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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Letter to the Malton and Pickering Mercury (N. Yorks)

For publication as letter or short contribution (no embargo)       
Re: Your article "Fracking: Ryedale Licenses", Wed. August 14th

Dear Editor,

            Shale gas exploration is coming to Ryedale, of that there is no doubt in my mind. Cameron, as you report, believes it to be a good thing that will “cause a very minor change to the landscape” and has a “…real potential to drive energy bills down”. As a petrophysicist of more than 25 years standing in both academia and the oil industry, I would agree with the first comment with reservations and rate the chances of the second turning out to be true as extremely small.

            The most important thing is that the local community can make their minds up about shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing using clear, reliable and unbiased evidence. The trouble is that so much of the ‘information’ currently available is mere opinion pedalled by those with a biased agenda.

            The oil and gas industry will not lie to you - but they will, of course, couch their information to show them in the best light. One should remember that environmental groups such as Greenpeace will do exactly the same - they both have opposing agendas - they look at the process from very different ethical standpoints. Environmental activists won’t lie to you either, but 19 times out of twenty their opinions are dangerously warped or just plain wrong.

            Rarely, we get a balanced view. As in Balcombe Parish Council’s working group’s 2012 report on fracking (, which is extremely clear and concise and approaches the problem with informed common sense. It makes excellent reading for anyone who would like to know more about this type of exploration and production.  In my blog All Gas and Gaiters (, I too try to explain the issues in a scientific and unbiased fashion in clear and simple language.

            Informed local consent, should be central to the whole issue. However, there is a gap of understanding and trust. For example, Anne McIntosh MP in your article mentions subsidence as a possible problem, yet subsidence has never and will never happen as a result of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

            In summary, relying on announcements from the industry and government or environmental groups and their activists is like asking two people for the time of a bus: One says 1 o’clock and the other says 4 o’clock, and you do not know which of them to trust. It would be best to consult a bus guide as an authoritative source. Unfortunately for shale gas and fracking the authoritative, unbiased guide is largely missing. Industry, government (national or local), environmental groups or activists will not provide one as their views are skewed. We need to find someone who can!

            Let’s not miss the bus, but let’s make sure we get on the right one for us!

Professor Paul Glover

Chair of Petrophysics

University of Leeds

Please note the contents of this letter represent the point of view of the author and form no part of the policy or opinions of the University of Leeds as a corporate entity.

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