Fracking facts: pros, cons and issues

Shale gas rig in Appalache y  Meredithw Creative Commons

It has long been known that shales contain oil and gas but it is only within the last decade that the development of two technologies has made the extraction of gas from shale an economic proposition:

  • The first of these is the ability to drill horizontally from an initial deep vertical bore.
  • The second is the development of a process called ‘hydraulic fracturing’ .

Hydraulic fracturing is the use of a fluid made up of around 90% water carrying a load of sands, chemicals and sometimes diesel oil and forcing it into shales under high pressure, causing them to fracture and release the gas they contain.

This is the process from whose name the brute industrial tag of ‘fracking’ has been hacked.

To extract shale gas, you drill one or two miles down into the shale band, and then turn the drill head to bore horizontally for up to the same distance. This obviously increases the exposure of available shale to the well. A series of explosive charges in a perforated pipe are then detonated in the stretch designated for fracking, starting the fissuring of the rock for the hydrofracturing that then follows – directed into the new cracks, forcing them more widely apart and extending them.

Shale is hard and pretty impermeable so breaking it up in this way is the only means of releasing the gas it contains.

The gas then flows along the bore and escapes upwards to the well head.

The chemicals that are part of the water borne material injected into the rock include benzene – a known carcinogen that destroys bacteria that might otherwise clog up the fissures created in the rock.

Areas of gas carrying shales are known in the industry as ‘shale plays’ – as opposed to ‘shale explorations’. The difference between the two is that the risk of ‘shale plays’ not containing extractable gas is lower.

Shale gas production and reserves

The USA is the only country where shale gas has yet been commercially exploited – and has been in production there for a decade. In 2009, shale gas accounted for 14% of the overall natural gas usage in the United States. Increasing production is expected to deliver 45% by 2035.

The first major shale play in production there was the Barnett Shale in Texas. Other major plays are the east coast’s Marcellus and Utica Shales, the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas and the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana.

The USA’s Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011 estimates that the United States has 2,552 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of potential natural gas resources – including shale gas.

The small UK energy consortium, Cuadrilla, that has drilled two exploratory wells, with another currently being drilled and has found shale gas in Lancashire, is now saying that its test wells indicate a 200 trillion cubic feet reserve there, in the Bowland Shale.

This estimate is, however, already being questioned by academics, one of whom – oil and gas expert at Imperial College London, Professor Al Fraser, says that there is a lot of variability in these wells  – meaning that the Cuadrilla test wells may not be reliably indicative. He is quoted as saying that the Cuadrilla figures may be optimistic by as much as a factor of 10.

The positives

On 1st November 2009 the Murdoch press’s Sunday Times announced that America has been able to cut – very significantly – its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) because of its discovery of massive resources of shale gas which it is energetically producing. As noted above, in 2009 America was getting 14% of its natural gas usage from shale gas sources.

In a blowout of its own, the Sunday Times said, breathlessly, that the shale gas ‘breakthrough has opened a new frontier for the energy industry and turned long-held assumptions about the world’s dwindling supplies on their head.’ This forgets that these supplies too are finite. The Marcellus Shale under Pennsylvania is the second largest gas field in the world – and, according to Bloomberg Businessweek in March 2011, ‘enough to heat U.S. homes and power electric plants for two decades’. That’s only twenty years – and 1990 doesn’t seem that long ago. However, its total resources of shale gas are said to be capable, at today’s usage rates, of fuelling the United States for 100 years.

The 23rd September 2011 edition of The Telegraph claims in a headline that: ‘Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems’ – but fails to say for how long – except. airily, ‘hundreds of years’. This is irresponsible journalism – and it comes from Christopher Booker. He goes on to say: ‘So miraculous is the potential of shale gas to change the world that several countries, led by the US and China, are already piling in to exploit it on a huge scale.’

The positives of shale gas are simply that it buys us time – but the cost of that purchase is complex and its total unknown. Some of that cost is detailed below and some in the closing paragraphs of this article.

The negatives

Impact on global warming

Shale gas may accelerate rather than reduce global warming. It emits much greater volumes of methane than does conventional gas. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, estimated in late 2010 by the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have a global warming potential of 105 times, mass for mass, that of carbon dioxide over 20 years and 33 times more over 100 years. In May 2010, concerned about the potential impact of shale gas on global warming, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents – who represent a total of 1.4 million scientists, wrote to President Obama pressing the urgent need for a stronger scientific foundation before going ahead with a national policy for developing shale gas production.

Scale of need for water

Drilling and fracking both require huge volumes of water – drilling for keeping the drill bit cool and for washing the rock debris out of the borehole; fracking for the water which is 90% of the process, needing up to 3 million gallons per treatment. The centrality of such volumes of water to the process may be an issue where extraction is planned for an area with limited supplies. Such a scenario could leave households and industrial users with short supplies. An area also with limited water supplies and prone to drought would leave production under constant threat of being unable to continue in such conditions.

Water contamination

Other water problems related to fracking arise from the volume of contaminated wastewater it produces. It is alleged that this can invade water tables and contaminate drinking water. While there have been no documented cases of this underground contamination, there have been above ground spillages. Most companies pump as much as they can of the millions of gallons of fracking wastewater  back to the surface. There have been occasions where some of this – carrying the powerful carcinogen, benzene – has spilled from holding tanks. Such spillages can swamp treatment plants not equipped to handle high levels of contaminants. A New York Times article in February 2011, referring to documents from the Environmental Protection Agency and from state regulators, described how radioactive wastewater is being discharged into river basins. This of course opens up a direct route for such contaminants to enter the water supply, surface waters and wetland habitats. The Marcellus Shale  – under Philadelphia and the second largest gas source in the world, runs beneath the watershed supplying an unfiltered 1 billion gallons of water a day to New York City.

Blowouts

Blowouts are a risk in any oil or gas drilling operation. In shale gas production, a blowout in June 2010 in Clearwater County in the USA  threw a 75ft high combustible rocket of gas and toxic wastewater into the air. It took the gas company concerned a full 16 hours to bring this under control and the authorities had to evacuate the area. Water wells and springs supplying local forest cabins were contaminated.

Earth tremors

Cuadrilla’s drilling in to the Bowland Shale in Lancashire, near Blackpool, has had to be put in limbo while research is done into the causes of two earthquakes that occurred during drilling and appear to be related to the drilling sites. On 1st April 2011 the North West of England shook to a 2.3 magnitude quake whose epicentre was under two miles from one of Cuadrilla’s shale gas test wells near Blackpool. Only two months later, on 27th May 2011, there was another, more minor, quake registered at 1.5 and with its epicentre under 500 yards from the well. The British Geological Survey has said that it is probable that the tremors and the fracking process are linked. While the tremors are alarming, their magnitude was such that they were barely noticeable. But they were caused by a modest volume of fracking. In full production, with the country overwhelmed by a rush for energy and profit,  there would have to be certainty that multiple simultaneous frackings would not trigger more muscular quakes. It is inconceivable that the fracturing and fissuring of rock a mile or two down can be without consequence of some serious kind.

Concerns on regulation

A major issue with fracking – given the level of known risk in the process, never mind the risk level associated with issues not yet understood or quantified – is the regulatory framework within which it is to be conducted, scrutinised and held to account.

In America, as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in March this year: ‘The Delaware River Basin Commission, which manages the watershed that supplies drinking water to 15 million people in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, has put gas development on hold while it drafts rules.’ This is the watershed lying above the massive Marcellus Shale.

Other states are also making their own rules and the White House is signalling that federal regulation will be either light or unnecessary: ‘It’s not necessarily federal regulation that will be needed’.

Worryingly, even if America’s Environmental Protection Agency were to intervene, its hands and ankles are already tied – by that well known company to whom ‘corporate social responsibility is a funny language for wimps. Enter Halliburton, whose head was George W Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, a man about whom history will have much to say.

Halliburton was one of the pioneers of fracking and, coincidentally, also sells fracking fluids.

A clause, popularly known as  ‘The Halliburton loophole’, in the USA’s  2005 energy law – which is said not to have reflected the Environmental Protection Agency’s concerns about water pollution -  actually exempts fracking from parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Dick Cheney is alleged by a Congressman, Maurice Hinchey, to have pushed for this exemption during his Vice Presidency.

This clause, unbelievably, allows companies to treat the composition of fracking fluids as trade secrets – so there is little public information available on what they contain or what risks these contents involve.

Closer to home and therefore even more worrying, Prime Minister David Cameron has been indicating light regulation for shale gas production. Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, seems equally underinformed or equally willfully irresponsible, saying in an article in the Guardian on 22nd September 2011, that ‘given the amount of attention shale gas drilling has attracted recently, one could be forgiven for thinking there was a large, unregulated industry in operation in the UK. The is far from the reality. Shale gas exploration is just beginning here and is governed by one of the most robust and stringent regulatory frameworks in the world. ‘ He says.

The following day, 23rd September 2011, The Guardian published an article on government documents it has seen, showing that the regulation of fracking in the UK will be minimal.

We are still living with the consequences of our last sashay with ‘regulation with a light touch’. As Santayana said,  ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

Core issues

Green MP, Caroline Lucas, arguing that we must stall fracking until we know more, points out that the process has already been banned in France, New York, New Jersey, Quebec and the Swiss canton of Fribourg; and that, in July 2011, the government of New South Wales in Australia extended its moratorium on fracking for extracting coal seam gas – doing so in response to the concerns expressed by local communities.

There are clearly significant environmental and public health issues which require meticulous and honest investigation before any decision on whether or not to licence fracking in the UK is taken.

But beyond that is a different kind of issue – a psychological one and one bred in our cultural lack of a guiding philosophy.

The chief advantage of shale gas production is that it buys us time – time before we run out of adequate present sources of energy, time to develop and mature the new renewable energy technologies, time to upgrade our own national grid, time to negotiate and build international interconnectors to share power.

But where, in our cultural history, can we point to a moment when we have used the time available to prepare for a very different future?

If we go ahead with shale gas production it’s a safe bet that we’ll take the foot off the accelerator of developing renewable energies and carry on as thirstily as now.

Do we have the sheer character to make the hard choice, leaving this stuff in the ground, leaving the bedrock strong and pressing on as fast as we can with developing a future based on renewables? Improbable. Short termism rules.

The image at the top, of a shale gas rig drilling in the Appallachian Basin, is by copyright holder Meredithw and reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.

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44 Responses to Fracking facts: pros, cons and issues

  1. Interesting and well researched article. A couple of questions. Is water used in the drilling, in the subsea industry we use drilling mud which lubricates the drill bit, removes the drill cuttings and the weight of the fluid also prevents a blow out.
    Also the process of fracturing is not just confined to shale, it can be completed either using high pressure water or explosives and more important aspect of releasing the trapped hydrocarbon from the rock formation.
    Once the rock has been fractured then propane is used to prevent the fractures from closing.

    As for the global warming aspect, I don’t even try to attempt to rubbish this claim, but what I do say is in order to move awayfrom a carbon based economy we have to fundamentally think about what is important, 2 sunshine holidays, a brand new tv or that sports car you’ve always wanted?

    It’s seems rather strange but for an oil man but I cycle to work everyday. Why – I enjoy it, it gives me 100 minutes of exercise a day, I avoid the atrocious traffic and in a way I’m avoiding the unnessecary use of hydro carbons. So that in a way I can save my hydrocarbon use for heating my house and buying my kids Lego bricks!!!

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    • For ourmaninoslo: Water is used in shale gas drilling – as part of a drilling mud mix and it sounds as if the process you refer to is similar, although we’re not au fiat with the ratios in either case.

      Fracking in shale gas extraction is also sometimes powered by compressed air but, in the States, which is the pioneer, water under high pressure is the preferred carrier of the proppants (sand with chemicals etc) that keep the fissures open to let the gas escape.

      And,. as you say, the methane content of shales is a straightforward scientific fact. We understand that where there are surface shales, methane is naturally released into the atmosphere. While methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it is less enduring – hence the decllne over time in the comparative impact ratios between the two, evidenced in this article over a 20 year and over a 100 year period. Methane remains significantly the more impactful of the two.

      For those interested in the water related issue, this information from geology.com is interesting – highlighting the related problem of proper disposal of contaminated fluids pumped from shale gas wells: http://geology.com/usgs/marcellus-shale/

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  2. All carbon fuels accelerate climate change! And methane is serious stuff.

    The other question is, does more energy come out of this process than goes in? Or is it like the Canadian tar sands?

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    • Nonsense – “carbon fuels” do not “accelerate global warming”.

      Water vapour is a much more “potent” greenhouse gas and there is a lot more of it. CO2 is responsible for 0.2% and water vapour is responsible for 99.8% of the ‘heat load’ …….. but you can’t tax water vapour, can you.

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  3. Fracking shale is just another putting off of the inevitable for a few years. We really need to grow up a little as a species and accept that the free ride we’ve had from fossil fuels for the last two centuries is slowing down and will soon stop.

    The real danger is that excitement over a new source of relatively accessible hydrocarbons combined with the continuing recesson in the West will drastically slow down the development of low-carbon technologies, so we will still have nothing in place when the new ‘bonanza’ runs dry.

    The shale gas industry in the UK will be a colourful circus for a while, but even Cuadrilla only estimate that their ‘huge find’ increases the UK’s domestic gas reserves by between 5 and 10 percent. Those who claim our energy problems are now solved are dangerous fantasists.

    Meanwhile, the talk of ‘light touch’ regulation for the frackers is slighly worrying – especially if you live in Lancashire, I would imagine. No further news on exploring the central belt shale deposits is good news AFAIAC – lets see how Lancashire gets on first.

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  4. I’d also like to add is that my company is pioneering carbon capture. We have a Sub division which is called clean carbon. We capture it at source ( at the power station ) and capture it in an exhausted sandstone deposit ( which previously held gas I believe). I’ve also seen feasibility studies into capturing this into an exhausted oil field under the north sea.

    We have the technologies to lock this CO2 away, but we must also deal with out present appetite for carbon. The financing of such pure carbon capture projects seems a long way off.

    Remember that when you drive 5 minutes instead of walking/cycling.
    Remember that when you switch on a

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  5. Cycling to work in Oslo is probably a lot safer than cycling along the A83, and despite the core path strategy it would seem that at least one Argyll & Bute councillor thinks that walking and cycling are unnatural activities.

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  6. Used to cycle a lot in Scotland. Agree on that on occasions took life in ones hands. It seems so sad that the aforementioned councillor is so divorced from using his/her own personal power to get around. It’s one o the stark comparisons I draw between the 2 countries: longevity and obesity.

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  7. I’m sure there are risks to Fracking. In fact many, with out a doubt. But, I have a real problem with believing anything that’s said coming from the EPA. The history of the EPA is one such as a cartel. And in the most recent years, I believe it is loaded with socialists regulating through the marching orders of the United Nations Agenda 21. This Green Initiative movement is a cover up for the socialist take over of our society. We need to reset our government to a constitutional one. One that will be honest with the people. Then we can consider, but never should completely believe a word that comes from any governmental side kick.

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  8. As I read the first several paragraphs of your article I began to suspect its veracity. Then, I reached the paragraph that stated that gas may increase Global Warming and I knew the entire article must be looked upon with suspicion.

    Why not say that it might accelerate our slide into the next Ice Age, which is just as likely as what you asserted.

    How can gas (other than that which comes from the mouth of the fraudulent huckster, Al Gore) move us toward something that has been proven to be a criminal hoax?

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  9. How much revenue has Iran lost due to the price of natural gas dropped by fracking? (Iran gets much of its income from natural gas exports). How much terrorism has been reduced?
    How much has fracking reduced our trade deficit? And what US companies involved with fracking have been able to increase revenue overseas by using the process there?

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    • So Randy, How much revenue has Iran lost? How much terrorism has been reduced? How much has fracking reduced the US trade deficit (we’re a Scottish site by the way), and what US co’s have increased revenue by using the process? Go on let us know, enlighten us … we’re agog!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Go on let us know, enlighten us … we’re agog!

    Oh no – a troll feeding frenzy. Techroom, it might be interesting to check the IP addresses of the newcomers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • They’re all from different IP addresses which resolve to different providers so in that sense they’re genuine. So it means I am still agog (although, as you’ll understand more than those from across the pond, there’s something distinctly ferrous about my agogness).

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  11. “Shale gas may accelerate rather than reduce global warming. It emits much greater volumes of methane than does conventional gas. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, ”

    This is, very simply, total BS. CO2 and methane are not greenhouse gases as gases of this kind do not exist. Our atmosphere is not a greenhouse and trace gases cannot and do not drive climate. Methane is in the parts per billions, compared to CO2 in parts per million, and, even though it’s supposed to be 20 times as “warming” as CO2, it’s a thousand times less abundant, and in toto only 1/50th the potential effect of CO2. And, since CO2 has negligible effect on climate, then methane is one-fiftieth as effective at doing nothing than CO2.

    The global warming scam/agenda is just that, a scam. There is not a shred of defensible evidence to support the claims that we have any effect on climate due to our emissions. A huge clue to this fact is the blatant fact that Al Gore, the real life ManBearPig, refuses to EVER debate a real scientist regarding his claims. He would be skinned and tanned soooo fast, he would not have time to mention his many (false) inventions.

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    • Trace gases can and do drive climate. Methane is a concern not because there’s a lot of it, but because it’s very efficient at absorbing infra-red radiation. Carbon dixoide is a concern because it persists for a long time in the atmosphere.

      There is a great deal of well written explanations of climate change out there in the interwebs. I suggest you read some, and leave your prejudices at the door.

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    • Charles, I suggest you look at weather patterns over the past ten, twenty years, and study some long-term, 130Kyrs, climate data. The actual quantity of greenhouse gases is not as important as the effect they have of trapping the heat from the sun, thereby heating up our atmosphere. That’s the “greenhouse effect”, which only stubborn disbelievers whose heads are in tar sands still deny – at the cost of future generations!

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  12. I’m sure what I write will make no difference to those climate sceptics who have posted here but let me say as a scientist that climate change is very real and there is no doubt amongst climatologists that human activities have become a major driver in this. What is speculative is the outcome of this climate change but none of the predictions look very encouraging.

    As to it being a conspiracy, what possible benefit is there in perpetrating such a globally massive scam?

    For the open minded I suggest the following search terms:

    ocean acidification graph
    atmospheric carbon dioxide levels graph
    mean temperature graph
    storm activity graph

    I’m just off to try these out myself and see what comes back but I think they will be scary.

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  13. Dr. McKenzie,

    Please don’t dignify the likes of Charles Higley with the label of ‘sceptic’. A sceptic is one who keeps an open mind – indeed, scepticism is the default position of all science, climate science included.

    No, Mr. Higley is a straightforward denier of climate change and the proponent of such tosh as:
    CO2 is plant food and with our climate entering a cooling phase, we will need our crops to have the best advantages they can have with CO2 fertilizing the atmosphere.

    Arguing with people like this or entering into dialogue with them is utterly pointless – their minds are closed. These people are mad evangelists who constantly scan the web for sites like this where climate change issues are raised then fill the comments sections with their pseudo-scientific drivel.

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  14. One can be sceptical based upon based upon a disagreement with the data provided and conclusions drawn.

    All too often scepticism come from ignorance and a failure to do the research.

    Now as folks debate default positions about can we also add empiricism.

    I don’t know exactly how many cars travel the A83 but I observe that if you stand in the road of them you may get run down – sceptics excluded.

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  15. W Hutchison: It may be just another typo, but do you really mean ‘stand in the road’? – the trouble is that on the A83 there are stretches without even a verge, offering no refuge to walkers and cyclists. Anyone ‘standing in the road’ is facing a bigger threat than fracking-related global warming or earth tremors, and might even be suicidal – the government and local authority are clearly failing to provide for what they claim to promote.

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  16. I have just discovered that one of my early posts on this thread (comment no. 3) is now hidden from view because it has 6 positive and 14 negative ‘comments’.

    This particular post was not particularly controversial, was right on topic and contained some valid general observations on the subject. It has been given a bunch of negative comments presumably by the invading climate change deniers from over the pond and is therefore no longer visible unless you click on the link.

    Here is the post. Tell me why you think this should be hidden because of ‘disapproval spamming’:

    Fracking shale is just another putting off of the inevitable for a few years. We really need to grow up a little as a species and accept that the free ride we’ve had from fossil fuels for the last two centuries is slowing down and will soon stop.

    The real danger is that excitement over a new source of relatively accessible hydrocarbons combined with the continuing recesson in the West will drastically slow down the development of low-carbon technologies, so we will still have nothing in place when the new ‘bonanza’ runs dry.

    The shale gas industry in the UK will be a colourful circus for a while, but even Cuadrilla only estimate that their ‘huge find’ increases the UK’s domestic gas reserves by between 5 and 10 percent. Those who claim our energy problems are now solved are dangerous fantasists.

    Meanwhile, the talk of ‘light touch’ regulation for the frackers is slighly worrying – especially if you live in Lancashire, I would imagine. No further news on exploring the central belt shale deposits is good news AFAIAC – lets see how Lancashire gets on first.

    So – that’s the post that has been hidden ‘by popular request’. It looks as though post no. 2 by Stephen Mackenzie is about to go the same way.

    I think this shows quite clearly that the ‘self moderation’ feature introduced by this site is open to abuse and not fit for purpose.

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    • Yes, it all seems to have gone a bit slashdot. There are those who seem to think they can win a debate by gaming the system. Even with a voting system–which I’m enjoying, by the way–there’s a need for active moderation.

      However as Phil Plait (and others) often say, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts!”

      I believe my own disappeared comment was merely asking if the fracking process was energy-positive, because if it isn’t, it’s pointless whatever the environmental impact!

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  17. Techroom – thanks.

    I think one thing we can learn from this thread is that there are climate change deniers sitting in the offices of places like the Heartland Institute constantly monitoring the web for any mention of climate change, fracking, MMGW etc – and of course sites like ForArgyll are spidered by Google almost constantly.

    It’s worth remembering that although they make an awful lot of noise there are very few of them. To illustrate, there is currently an e-petition to repeal the Climate Act, and in six weeks it has garnered less than 600 signatures (compared eg with 76,000 who have signed a petition to make financial education part of the school curriculum).

    This is why IMO climate deniers are so dangerous. They are organised, hyperactive compared to the vast majority who accept the consensus, loud, rude and very adept at swamping discussions like this. They need to be actively resisted, not ignored.

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  18. Please excuse my asking, but Webcraft don’t you think its a little presumptions to just assume that those who deny global warming are spending their time hunting for sites like this just so they can give out their opinion, to me that seems like an unproductive waste of time, I’m sure those at heartland have better things to do. And “pseudo-scientific drivel”, to be fair those on the other side think you are just as crazy as you think they are. They do have a right to their opinion and since you said your self that this was a debate, in the spirit of debate, should they be so chastised because they disagree with you? You claim they are the rude ones when you yourself (and Stephen) have been insulting them for most of this feed, I can only see one post where they insulted those who believe global warming. It seems to me that you and Robert and stephen are contributing to the downfall of this debate just as much as they may be.

    And Robert really? “Perhaps it’s time to re-introduce direct rule over our American colonies for the sake of the future of the world” There is movement in the US to find cleaner energy sources. Little can be said about that regarding India and China, do you agree?

    Lastly just because some of us question weather global warming is our fault or is even real doesn’t mean we aren’t wanting to find cleaner energy sources, I for one am in favor of cleaner energy sources, although I question our involvement (or rather if we can actually solve the problem ourselves) in global warming. We just don’t want to be tied down and restricted by the government. Plus as one of the worlds major economies, forcing certain regulations and taxes (energy tax) based on global warming, might prove to be hinder some to our economy, which would effect all economies since they are all so closely connected in the modern world. They could do more harm than good.

    And for the record I am not one of those presumed people who look through the internet and troll debates, I was working on a report for school about fracking, and this article proved very helpful, so thank you techroom

    Stay classy Britain ;)

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  19. Pingback: Argyll News: Irresponsibly skewed Countryfile piece on shale gas fracking | For Argyll

  20. There are NO `pros`, just cons and lies and pro fracking propaganda.
    One issue that gets missed out time and time again is the fact that these wells will be plugged and abandoned and forgotten about in the future. There are thousands of such wells in the States right now. It`s one thing to say the fracking wells will be sufficiently cased and cemented during fracking and production, but when the wells are plugged and abandoned, their integrity diminishes. The casing rusts away, the cement no longer does It`s job and nobody monitors the wells. It`s common knowledge that abandoned mines are deliberately flooded which then contaminates water supplies, the same will happen with shale gas wells. And who`s to say there will not be a future earthquake/s in an area of hundreds of wells which have been abandoned, that may rupture the wells allowing trapped fracking chemicals, toxic metals etc to make their way to the above aquifers???

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