Skip to content

As Low As Reasonably Achievable

Tuesday 23rd February, bright sun and frost. A green december has made a fat churchyard of my garden, and it's the slugs that are fat. The red camellia returns? Solidarity for Don't Frack Lancs, while the Cuadrilla appeal is going on. I don't have a red rose so it has to stand in. I don't have any other flowers, except for a few blue specks on the rosemary bush. My native daffodils are sluggish and half blind, likewise all the other bulbs; I blame the dark skies, I've been feeling the same myself. Don't want to get out of bed.

Ah, the heady days when fracking was news to me. When, at buttercup time, I mourned the coming demise of the fields of gold, in the pastureland of Balcombe's AONB (Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty) but it was a local, minor loss; possibly even justified, probably unstoppable. It's almost nostalgic, responding to yet another Government Consultation (that familiar little black & white crown!), and finding exactly the same specious language, exactly the same total misrepresentation of what the perpetrators know to be the truth (except in those days, the Environment Agency actually had agency; it hadn't been taken down to the basement and shot in the back of the neck, to be replaced by a yes-Dave imposter). So, anyway, here's my response to the ongoing Onshore Oil and Gas Consultation (open until 3rd March). NB, the consultation is not addressed to you. It's addressed to the industry, for the industry's approval. You, as a member of the public are allowed to express your opinion, as a matter of form. I wrote it long because I didn't have time to write it short. I responded because I try never to miss a chance. It's about quantity, not quality, so don't worry if you can't come up with any whizzy technical objections, or new evidence. I just doused them with sarcasm. I believe my approach is equally valid.

here's the link:

& here's the live feed to the Lancashire Cuadrilla Appeal, via Drill Or Drop, as always thanks to Ruth Hayhurst

If you have the expertise and the patience to pick holes in the Emperor's New Clothes, please do! But once you know the "Environment Agency" is prepared to rip up our National Parks (approval for surface fracking installations in the National Parks is coming soon, NB), and is happy right now to approve 4,000 fracking wells on the Fylde without seeing any "significant impact" on public health, quality of life, the roads, the landscape; the environment in short, I think you know all you need to know. All you can do, as in all these cases, is let them know about a growing, disaffected public.

Watching, Reading, Walking

As my french reader, I'm still enjoying Delphine de Vigan's Nothing Holds Back The Night The tainted paradise of childhood, a place none of us ever really leaves. But seven children! Seven! It's like a fairytale.

I'm going out to see Room this evening, a late single showing, I missed it first time round. Very much looking forward to it.

And we went walking from Exceat down to the sea & over the Seven Sisters to East Dean last Tuesday, with Gabriel and Noemie, on another brilliant chill and sunny day like this one. A familiar route, but it never stales.

The twitchers were out in force at Cuckmere Haven. Hordes of them, all lined up taking turns with their binocs, rubbernecking a greenshank. Can't understand it. I would have thought it would have to be at least two.

Oxted: And Just One, Two more Things

The storm never got really strong here. It was sort of difficult to stay upright on the seafront, but the sea on a falling tide wasn't doing anything special yesterday, just churning. Today, drenching rain, and our outside drain is blocked again.

Oh, yes. One more, rather disconcerting, point from John Ashton:

• Hinkley Point delayed again, and the captain has jumped ship. It is vanishingly unlikely that any new Nuclear Power stations will be built in the foreseeable future.

• Biomass as our government interprets the term (ie massive power stations fed by imported wood-pellets) is unsustainable and impossible to scale-up.

• Carbon Capture Storage is a bust: not happening and not going to happen

The three pillars of David Cameron's COP21 deal (having ditched conventional renewables as politically insufferable) have fallen. It's now very probable that when the coal is dumped, the lights are going to go out. And a dead certainty (but this is my gloss btw) that the Green Party, the fracking movement and anyone else favouring the obvious and only workable solution (renewables) will be publicly shamed and blamed. See Jeremy Hunt's deft media campaign to wreck and then smear the NHS

And there's a video for you to watch, just to remind you, in all fairness, that David Cameron is not alone.

The COP21 You Didn't See


I just finished re-reading Flaubert's Trois Contes, in a French Paperback Classics edition with masses of academic notes. Fascinating. Did you know that Oscar Wilde wrote the play Salomé (that became the libretto for Rickard Strauss's opera Salomé), directly in french, specifically for Sarah Bernhardt in the role? I never knew that!

Now reading Delphine de Vigan's Rien ne s'Oppose a la Nuit, a Christmas present from Gabriel's Swiss girlfriend. Harrowing tale of a volatile, broken family past . . . Right up my street, and a whole lot easier reading than Flaubert's C19 fantastically exacting "simplicity" in those contes

And from my library books:

Sara Gran City of the Dead and The Bohemian Highway

I read the second of these two unusual whodunits first. The first one (City Of The Dead) is better, with a devastatingly effective venue in post-Katrina New Orleans I recommend them for the unusual post-punk setting, and the highly charged style but not to people sensitive to habitual drug use, notably cocaine. By the end of The Bohemian Highway I was saying to myself, if there's a third of these, which is strongly signalled, our "unique" raggedy hipster detective isn't going to have a nose left on her face.

Frack Free Red Fire Monkey

Monday morning, awaiting the gale that's causing havoc along South West Coasts and in the islands,, but the storm's getting downgraded as it move east. Yesterday we moved the plasterer's tub to its traditional springtime roost, having cleared the area beside the house of the debris of a long winter and a couple of drain blockages. We had to empty it of rainwater to carry it up the steps, but its already half full again. Also culled the pondweed in both pools, and saw a beautiful healthy common newt in the "wildlife" one. Tipped my cyclamen corm pots out to dry off in the greenhouse, and watered my over-wintering seedlings. Plenty of frog action in the ponds, but they are canny, we rarely see them, just their disturbance of the water.

Saturday 6th I took the train to Oxted, for the public meeting organised by Frack Free Surrey. I walked from the station with Miranda, a US student at Goldsmiths, who was attending in pursuance of her dissertation on the fracking movement. I corrected her, mildly, anti-fracking movement, but I think Miranda had it right. Two words good, one word better. It's the fracking movement, vs the fracking industry (or is it? See below). I didn't ask her why she'd picked on fracking; I explained to her what "meat in the room" means, & that was the extent of my contribution to her thesis.

An impressive line up of speakers: Tina-Louise Rothery for Frack free Lancashire, of the original Knitting Nanas from Blackpool, veteran of the Preese Hall protest in 2011; Charles Metcalfe and Helen Savage from Balcombe. Damien Short, Reader in Human Rights at London University, and John Ashton, former diplomat, former representative on Climate Change to the British Government. What I mostly got out of this afternoon? A scary picture of our government at work, and their determination to destroy democracy in pursuit of extreme energy extraction; despite all the rational and potent arguments against this course. And not just the Tory government. The extraordinary "Three Two Secretaries And a Minister Letter", leaked by the Daily Telegraph last week, and written by Liz Truss, Greg Clerk, and Amber Rudd (having first asked George Osborne what he would like them to write) dates back, as John Ashton reminded us, to July 2015; ie, under the Coalition.

The horror of their plans, their Orwellian beliefs: The Environment Agency does not, as you thought, have the job of protecting our Environment and protecting us from abuses to our clean water, our clean air, our green spaces, our health and the health of our livestock. Nope. The job of the Environment Agency is to Promote Growth (and we're not talking crowds of golden daffodils). "Gold-plated protection" of the National Parks "must not get in the way" of the frackers. Surface installations in the National Parks can't be ruled out.The fact that anyone might object to seeing our National Parks devastated by ranks upon ranks of extreme energy gas rigs, bulldozed by ceaseless massive HGV traffic, littered forever more with humongous lakes of poisonous waste water, seems to be flat-out incomprehensible. Something to be swatted, like a fly in the room. To be exterminated, like squirrels in the roof. . .

The suspicion that we might be right to protest against the process, and to deride this fracking government's inflated estimates, and spurious claims, for the product, is never going to enter their heads, ever. The fact that we might know what we are talking about is completely opaque to Liz Truss, Greg Clark, Amber Rudd (unless you count that touching, ingenuous confession that the people who know about fracking are opposed to it, and only those who don't know anything about it can be fooled into thinking it's harmless); as they have no experience of this odd state of affairs.

Extreme Energy Hydraulic Fracking has a terrible EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) number ? The wells are short lived, individually expensive to erect and service (even if you don't have to worry about environmental controls); you would need thousands of them, in the Weald alone, to begin to squeeze out a commercially successful return? Conventionally obtained oil and gas prices are not favourable, and never likely to be favourable in the forseeable future?
Not to mention the climate change issue. There's just no point in mentioning the climate change issue.

Nah, why would Rudd Clark and Truss have anything to do with that sort of information? "Knowing the facts" is something minions do. You know what your boss wants, that's what. You don't get to be a Big Bucks by knowing the facts

And then, to offset the nasty taste of all that stuff, the curious fact that the fracking industry could, possibly, become the UK fracking movement's best ally.

It's over, and the industry knows it. The sensible money is divesting from fossil fuels, sooner rather than later.

The exploration men we are dealing with (Cuadrilla, Celtique Energie) hand on heart, swear to God, truly never intended to "frack" in earnest. They intended to test drill, announce some exciting estimates, and run away very quickly! They don't like having to deal with protest. Protest scares investors, and sullies the fiscal reputation of those protested against.

Cuadrilla seem to have abandoned their well pad at Lower Stumble. IGas have pulled out of Cheshire. There are already over 400 fracking movement groups in the UK, and there will be more. Wherever, whenever the frackers start up, there will be protest, legal or illegal because (see above) the locals will not be ignorant. They'll know the ruin they're facing. You do the math.

So far, says Tina-Louise, the Preese Hall well (that caused the seismic activity, back in 2011) is the only HVHF well ever drilled in the UK #Frackfree2016, coming up

See link below for the text of the leaked letter: