Transition Stratford meeting hears extreme energy warning

Transition Stratford is setting up a contact group to keep in touch with local “extreme energy” developments after hearing that an announcement is likely in the next two months of the award of licences to explore for oil and gas in the western part of Stratford on Avon District, up to and including the town of Stratford upon Avon itself.

Independent environmental researcher Paul Mobbs told a meeting organised by Transition Stratford that the Government had invited bids for licences over a large part of the country in 2010. It seemed that decisions on the award of licences have already been made, but the Government was delaying announcements until after the European elections towards the end of May.

Paul’s talk on “extreme energy” – the unconventional extraction of oil and gas, like fracking – identified a greater local risk in plans for underground coal gasification (UGC) to the north-east of Leamington Spa. Here Cluff Coal has made an application for the first on-shore UGC site in Britain. Paul said that though UGC was first piloted in the 1930s, there has yet to be a successful commercial scheme anywhere in the world. And from the point of view of pollution, UGC is arguably worse than fracking.

Paul’s well-attended talk was focused on the different ways in which oil and gas companies are seeking to tackle the long-term decline in conventional oil and gas production with unconventional new extraction techniques. All were more expensive than conventional production – so they would not bring down fuel costs. And all increased the risks of pollution, which would damage land and adversely affect people’s health.

Paul said although politicians and business leaders are unswervingly positive about extreme energy, those working on the subject professionally are much more cautious. There is an increasing volume of high quality research, mainly from the United States, showing the environmental pollution and the effects on health of extreme energy projects. This research also showed that our understanding of the nature of the problems caused by techniques like fracking need to change. In the case of fracking, for example, the significant problems with pollution tended to arise not from drilling but from the difficulties in disposing of the large volumes of polluted water used in the extraction process.

To join Transition Stratford’s group to stay in touch with these issues, contact us at admin@transitionstratford.com.