Monday 8 October 2018

Coming Soon: a Total Ban on Plastic

Recently I was sent a slickly-made, hour-long UK anti-fracking vid.  It was designed to seem really homespun, but the production qualities were just too high, and the chap fronting it (a bluff, endlessly personable northerner) turns out to be based in a New York film studio.

Anyhow, it took the form of extended voxpop clips interviewing nice, concerned folks in the shale gas exploration areas of the midlands and the north.  They were avowedly activists, but with one exception (of which, more below) they were all just-like-your-old-mum-and-dad types.  One was an eccentric: but Swampy was nowhere in sight.

Obviously, they were all spouting alarmist rubbish as though it were true, whilst all the time claiming not to be Nimbys.  There's nothing wrong with being a Nimby, BTW, though it's more honest to admit to it.   But here's the thing.  They'd obviously been fed the line that INEOS (one of the would-be frackers) is the wickedest company on the planet, and that the reason they are exploring for shale gas is to use it for making (*gasps*) - PLASTIC++.  And as one of the women being interviewed says:  "... and we don't need plastic".

We don't need plastic ...  As a society we are, of course, deep into personal unicorn territory now.  Given his success with promising to cancel student loans, we might imagine there isn't anything Corbyn won't offer at the next election and it will be swallowed by hundreds of thousands of voters.  Right this minute, with wall-to-wall dying turtles on TV, I'd guess the promise of a *total ban on plastic* would have a significant segment of the electorate rushing to the voting booths in a state of high excitement.

More plausibly, however, there must be very short odds on Labour making a fracking ban a headline policy - notwithstanding the unions who support pretty much any realistic industrial prospects, as well they might.  In the aforementioned vid, all the voxpop interviewees were earnest and articulate B/C1/C2s, eminently likely to bestir themselves on polling day, who have been told that fracking will (a) kill them and even more saliently, (b) trash their house price.

Which brings me to the other interviewee.  It was Lee Rowley, a Tory MP, who has clearly decided that, because he is their leader, he'd better follow them.  He can't conceivably be alone on his side of the green benches.  I had been assuming Tory policy was one of getting some exploratory fracking done ASAP, prove up vast reserves (or not, as the case may be), and if there's as much gas there as INEOS, Cuadrilla et al believe, generate cash giveaways on a scale to make even Nimbys think again, comfortably in time for GE 2022.

And if there's an early election?  Or if Corbyn is 5% ahead in the polls in 2021?  I think we will find every single UK party pledging to put a stop to it all.  In an era of fake news and slick vids on social media and personal unicorns being promised for all, this one is starting to get the middle classes seriously exercised.  And who's going to tough it out against that sort of opposition?


++ given that Jim Ratcliffe ostentatiously imported a cargo of "shale gas" (actually ethane of course, and not methane) as a plastics feedstock, there is a kernel of truth in this.  What a dick he is!  The oil and gas industry may live to rue the day they let amateurs front for the UK fracking industry.


GridBot said...

ND - very interesting post as always. Do you have a link to the aforementioned slick anti-frack video?

As a staunch proponent of a robust domestic energy supply, even I have to admit to the follow:

1. Drilling is a filthy activity; drilling mud (if it's oil based) is a really foul substance, even water based mud has plenty of nasties added to it - do we really want drilling to take place on uk land? I would have thought the contamination potential to be pretty significant.
2. Any meaningful shale-gas production is going to be quite land intense - think about lots of pop up rigs, while the well drilling and frack job takes place - not a problem in iteself - but drilling is an industrial process! it take a lot of "stuff" to complete a well. some of the areas identifed as potential frack spots have crap road infrastructure - how are these going to be supplied with out causing major havoc?
3. Insert narative about water table polution by the actual frack job - caused by wellbore integrity issues.
4. Why bother anyway? Admittedly the price of oil equivalent has been rising but at whats the point where it really is better to frack our own on our tiny rock instead of rinse the mid east and buy LNG from the US?
5. to the point above - fracking and land drilling in general - works in the US. the US is vast! 9.8million km2 contrast to Uk 0.24million km2 - compare the populations 270million - 70million. heavy industry and people aren't a good mix. be it nimbyism - or actually be it well-founded - would you want to live in port talbort? probably not?
6. why do we actually need energy anyway... the vast majority of energy in the uk i'm certain is wasted on x-factor, heating homes with single glazed windows and hyper consumption of doughnuts. We don't produce a lot of. ehh... anything let alone progressive technology that is going to take is to the stars?

But then to my last point I suppose if you think too hard about it, what's the point in any of it!


Sackerson said...

PCs to be made of wood in future?

Graeme said...

Gridbot why not take a look at Wytch Farm where fracking has been happening for about 50 years? Just about all your concerns are baseless

GridBot said...

Graeme, to my knowledge - Wytch Farm is subtly different. This field could be described as "conventional" and the kind of "fracking" that takes place is water injection designed to maximise the recovery of oil/gas from the reservoir, the geology of these reservoirs makes it likely that they are capped by an impermeable ceiling which prevents cross flow of fluid between strata.

It isn't, to my knowledge, "fracking" in the sense of fracturing the strata where the gas/oil is trapped, which can lead to fracturing between strata and subsequent contamination of water table and the like - which in my view warrants a valid concern.

I'd happily stand corrected as I haven't had anything to do with Wytch so feel free to educate me if you have better information to hand?

However I'm not sure it's as baseless as you might think.

Anonymous said...

The infrastructure is surely a massive boom for the local area.
The once in a lifetime opportunity to get some decent roads and rail built in areas that will never get them otherwise.
The increased transport links and the jobs created will attract newer industry. Opportunities for existing business and the chance to alter an economic model.

Nick Drew said...

agree that Wytch farm is 'conventional', and hence an imperfect analogue. But it's a very important example of how cleverly a big & intelligent operator can develop what is Europe's biggest onshore oilfield, in some of the most 'sensitive'areas in the land (directly under the New Forest - & Sandbanks!) without stirring anything up

there has been 'conventional' fracking for nearly 60 years in onshore Europe - the Germans were among the pioneers - but 'new fracking' is without doubt a different kettle of fish, particularly as regards the impact on the local road system: the truck movements required are phenomenal. Of course, it's not insuperable - we had BT dig a very substantial cable tunnel** in our neck of the woods, with huge truck movements for 2 or 3 years while it was happening. But it was all worked out and the disruption wasn't as bad as feared.

As regards the other envo concerns, (a) many of them are real, or could be - even though manageable, given how much £££ is said to be at stake; (b) working practices in some parts of the States are a disgrace, which doesn't help (in other areas they regulate better than us); (c) there wouldn't be much, if anything, to show for any UK development by 2022 (to pick a date at random ...); so (d) what politician is going to go to the stake for this one right now? The bloody stuff ain't going anywhere! Come back in 5 years time ...

** 10 km; 3m diameter; 4 shafts; 400kV cables (plus smaller), replacing overheads and street-level, allowing easy access / maintenance / later replacement / reinforecment / expansion. All in a London Borough, albeit three of the shafts in semi-rural locations. But every truck movement had to transit part of the borough.

Electro-Kevin said...

I'll never suffer from Pret a Manger poisoning or plastic wrapping - I'm allergic to their prices.

(Some wag pointed out that more people have died from Pret a Manger than Novichok.)

CityUnslicker said...

Ban plastic, that is the perfect Corbynista policy there Nick.

Unachievable ambition
Right-on for the middle class sofa justice warriors
Cost free for the Government (so they think..)

Anonymous said...


Are you sure BT was digging a 10km tunnel and putting down 440kv cables?

Not the sort of power these guys are used to?

Nick Drew said...

Anon - you are right, of course! NG !


Raedwald said...

Six years ago when we were all building like mad for the London Olympics, a chum was QS for groundworks on the Stratford site. They knew there was a BT cable bundle as thick as a maori's thigh running super deep - at about 20m down, but had carefully plotted BT's cable plans to avoid it. They should not have been within 50m of it, but of course third pile in and the piledriver severed it.

It took over a year and cost several millions to knot all the ends together again. Glad it wasn't my job.

andrew said...

There are lots of plastics we do not need.
Like plastic bags.
There are lots of plastics we do need
Like cable insulation.

Elby said...

Talking of panics, this has been lost in the run up to the next IPCC report, with the usual Guardian and BBC end of the world tipping point climate chaos we're all going to die nonsense. The temperature record used by the IPCC, HADCRUT4 (maintained by our old friends at CRU) is utter garbage. The four sets of data they splice together are irredeemably buggered, with massive differences and nonsense data.

Read on. (link links to paper)

"McLean found freakishly improbable data, and systematic adjustment errors , large gaps where there is no data, location errors, Fahrenheit temperatures reported as Celsius, and spelling errors.

Almost no quality control checks have been done: outliers that are obvious mistakes have not been corrected – one town in Columbia spent three months in 1978 at an average daily temperature of over 80 degrees C. One town in Romania stepped out from summer in 1953 straight into a month of Spring at minus 46°C. These are supposedly “average” temperatures for a full month at a time. St Kitts, a Caribbean island, was recorded at 0°C for a whole month, and twice!

Temperatures for the entire Southern Hemisphere in 1850 and for the next three years are calculated from just one site in Indonesia and some random ships.

Sea surface temperatures represent 70% of the Earth’s surface, but some measurements come from ships which are logged at locations 100km inland. Others are in harbors which are hardly representative of the open ocean.
Are Any Of The Temperature Data Sets Reliable?

A new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research reveals that the recorded land temperature data from the four most commonly-referenced instrumental data sets — CRU, NASA, BEST, and NOAA — are “remarkably different” from one another.

In fact, the authors find that “for some areas, different data sets produce conflicting results of whether warming exists” due especially to variations in the use of “infilling techniques” — adding artificial temperatures to areas where there are no real-world measurements.

One data set trend can be “nearly 90%” different than another data set trend, which ratchets up the uncertainty to levels that undermine confidence in the overall reliability of the instrumental record."

Elby said...

I'd also add that we are now in such as mess that our government will take advise only from those who shout the loudest, as we have seen with Fracking, and as we are now seeing over the Transgendering craze - the agency they are dealing with is Stonewall, who have no mandate and are totally unaccountable.

I've more or less given up on ever seeing anything resembling good governance in the UK again in my life. We are beyond FUBAR into territory unknown, with a leader who is a sickly pale blue BUG Govt tax and spend Social Democrat, with a truly nasty little shit ready to take over.

Bollocks to all of them

Elby said...

Gridbot. The EPA in the USA, which under St.Obama of the Drones was ferociously amd indeed, manically, Green, said Fracking was clean and safe.

Just saying.

Anonymous said...

Elby - in that case fracking must surely be horrifically dangerous and dirty - given that nothing from that shower of so and so's can be trusted! And under his regime black was white and white was black!

Electro-Kevin said...

We could all cut down on consumption.

- I very rarely fly abroad
- I run old cars with medium powered engines
- lots of stuff I have is second hand
- I recycle and use litter bins
- I always keep the lights to a minimum and the heating down...

Now George and Amal. Bono. Al Gore...

Ban all rock concert tours and foreign holidays. We could stop ironing too. Make creases fashionable. Nowt as mad and wasteful of energy as ironing.

Old fella carlisle said...

On plastics -- see that there is development of plastic eating bugs.

Great for plastic bags but if they get loose on water and gas systems etc - what then???????

Nick Drew said...

Plus of course no bugger dares to say "we must get the population down" - by far the most obvious issue (though I suspect Gaia has that one in hand)

I did see one scientist nervously mentioning that we need to stop manic meat-eating... (another of China's great and growing contributions to the problem)

if they really really believe the temperature thing they will have to start geo-engineering soon - that's also blindingly obvious. No amount of one-hemisphere de-industrialisation is going to counter China + India + ...

Electro-Kevin said...

"No amount of one-hemisphere de-industrialisation is going to counter China + India + ..."

The warmists say we must lead by example but in de-industrialised scenario we wouldn't be leading anything !

Bill Quango MP said...

The warmists haven’t got a coherent solution.
Use less is what they have.
And make the less, more green.

Fair enough, I suppose.

But have you to,d the people no more holidays abroad?
Explained that taking the plastic of cucumbers is no biggy. But taking it of yoghurts is. And ending poly fabrics in clothing.
The efficiency of the electric Car is coming partly through weight reductions. Take the plastics out and how far and how far fast will they run?

Anonymous said...


Re: BT or NG digging the tunnel.

Not relevant here but you might find it of interest

Nick Drew said...

Anon - thanks, looks like one for a quiet afternoon

I like the look of a case revolving around the opinions and methods of Mr Biro ...

Electro-Kevin said...

Well I think the whole plan is to have us riding bicycles and eating rice a la Bejing 20 years ago.

Timbo614 said...

@elby (7:58) Remember "Harry" at UEA? Hmm.. I downloaded that code. Mess doesn't come into it. I expected some sohpisticated mmodelling etc.etc, That's not what the code was about. Fudging & Bodging was closer. and I'm a believer.