

As explained in detail in this DeSmog piece by Sharon Kelly, if you read the EPA report and didn’t just rely on headlines in the New York Post to get your information, the report actually provides support for New York’s decision for a fracking ban.

New York now is the only state with known large amounts of shale deposits that has enacted a ban on fracking. In the past week, the state has also released a new energy plan with goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (below 1990 levels) by 2030 and 80% by 2050 and to produce 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

As the oil industry prepares to roll out fracking technology around the globe, New York has taken an important step in showing the world what a “reasonable alternative” looks like.

As DeSmogBlog concluded in our 2011 report Fracking the Future, the risks to our water, health and climate our simply too great to continue this fossil folly.


Fracking oil companies can be sued by earthquake victim, Oklahoma court rules

An Oklahoma woman who was injured when an earthquake rocked her home in 2011 can sue oil companies for damages, the state’s highest court ruled on Tuesday, opening the door to other potential lawsuits against the state’s energy companies.

Oklahoma has experienced a dramatic spike in earthquakes in the last five years, and researchers have blamed the oil and gas industry’s practice of injecting massive volumes of saltwater left over from drilling.

The state saw nearly 600 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2014, compared to just one or two per year prior to 2009, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Oil production in Oklahoma has doubled in the last seven years, in part because drillers can dispose of vast amounts of saltwater found in oil and gas formations relatively cheaply by injecting it back into the ground. This practice is believed to be what is triggering off the earthquakes.

The practice is separate from hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which has been linked to some smaller quakes but is not believed to be causing Oklahoma’s tremors.

Oklahoma, home to major energy companies including Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy Corp., and Sandridge Energy Inc., has already tightened regulations on injection wells. The state is considering tougher rules, and lawsuits would further boost costs for energy companies.


Other potential litigation?

Falling rocks injured Sandra Ladra’s legs when a 5.0 magnitude quake — the most intense in the state’s history — toppled her chimney in 2011. She has sued two Oklahoma oil companies, New Dominion LLC and Spess Oil Company, which operate injection wells near her home in Prague, Okla.

A lower court ruled that the case had to go before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the regulator overseeing oil and gas, and dismissed Ladra’s case in 2014.

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed that decision, ruling that the commission’s authority does not extend to the power to “afford a remedy” to those harmed by the violation of its regulations. The case will return to district court to decide whether Ladra should be granted any damages.

Ladra’s lawyer, Arkansas-based Scott Poynter, told Reuters he can now move forward on several other potential suits from Oklahoma residents seeking compensation from energy companies for damages resulting from earthquakes.

Attorneys for New Dominion and Spess did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Industry advocates on Tuesday downplayed the significance of the court’s ruling, and cast doubt on whether Ladra and her attorneys could prove specific wells were responsible for the earthquake that caused her injuries.

Researchers say more work needs to be done to determine the exact mechanism of the link between underground injection and earthquakes, and whether location, volume, pressure, or other factors are the most significant.

Fracking under fire in Canada

Players in the Canadian oil and gas industry, especially those with fracking operations, are similarly coming under increasing scrutiny for both the connection to an increase in earthquakes and the alleged contamination of groundwater reserves.

Increased seismic activity throughout the natural-gas rich regions has been definitively linked to natural gas development, particularly to fracking. British Columbia’s oil and gas commission recently tied 231 seismic events in the province’s northeast to nearby fracking projects, for example.

Alberta fracking case to be heard by Supreme Court of Canada

That being said, no damage to infrastructure caused by fracking-related quakes has ever been recorded in Canada. Generally only earthquakes of at least magnitude 6.0 pose a significant structural threat to buildings. While B.C. and Alberta have recorded tremors of magnitude 4.4, no event of magnitude 6.0 or higher has ever been linked to fracking anywhere in the world. 

As fracking projects continue in Canada, however, there will likely be legal challenges from residents and environmental groups who oppose the practice. 

In April, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it would hear the case of an Alberta woman who claims fracking operations have so badly contaminated her well that the water can be set on fire. 



The impact of fracking on house prices

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

‘Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.’

A secret report into the impact of fracking on house prices should and will be published, energy minister Andrea Leadsom has said, opening up a rift with the environment department over the controversial issue.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which commissioned the report, published parts of it last year in response to a request from campaigners but redacted 63 passages.

The Information Commissioner ordered earlier this month that the report be published in full but Defra, which fought to keep it secret, has so far failed to do so.

Responding to questions from MPs, Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, said on Tuesday that the report “is going to be published” and said she believed “it should be made available to the public, so that they can draw their own conclusions”.

The position is at odds with Defra, which on Tuesday confirmed it was still considering its options – including a potential appeal against publication.

Fracking could wipe tens of thousands of pounds off house prices

Defra has 28 days from the Information Commissioner’s June 18 decision to lodge an appeal. If it doesn’t appeal it must publish it within 35 days of the decision or be deemed in contempt of court.

The department, headed by Liz Truss, has claimed the report is “inaccurate and potentially misleading” and that its publication would be “damaging”.

Among the redacted parts of the report were several sections on the “impact on housing demand and property prices”, fuelling fears that ministers who are in favour of fracking were hiding evidence about its drawbacks.

The Information Commissioner said the full document should be published as there was a “a strong public interest” in the Government’s policy on fracking and research on it.

The split within Government emerged the day after it suffered a major setback in its hopes of developing a UK shale gas industry as councillors in Lancashire threw out a proposal from Cuadrilla to frack in the county.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, Ms Leadsom said those who opposed shale should not be labelled nimbys or luddites but rather people who “need to understand better”.

She said: “I would never call those with local, very well founded concerns nimbys or luddites. Plenty of people in my constituency have concerns about all manner of things, ranging from HS2 to wind farms, to anaerobic digestion plants.

“They are not nimbys or luddites, but local communities who need to understand better. My priority will be to reassure them and, yes, to use an element of persuasion… We need to take local people with us, so that will be my absolute focus.”