Attn Philip Irwin – requested response to McKinstry story

I bumped into Philip Irwin, journalist with the Gem group of newspapers, and he asked me to take a look at a couple of recent articles on fracking published in the right wing national media. He asked for my reaction to them as part of a piece he was himself preparing on the topic.

Ever willing to help, I had a look and my response was as follows>

Hi Phil,

You are a crafty man! You asked me to take a look at Leo McKinstry’s piece on shale gas and fracking, knowing full well that it would be a red rag to a bull.

You were right when you said you doubted I read papers like the Express, Mail and Telegraph. I glance at the odious rags occasionally, just to see what warped nonsense they are spinning. It has to be said that this particular article plumbs the depths of lazy, bigoted, ignorant twaddle, even for these papers.

He starts off by hailing North sea oil as the economic saviour of our country. Had we placed a large proportion of it in a sovereign wealth fund, like the Norwegians, it could have achieved a lot and helped alleviate a lot of our current economic difficulties, but no! The fact is successive governments, especially McKinstry’s right wing chums, have frittered it away in tax reductions and boom-bust policies, fueling a twenty-year consumer boom and a property bubble, which sucked in imports, causing a structural balance of trade deficit. He talks of ‘epic acts of folly’. Witnessing the the human and environmental costs of oil related disasters, while at the same time utterly wasting the economic potential of the revenues generated has to be one of the greatest follies in history. It is now close to running out, and just what have we got to show for it, Mr McKinstry? He talks of how North Sea oil ‘enriched’ us. Just how was that so? Did it enrich us culturally? Socially? Politically? Economically? Had it been used to help reduce inequalities and produce the happier nations this leads to, like Norway, it could have done all these things. But what happened here is what always happens in the capitalist system. The filthy rich get richer and the poor suffer the consequences of all the negative impacts.

He then talks about the ‘idiocy’ of not grabbing the same opportunity offered by shale gas, as if the exploitation of it was just the same as oil. This is where he reveals himself as the lazy hack others have labelled him as. It is an idiotic comparison that even the frackers themselves would not make. The technology, locations and risks are utterly different. He acknowledges that it is only recent technological advances that have made exploitation of shale gas ‘profitable’. This is McKinstry’s only measure of acceptability. It is now profitable, at last, so full steam ahead before some bastard puts a spanner in the works by asking us build in the costs of trashed aquifers, compensation for health implications, and imposes a carbon tax on every stage of the operation, not just the methane combustion.

He consistently shows himself to be gullible to the PR spin the fracking companies, to be generous to the man. A cynic might accuse him of deliberately peddling and perpetuating their thinly veiled lies and deceits over things like frack fluid. I have exposed these fully elsewhere, but one sentence from McKinstry exposes the lie/deceit completely. I quote: Since the liquid used to break up the rock is 99.86 per cent water and sand, it causes no long-term environmental damage.’ Is he really this stupid? I invite him to drink a glass of water with 0.14% made up of the chemicals Cuadrilla own up to using (let alone the ones they don’t). And in case he does not realise it, they use a bit more than a glass full in a frack job. Do some maths Leo!

5 million gallons per frack X 10 wells per site X 6 fracks per lifetime X at least 40 site in Lancashire = 12 billion gallons of frack fluid used in Lancashire. 0.14% of this, Leo, is 16.8 million gallons of chemicals set lose into the environment. Cuadrilla admit to using nasties like hydrochloric acid, hydrocarbon oils (diesel), acrylamide compounds and poisons (biocides they call them). And this is before we even consider the heavy metals and radioactive isotopes commonly released from the shales alongside the shale oil and gas.

He talks about economic potential of meaningless numbers like 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. He fails to mention that it rare to achieve recovery rates of more than 20% of this potential. He talks of the potential for 15 more years gas supply. Then what? He talks of cheaper gas – but surely knows that commodities like this are priced by a global market and must also have noticed how wholesale price drops rarely make it through to the consumer, but mostly go to inflating the gas company profits.

Yet more ignorance is displayed by him totally missing the point of the significance of any earthquakes in a fracking zone. It really does not matter whether fracking itself triggers them or not. As he rightly (just for once) points out, these earthquakes are tiny. But they are significant enough to crack cement. Has the penny dropped yet, Mr McKinstry? What are the boreholes lined with to prevent chemicals and gas seeping into strata above the shale – into the groundwater? You’ve got it now! Yes, it is cement! Now you understand why Cuadrilla stopped operations the instant a quake struck their site. The irony is, of course, despite Leo’s blatant lie to the contrary, it has now been confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt that it was Cuadrilla’s fracking operation that triggered the quakes.

Finally, McKinstry talks of being blinded by ideology. It is not ideology that would make a Government impose a moratorium to properly evaluate these suspect practices. It is commonsense that drives such a precautionary approach. It is, however, capitalist ideology that blinds a Government to all but the potential profits to be made.

I have wasted enough time responding to McKinstry’s appallingly bad excuse for journalism. I expect he is a pal of David Rose, who wrote a similarly atrocious piece in the Mail recently. I lost count of the factual inaccuracies in that piece of nonsense.

The good news is that tide of opinion is now flowing steadily in our favour. I am increasingly confident that getting a moratorium in place is not only achievable, but now simply a matter of time.

Best wishes,

       Andy Chyba
Bridgend Green Party

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