Monthly Archives: December 2012
Restoring Democracy in the Fight Against Fracking
A slave at five years old – AVAAZ petition
How the Welsh Government’s secondary school banding works (or rather doesn’t)
|Look at this carefully and try to imagine how this can produce meaningful single ‘scores’ for each school:
The system works on five bands, with Band 1 being the best scoring schools and five at the other end of the scale.
The number eligible for free school meals is also taken into account, to allow for the challenges of running a school in a deprived area.
Most of the categories also take into account a school’s progress over time, rewarding schools that are making improvements in performance.
Schools in the top bands will be expected to share their success and help develop better approaches in other schools (if they can untangle just how on earth they achieved it).
Local authorities will also be expected to use the system to target improvement resources on the schools that need it most. (Good luck with that!)
School Scores/Bands: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20772793
By County: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20767410
It is an absolute nonsense to try to amalgamate such a collection of arbitrary and misleading figures into any sort of meaningful score. I teach Essential Skills courses in Application of Number and if a learner presented such a flawed exercise as an assessment piece, there would be no option but to refer it back for a complete re-think!
The Conservatives called the bands “vague and confusing”, Plaid Cymru said they were “not credible” and the Welsh Liberal Democrats called them “crude”.
Labour’s Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, says the results will challenge those “not delivering for our young people”. How on earth he thinks it will achieve anything so lofty is beyond me. It will induce complacency in those that find themselves in the Top Band without a clue how they got there, and thoroughly demoralise those in the lower bands, doing a good job but being publicly humiliated. Neither is a good outcome.
As if to illustrate this point, the school which came top in this new system last year has fallen into one of the lowest groups. When it was introduced last year, Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor, Gwynedd, had the best relative score in Band 1, but has now dropped to Band 4. Ysgol Tryfan’s head raised questions over a system allowing such a big change. “Last year’s results were exceptionally good and meant the school was at the top of the banding scores,” he said. “This year’s drop is a disappointment, but one questions a system which allows such a big change, especially perhaps the progress measure. So if a school has had an exceptionally good year in 2011, they’re punished for it in 2012, even though the school is close to the highest quartile according to [school inspection body] Estyn’s most important measure.”
I would also have to question the credibility of a system that tends to highly score schools that patently peddle mis-education (I.e. faith schools; notably Catholics ones).
As a parent and former teacher with many close friends still in secondary schools, I know a dozen or more of these schools pretty well. I know these scores and tables are utterly meaningless and of no practical value at all. It is another truly embarrassing shambles that can only undo all the relief and goodwill created in Welsh schools when the Welsh Assembly kicked the crude exam league tables into touch in 2001. But at least those tables had an intelligible rationale.
The Labour administration should apologise for this crass and damaging exercise immediately and undertake a damage limitation exercise, as absolutely nothing positive can come from this at all.
FOTEC’s response to the Welsh Governments (non)response to the Fracking Petition
|Below is the summary page of Friends of the Earth Cymru’s recently published 13 page document
“Submission to the Petitions Committee of the National Assembly for Wales in response to the Welsh Governments response to the Fracking Petition”
It underlines the points both Gareth Clubb (FOTEC) and I made at the Llandow Public Inquiry, as well as before and since.
It also serves to underline the complete absence of any meaningful response to the issue from Welsh Labour, and Carwyn Jones in particular.
Full document: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/documents/s11946/23.11.12%20Correspondence%20-%20Additional%20information%20from%20Petitioner%20to%20Chair.pdf
1. Friends of the Earth Cymru considers the Welsh Governments response to be deficient and urges the Committee to call for further evidence on this matter.
2. Current planning policy encompasses fracking within a generic minerals planning policy which has been based on the experience of processes for conventional gas extraction. It consequently fails to acknowledge the need for a more cautionary approach to the issues raised by the new processes involved in fracking. The major issues associated with fracking are the current scientific uncertainty as to its impacts; known impacts in relation to climate change; and potential impacts on groundwater. Current policy makes no provision for addressing or considering those issues.
3. Welsh planning policy demands that sound science be used responsibly, which in this context entails a precautionary approach. Policy also demands that fracking be specifically acknowledged as a source of greenhouse gas production (and is a process which therefore runs counter to policy seeking to mitigate climate change). A new policy, or an addendum to Planning Policy Wales (PPW), is the appropriate means of dealing with the specific issues arising from fracking.
4. In view of the urgent need to mitigate climate change, Friends of the Earth Cymru has proposed an additional planning policy that provides for a sound precautionary approach to decision-making:
Planning permission for fracking or shale gas operations (including test drilling and extraction) will not be granted unless
the planning authority is satisfied that all reasonable scientific doubt that there is any risk of adverse impacts including groundwater contamination has been eliminated B)
the proposal will not compromise the planning authoritys duties in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation; and C)
the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or it can be made so by planning conditions or obligations. 5. In the short term we recommend the Welsh Government adopt a moratorium on fracking until sufficient information is available to determine with a high degree of certainty the likely impacts of fracking on the environment.
6. In addition, the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (England and Wales) 1999 should be amended to include the requirement for a full EIA to be conducted for each fracking application. Fracking operations exempt themselves by ensuring they have a surface operation smaller than the 1 ha limit (ordinarily they are 0.99 ha) that would make them subject to these Regulations.
New bill will silence local voices
This is possibly the most important thing I have asked you all to do via this blog – follow this link and ensure our MPs are aware of your opposition to this appalling attempt to circumvent local democracy in the planning process. This has implications for every one of us, and future generations, if we let them get away with it.
The new Growth and Infrastructure Bill will allow developers to bypass local authorities in some cases.
Bypassing local councils
Local authorities decide local planning decisions.
But in some “designated” local authorities the Secretary of State has suggested developers have the option to bypass them.
This will undermine local accountability and centralise these planning decisions.
The Bill also creates an opportunity for developers to “fast-track” major projects instead of going to the local authority.
This could include developments for warehouses, leisure parks and large onshore gas extraction- i.e. FRACKING!
Do the economics of shale gas really add up?
|Thanks to Martin Deane for flagging this up:
http://nafeez.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-frack-farce.htmlNafeez Ahmed is a writer I have much admired – Bestselling Author, International Security Scholar, Investigative Journalist on the Deep Politics of the “War on Terror” in the context of the Crisis of Civilization – but someone I would not have immediately thought would have expressed my gut instincts about the economics of fracking in the UK; or to put it another way, do the economics of shale gas really add up?
Nafeez takes a look at the unfolding story of doubts about the reliability and durability of US shale gas reserves which have been “inflated” under new Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules introduced in 2009. The new rules allow gas companies to claim reserve sizes without any independent third party audit. This is very much the case here in the UK right now. The overestimation of reserve sizes is being used to obscure the dodgey economics of fracking.
The first problem is production rates, which start high, but fall fast. Nafeez cites eminent authorities who have noted that production at wells drops off by as much as 60 to 90 percent within the first year. It is, however, something that any undergraduate geologist would readily understand and expect. This makes long-term profitability difficult, even in the UK context in which the gas markets will not allow any significant drop in gas prices even with greater supply. (I will explain this later). The industry has run into a crisis because it borrowed to finance the set up and production costs on the basis of its fanciful estimates of what it could extract from reserves of essentially uncertain size and accessibility. Prices are therefore rising fast again to save the companies bacon!
Nafeez neatly sums up the lesson we need to learn fast:
Returning to the differences between the US and UK gas markets.
Because of the way the wholesale gas market works in the UK, shale gas production (even at the most optimistic estimates) will have little impact on the price consumers pay.
The upshot of all this is that there these mechanisms are skewed to ensure that UK consumers will see negligible benefits from shale gas, but the producers will have potentially huge profits. The opposite has been the case in the USA. The Shale Gas boom has seen their wholesale gas price plummet, but this has hit profitability of the producers causing many out of production after just 2 or 3 years.
In conclusion – the economics are dodgey ofr the producers; the benefits to the consumer will be negligible; and we all know the environmental consequences will be dire. I strongly suspect that once we get past the speculative phase that tin-pot companies like Coastal Oil & Gas/UK Methane are ankle deep in at the moment, the serious players will realise that the whole escapade simply does not add up – especially on crowded little islands with passionate activists on their case every step of the way. They are not usually that stupid – unlike someone I could name:
A few other dimensions/perspectives can be found in this excellent piece from Damian Carrington:
Spring Conference 2013
|Booking form now attached! (See below)
DearLocal Party Contact,
Spring Conference will take place in Nottingham from 22-25 February 2013 at the
East Midlands Conference Centre & Hotel, University Park, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RJ
It will be a particularly exciting conference as it coincides with the 40th Birthday of the Green Party, and there will be various things arranged to mark the occasion, including a panel discussion with the founders, a celebration dinner, and an exhibition.
I would be grateful for your help in distributing information about conference dates and booking to your members via newsletters, email, etc. There is lots of information and online booking on the conference website: www.greenparty.org.uk/conference. I have attached a booking form (early bird booking deadline 8 February).
We are also concerned to reach those members who do not have access to the internet, so perhaps you could put this information on the agenda of your next general meeting and take some print outs of the booking form.
I will send you more detailed information in the New Year. Thanks for your help and look forward to seeing lots of you in Nottingham.
Reaction to Osborne’s green light for the dash for gas
|My phone was hot all morning with journalists seeking reactions. Always happy to oblige:
BBC Radio Wales: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p7kvs/Good_Evening_Wales_13_12_2012/ (from 1:05:58 to 1:11:30 and 2:13:12 to 2:18:48)
ITV Wales: http://www.itv.com/news/wales/story/2012-04-17/controversial-fracking-could-resume-in-lancashire/
Walesonline/Glamorgan Gazette pg2: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/12/13/new-fears-of-fracking-in-south-wales-as-gas-firm-submits-test-drill-bid-91466-32414357/#sitelife-commentsWidget-bottom (checkout the comments below the online piece – please score them appropriately)
It was also good to see and hear some other familiar people on other coverage from around the country.
Vanessa Vine (BIFF) and Tony Bosworth (FoE) – two people I count as friends these days from meeting and talking to them so often – feature prominently throughout the whole hour of this EXCELLENT Nicky Campbell phone -in show. (I was rung by Radio 5 and put on standby for the whole hour – but was not used. Vanessa was superb though; as was the very emotional lady called Lizzie!!)
And you can watch Vanessa get furious here!
Probably lots of other coverage around the regions too.
We will keep on battling away to raise public awareness of what is at stake, and ensure the frackers and their friends in Government are held to account every step of the way.