Fracking meeting report

We held a well attended film show on fracking, followed by a panel discussion, on 6 June 2017 at Wiveliscombe Primary School.

‘The truth behind the dash for gas’ (available on You Tube) showed views on previous proposals for exploration drilling in the Mendips and the reality of widespread drilling in Australia. The film highlighted the risks to our countryside from drilling operations and to our health from chemicals used in fracking fluid and from leaking gases.

For the panel discussion, we were pleased to be joined by Dr Julie Richardson, a local geologist and specialist in fracking issues, and Kevin Ogilvie-White, a local campaigner and founder of Frack Free EQS (Exmoor-Quantocks-Sedgemoor).

It was acknowledged the film was a little dated and some thought it may be sensationalist and scientifically questionable in parts.

Julie believed gas sources in Somerset were not deep enough for fracking and small, so were unlikely to be viable to develop. Kevin agreed they may be smaller than in other parts of the country, but we should still not allow test drilling and should show our support for the national campaign to stop fracking anywhere.

Discussion showed there was much concern about the damage and risks of fracking. It was thought regulation may be better in the UK, but the Conservatives have proposed permitting small-scale operations and, with public sector funding cuts, there were doubts whether regulation agencies would be sufficiently resourced.

It was questioned why more fossil fuel supplies were even being sought, when it is known that we need to move away from energy sources that add to carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Policy should prioritise energy saving, including through home insulation, and replacing all fossil fuels used for electricity, heating and transport as quickly as possible. Already some biogas was obtained from anaerobic digestion of food waste and specially grown crops, which should create a cycle by first absorbing carbon (during growing) and then releasing it when the biogas was used. Switching to the use of clean renewable power was essential and the Zero Carbon Britain research also proposed using crops to create both biogas and biofuel to substitute for gas and oil where still needed.

Some thought more nuclear power was needed, although it was noted this has risks too and renewable energy has been developed much more quickly, with costs that are lower and continuing to fall.