|At the annual Stop Climate Chaos coalition chin-wag on Friday 20th July 2012, I joined a table discussion led by Tony Bosworth of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
He was laying out plans for a campaign focus on the risks and limitations of developing shale gas production in the United Kingdom.
During open questions, I put it to him that a focus on shale gas was liable to lay Friends of the Earth open to accusations of taking the pressure off high carbon fuels such as coal. He said that he had already encountered that accusation, but emphasised that the shale gas licencing rounds are frontier – policy is actively being decided and is still open to resolution on issues of contention. Placing emphasis on critiquing this fossil fuel resource and its exploitation is therefore timely and highly appropriate. But he wanted to be clear that “we are not going soft on coal”.
I suggested that some experts are downplaying the risks of shale gas development because of the limitations of the resource – because shale gas could only contribute a few percent of national fuel provision, some think is is unwise to concentrate so much campaign effort on resisting its development. Bosworth countered this by saying that in the near future, the British Geological Survey are expected to revise their estimates of shale gas resource upwards by a very significant amount.
He quoted one source as claiming that the UK could have around 55 years of shale gas resource within its borders. I showed some scepticism about this, posing the question “But can it be mined at any significant rate ?” It is a very common public relations trick to mention the total estimated size of a fossil fuel resource without also giving an estimate of how fast it can be extracted – leading to entirely mistaken conclusions about how useful a field, well or strata can be.
Tony Bosworth said that shale gas reserve estimates keep changing all the time. The estimate for shale gas reserves in Poland have just been revised downwards, and the Marcellus Shale in the United States of America has also been re-assessed negatively.
Bosworth said that although campaigners who are fighting shale gas development had found it useful to communicate the local environmental damage caused by shale gas extraction – such as ozone pollution, traffic noise, water pollution and extraction, landscape clearance – the best argument against shale gas production was the climate change emissions one. He said academics are still being recruited to fight on both sides of the question of whether the lifecycle emissions of shale gas are higher than for coal, but that it was becoming clear that so-called “fugitive emissions” – where gas unintentionally escapes from well works and pipeline networks – is the key global warming risk from shale gas.
Opinion around the table was that the local environmental factors associated with shale gas extraction may be the way to draw the most attention from people – as these would be experienced personally. The problem with centring on this argument is that the main route of communication about these problems, the film Gasland, has been counter-spun by an industry-backed film “Truthland”.
The Royal Society recently pronounced shale gas extraction acceptable as long as appropriate consideration was paid to following regulatory control, but even cautious development of unconventional fossil fuels does not answer the climate change implications.
There is also the extreme irony that those who oppose wind farm development on the basis of “industrialisation of the landscape” can also be the same group of people who are in favour of the development of shale gas extraction – arguably doing more, and more permanently, to destroy the scenery by deforestation, water resource sequestration and toxification of soils, air and water.
Tony Bosworth told the group about the Friends of the Earth campaign to encourage Local Authorities to declare themselves “Frack-Free Zones” (in a similar way to the “Fair Trade Towns” campaign that was previously so successful). He said that FoE would be asking supporters to demand that their local governments had a “No Fracking” policy in their Local Plans. It was suggested in the discussion group that with the current economic slowdown and austerity measures, that Local Authorities may not have the capacity to do this. Tony Bosworth suggested that in this case, it might be worth addressing the issue to church parish councils, who can be very powerful in local matters. It was pointed out that frequently, parish councils have been busy declaring themselves “Wind Free Zones”.
It was considered that it would be ineffective to attempt to fight shale gas production on a site-by-site direct action basis as the amount of land in the UK that has already and will soon be licenced for shale gas exploration made this impossible. Besides which, people often had very low awareness of the potential problems of shale gas extraction and the disruption and pollution it could bring to their areas – so local support for direct action could be poor.
One interesting suggestion was to create a map of the United Kingdom showing the watersheds where people get their tap supplies from superimposed on where the proposed shale gas exploration areas are likely to be – to allow people to understand that even if they live far away from shale gas production, their drinking water supplies could be impacted.
In summary, there are several key public relations fronts on which the nascent shale gas “industry” are fighting. They have been trying to seed doubt on low estimates of actual shale gas production potential – they have been hyping the potentially massive “gamechanging” resource assessments, without clear evidence of how accessible these resources are. They have also been pouring scorn on the evidence of how much damage shale gas could do to local environments. And they have also been promoting academic research that could be seen to make their case that shale gas is less climate-damaging than other energy resources.
Shale gas, and the issue of the risks of hydraulic fracturing for unconventional fossil fuels, is likely to remain a hot ecological topic. Putting effort into resisting its expansion is highly appropriate in the British context, where the industry is fledgeling, and those who are accusing Friends of the Earth and others of acting as “useful idiots” for the ambitions of the coal industry just haven’t taken a look at the wider implications. If shale gas is permitted dirty development rights, then that would open the gateway for even more polluting unconventional fossil fuel extraction, such as oil shale and underground coal gasification, and that really would be a major win for the coal industry.
I have recently been awarded a postgraduate Master of Science (MSc) degree, and several of my contacts suggested that I might consider studying for the academic qualification of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). To be awarded a doctorate, I would need to make a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge and achievement in my chosen field. I do not think that paper-based research on its own would count as taking collective human understanding a step further, and so I must consider what forms of theorising, construction, engineering, creation, experimentation, configuration, data collection, analysis and argumentation I would need to make accomplishments in, in order to gain the good review of my peers, and the acceptance of my skill. It is not enough to love Wisdom, she has to be sought out, and introduced to your friends.
My first instinct is collaborative – how can I find a place where I can nurture my learning and strategy, in co-operation with others – where I can find a welcome, and make statements and discoveries that gain me a status, get me recognition ? I want to shine, in order to become useful, to serve my fellow woman and man. I don’t want to be competitive, winning out over others, but be part of a vanguard, a flight formation, spurring each other on to make progress together, striving as a group. I’m not ambitious, except for truth, beauty and good technology. I can share acclaim and I want to bring everybody with me. We can, standing elbow to elbow, vanquish destructive forces.
Yet, this proud, altruistic aim, to be part of the pack of pioneers, to offer something helpful, is marred by reality. Whilst I want to be constructive, others adopt divisiveness, in order to isolate outliers, and clamber over others to win the crown. I must not only reserve my right to speak against the herd, I must also wield it. I am relegated to the Zone of Insignificance, the people whose voices do not count because they articulate criticism. I do not want to join those who act as if they have the only viable formulation of reality – with their patronising stance – offering to host the public conversation, claiming they are at the centre of the debate, whilst at the same time undermining others with clever cynicism and sneering dismissal of those who will not join them.
I cannot be bought, and neither can I be seduced into a false alliance. I will not support meta-narrative, nor other contrivances. But this leaves me conflicted. One of the most significant problems with public discourse on science and technology in relation to resource limits and environmental damage is the persistence of the “anti” lobby – those people who feel bound to continue to be negative about things that have not yet been resolved. Many have been anti-nuclear, anti-fossil fuels, anti-coal, anti-energy companies, anti-Government policy, anti-hijacking of the United Nations process on climate change by economists. These voices, these positions, are important, but do not own the platform, and so they continue to rage. It is impossible to make progress without having something to rally around, to have a positive flag to muster under, but people with genuine influence continue to mis-step in their proposals and policies.
I want to bridge the gaps between the social groupings – I need to – in order to offer a way forward that can put some of the anti-thesis to bed, and galvanise efforts towards real, workable, cost-effective solutions. A genuine peoples movement for progress can accrete consensus, enormous non-hierarchical power, and can even draw in its detractors if it can be seen to be working. I am going to have to step out in faith, and at much risk – for I am going to attempt to join together the direction of the energy sector with the concerns of the environmentalists. I am not going to use a marketing strategy, nor sell a public relations pill to financiers and investment funds. I am not going to paint a green picture that has no details or exists only in a dream world. I am fairly certain that everybody is going to hate me, at least for a while, but in the end, I hope they will see that I am right, as I feel I am not generally mistaken.
Since I expect to be slighted and put down, and for people to work to marginalise me, I do not expect to be adopted by an academic institution or an energy or engineering company in the pursuit of my goals. In fact, I would resist such appropriation, for I am intellectually liberated. So, my work will not be accorded a standard accolade by a respectable institution or corporate body, and in fact, since that is the case, I can choose to work in any way that I see fit. Since, according to many scientists, we do not have much time to gain global assent for workable climate change solutions, as we must have a peak in greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, I cannot measure out five or seven years to complete a body of work which would then be reviewed. Instead, I shall publish in stages, and take peer review, including negative criticism, if any should be offered, as I go.
Although I wish to be practical rather than purely written, I shall not have much access to the funds, laboratories or engineering workshops where I could do the work myself. Instead, I shall have to ask questions of those who are already doing the work I am following, and try to ascertain their progress, and make my recommendations for their advancement. I seek to investigate live uses of the technology and systems I write about – as I expect them to be put to use before I have completed documenting them. My work will therefore be literature, but I want my intelligence to be fully accessible, so I will not use academic forms of composition. I shall write in what I hope is an easy, open way, and provide a mechanism for reply. I am going to offer my work by subscription, and I hope that those who register to receive my report in sections, will participate in making my work better.
The human race needs to be for something, not merely against, in all the myriad multitude of complaints that rise up like evaporating water, or steam from boiling pots, all and every day. However, a false unity, or a crooked one, cannot help us. We need to use what we’ve already got, and only imagine small gains in technological prowess. We should stop believing in public relations and advertising. We should stop being lulled into passivity by those glossing over our concerns, or those outspending logic. We should not give up in the face of overwhelming ineptitude and embedded vested interests. We cannot overhaul everything overnight, and somebody’s got to pay for change, and so they had better be the right changes. We need to be pragmatic, and not overreach, nor over-commit ourselves where technology could fail.
|Here’s the prime time television where the U. S. Army chief admits that the American military know Iran is engineering at sea – although the General deliberately gets the purpose wrong.
[For an uncorrected transcript of the piece, see below at the end of this post].
He claims that Iran is going to use their engineering to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a major artery of oil transport from the Middle East to the world.
|Whereas, in actual fact, Iran has been constructing facilities to mine marine, sub-sea Natural Gas in its territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and wants to use it to generate electricity to export.
Iran is sitting on Natural Gas – a lot of Natural Gas. And a lot of it is at sea. There have been marine seismic surveys for sub-sea Natural Gas in the Persian Gulf over the last few years, and it seems, other countries have been spying on the Iranian offshore activities.
Clearly, with Iran’s intent to exploit its marine gas, there have been and will be construction ships and construction going on in the Persian Gulf and around the Strait of Hormuz, especially the islands of Kish and Qeshm. This should not be mistaken as a risk to oil shipping. It should not be claimed as indications of Iran seeking to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for economic sanctions.
What is at stake here is no less than Iran’s energy sovereignty – its sovereign right to enjoy the wealth from exploiting its own energy resources.
The international pressure for an end to fossil fuel subsidies would hurt Iranian internal economic development (much like it’s hurting Nigeria, currently), and it would be forced to export oil and Natural Gas – no doubt at low market prices. Iran may end up no better off for trading.
The Iranians bought myths about nuclear power hook, line and sinker, and they believe they have a right to develop civilian atomic energy. Other countries, the United States of America in particular, keep pushing this button and claiming that Iran is heading for developing nuclear weapon capability. This is the most unbelievable accusation since…oh, I don’t know, since the USA accused Iran of a plot for a used car salesman and a Mexican, or something, to kill a Saudi ambassador, which was unadulterated nonsense.
America’s insistence that Iran is a threat because they claim that Iran is working towards constructing nuclear weapons, is so ridiculous, that few seem to have realised it is “deflection” – a propaganda technique to divert you from the real source of tension between the USA and Iran.
What America really doesn’t seem to like is countries like Iran (and Venezuela) making autonomous energy decisions, and creating their own wealth by using their own energy resources in their own way.
Maybe the American war hawks think “Why cannot Iran be more like Iraq, with western oil and Natural Gas companies with discount contracts, crawling over new resources and selling it all abroad ?”
Anyway, what is clear is that the spat between Iran and the USA has nothing to do with nuclear power or idle brinkmanship about controlling the flow of oil as a retaliation against economic sanctions.
NEWS BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT
Bloomberg : 9 January 2012 : Lara Setrakian reports on the outlook for Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz as Europe prepares to follow tougher U. S. sanctions on the country over its nuclear program and the status of a pipeline that would allow oil from the United Arab Emirates to bypass the waterway. The pipeline has been delayed because of construction difficulties, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Setrakian speaks with Linzie Janis on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown.”
[Ticker tape reads “AHMADINEJAD TURNS TO CHAVEZ FOR SUPPORT”]
[Linzie Janis] “The Persian Gulf could be closed off to ships altogether, that’s if tensions continue to escalate between Iran and the West. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to meet with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez later on today as part of a tour of Latin America. He is seeking s”upport” as Iran faces tighter U. S. sanctions over its nuclear program.
[Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in translation] We will discuss the intentions of the arrogant system interfering and having a military presence in other countries. We shall coordinate with our friends in Latin America to address this matter.
[Linzie Janis] Well with the very latest Lara Setrakian joins us with from Dubai
Lara itell it looks like the U. S. and Iran could be on a – – collision course here.
[Lara Setrakian] Well moving closer towards it, as Iran inches towards what the U. S. has called “two red lines” – advanced nuclear enrichment at the underground Fordow facility, and shutting the Strait of Hormuz – something that Iran told the A. P. [Associated Press] they’ll do if the E. U. oil embargo goes through later this month. The highest level U. S. assessment to date – that Iran could shut the Strait that would effectively trigger a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf.
General Martin Dempsey, American Department of Defense, United States Army Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman] They’ve invested in capabilities that could [scratches nose – a classic sign of lying] in fact for a period of time block the Straits of Hormuz. We’ve invested in capabilities [rocking body slightly from side to side – a classic sign of swagger] to ensure that if that happens [giving a hard, fixed stare] we can, er, defeat that. [Looks down briefly – meaning that this information was a significant reveal] And so, the simple answer [shrugs shoulders to dimiss the concept] is yes, they can block it. Er… [ Looks down and to his right, our left, indicating a recall of something] And of course that is as well…[blinks to conceal the fact that he’s cut something out] we’ve described that as an intolerable act [shrugs shoulders as if to say, those Iranians have got it coming to them] and it’s not just intolerable for us [shakes head from side to side] it’s intolerable to the world [rubs one hand over another, which is a sign of nervousness]. But we would take action and re-open the Straits [shuts lips in beefburger bun clench and nodding as a sign that no more useful information will be forthcoming].
[ Ticker Tape reads : THREATS TO STRAIT OF HORMUZ SHIPPING ]
[Lara Setrakian] Meanwhile it could disrupt the biggest sea lane for the world’s shipped oil, what one analyst called “the ultimate fear in the oil market – it would spike prices”.
[Linzie Janis] So what kind of preparation are you seeing to counter that risk ?
[Lara Setrakian] Well, one of the biggest contigency plans so far has floundered – a pipeline here in the U. A. E. that would run from Abu Dhabi to the Port of Fujairah. It would avoid the Strait. It’s a $3.3 billion dollar project but it’s been delayed – not ready until April at the soonest. And it’s meant to move 1.5 million barrels per day, most of Abu Dhabi’s output, say two days at sea, but the pipeline has been delayed repeatedly by construction issues – one energy analyst Robin Mills pointing also to a pipeline in Saudi Arabia that’s meant to be another backup system [ Ticker Tape reads “FURTHER CONTINGENCY PIPELINES PLANNED”] that could take oil to the Red Sea after 5 million barrels of oil a day capacity and it could be expanded – again, all contigency planning – to keep oil free from any Iranian chokehold in the Persian Gulf.
[Linzie Janis] Lara, thank you very much.
|What appears to be a serious event is due to take place at the Energy Institute in London on 6th December 2011, “Peak Oil – assessing the economic impact on global oil supply“.
Dr Roger Bentley, author of a seminal 2002 paper on the subject, research that spawned hundreds of related learned articles, will be speaking.
But the event organisers have also invited one Dr Matt Ridley, the self-styled “rational optimist”, and member of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and this, I’m afraid, prevents me from attending.
Ridley projects a view that many probably find comforting – as his headline in The Times of 1st October 2011 summarises – “Cheer up. The world’s not going to the dogs”.
He has been captured speaking at a TEDx event pouring scorn on “environmental” scare stories of the past, but not bothering to delve or dig into how mankind has actually gone out of its way to act on past crises and prevent catastrophes.
And now he’s thrown in his lot with the shale gas miracle men, writing a report with a foreword by Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most balanced individuals.
How much uncorroborated optimism can one man contain ?
|I am deeply concerned about the ramping up in rhetoric about Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons programme. I say “imagined” because there is no evidence pointing towards Iran doing anything other than they say they are doing – following a civilian nuclear power programme.
In fact, this bluster has nothing at all to do with the power of atoms, peaceful or otherwise. From my point of view, it’s all about controlling the price of fuel.
Economic sanctions against Iran are being considered on the basis of the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and activities, and this I would consider highly deceitful. The “international community” may well impose further trade embargoes on Iran, but the underlying reason for such action has nothing to do with nuclear suspicion. I believe that applying economic sanctions against Iran is all about forcing Iran to export more fossil fuel – principally Natural Gas – and to do so cheaply.
In fact, there is a two-pronged assault on Iran’s energy sovereignty taking place – not only are economic sanctions already in place, there are calls from the highest top table for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. People have been cheering this on because at first glance it looks like a carbon control policy, but in reality it will lead to Western economic occupation of Iranian hydrocarbons – an occupation, it is hoped, to be accomplished without finding some excuse for a military intervention.
|Germany can do it, but not the British. The Collected Republic of the People can install solar power with great will and nerve, but not Johnny English.
Let’s be clear here – the people in Scotland have a vision for future Renewable Energy, and so do many people in Wales and Ireland, but it appears English governance listens to fuddy duddy landowners too readily, and remains wedded to the fossil fuel industry and major construction projects like nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage.
|What precisely is wrong with the heads of policy travel in Westminster ? Do they not understand the inevitable future of “conventional” energy – of decline, decimation and fall ?
It really is of no use putting off investment in truly sustainable and renewable power and gas. There are only two paths we can take in the next few decades, and their destination is the same.
Here’s how it goes. Path A will take the United Kingdom into continued dodgy skirmishes in the Middle East and North Africa. Oil production will dance like a man with a stubbed toe, but then show its true gradient of decline. Once everybody gets over the panic of the impending lack of vehicle fuel, and the failure of alternatives like algal biodiesel, and the impacts of a vastly contracted liquid fuel supply on globalised trade, then we shall move on to the second phase – the exploitation of gas. At first, it will be Natural Gas. But that too will decline. And then it will be truly natural gases. As gas is exploited for vehicles, electricity will have to come from coal. But coal, too, is suffering a precipitous decline. So renewable energy will be our salvation. By the year 2100, the world will run on renewable electricity and renewable gas, or not at all.
What’s wrong with this map ? Yes, the same old question. And the answer is again the same – the lack of geographical accuracy in the map reflects the lack of legal accuracy on the part of Israel in appropriating marine Natural Gas that belongs to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
The map is taken from a new research paper by Brenda Shaffer, of the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa, which has been accepted for publication in Energy Policy at some point in the near future :-
“Energy Policy : Article in Press, Corrected Proof : doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.05.026 : Israel – New natural gas producer in the Mediterranean : Brenda Shaffer : Received 7 November 2010; accepted 16 May 2011. Available online 2 June 2011”
What if Venezuela is America’s new “frenemy” – the oil-producing trading friend that the United States just loves to hate ? They might not have an appetite or budget for military intervention, but considering the fossil fuel resources locked away under Venezuelan soil and sea, they might just be pleased at a change in the regime – and only one person would need to be removed to make that happen…
Since the economic sanctions were imposed on Venezuela by the USA, for trading with Iran, several very interesting events have transpired, several of them on the same day, 8 June 2011.
When people like Mark Lynas accuse Greenpeace and other green campaign organisations of failings, there is any underlying theme – accusations of manipulation – both of facts and people. The sub-text harks back to the combat against fascism and Nazism in Europe.
We’re never going to make any progress on climate change if those advocating for energy change are equated to early 20th Century dictators and totalitarians.
Energy is a Social Good
I recently wrote an essay called “Energy for Democracy” making a first attempt at connecting the dots on grassroots democratic mobilisation and energy change. The subject set was in the field of “Environmental Communication”, and so I went back and looked at the development of mass media, advertising and public persuasion. I then went on to think about how propaganda and governance are interrelated. And I also looked at philosophy, and politics. I looked at the early 20th Century ideological splits in Europe, and the part that industrial development played. I looked at how democratic and other forms of socialism dealt with the problem of energy.
I posited that, since energy is produced for the Common Good, it should be subject to democratic management. I found myself “channelling” the spirit of Ramsay Macdonald, and going back to the questions of society and the integration of new industries that were pervasive before the two so-called “World Wars”.
Energy Of A Similar Wavelength
And today I find this very theme picked up by Ulrich Beck in The Guardian newspaper, along with the expression “energy change”, which is a term I am using increasingly to encapsulate the pivotal and essential response to climate change :-
“Germany is right to opt out of nuclear”, he headlines, “The rejection of nuclear power is a result not of German angst but of economic thinking. We must invest in renewable energy”.
I was gladdened when he stepped from economics to democratics :-
“…Ultimately, the rejection of nuclear is not a result of German angst but of economic thinking. In the long run, nuclear power will become more expensive, while renewable energy will become cheaper. But the key point is that those who continue to leave all options open will not invest…People everywhere are proclaiming and mourning the death of politics. Paradoxically, the cultural perception of the danger may well usher in the very opposite: the end of the end of politics…what is denounced by many as a hysterical over-reaction to the “risks” of nuclear energy is in fact a vital step towards ensuring that a turning point in energy generation becomes a step towards greater democracy…The novel coalition between the state and social movements of the kind we currently see at work in Germany now has a historic opportunity. Even in terms of power politics, this change of policy makes sense…”
The British are stumbling towards democracy, too, but they keep tripping over old divisiveness, and create new divisions too, just to complicate matters.
People Power – Not Potty Nor Puny
The Climate Camp has just been a baby step on the pathway to democratic movement on energy. Camping in coal trucks and dropping banners from power station cooling stacks has been a sign that democracy has been ailing – if there were genuine engagement between the governments, private enterprises and “campaign” groups over the future scenarios for energy, then people wouldn’t need to camp outside banks and coal-fired power plants.
As a consumer of mainstream media, all you see is the blockade of a Biofuel refinery, or people gluing themselves to the entrance of the Royal Bank of Scotland, or the occupation of a plant nursery at the site of a proposed runway. If you think “what a ramshackle bunch of unwashed hippies, straining the last of their voices, railing at the State, in a vain attempt to roll back the tide of industry, progress and Thorium reactors”, then you haven’t understood the bigger picture.
People want to be engaged in the decisions made about energy in this country – properly engaged. People want to use their knowledge to influence decisions. If the only means they have of expressing their democratic will and their opposition to hydraulic fracturing is to D-lock themselves to Shale Gas drilling equipment, then perhaps they might just do that. This might happen in Poland too. The alternative would be a proper discussion between the people groups and the governments. Where’s the European Union environmental legislature while all of this is happening ? Shale Gas could destroy Poland.
Energy Collectives – Expressing Collective Democratic Will
Groups like Fair Pensions are building momentum between people groups and investing institutions – raising the flag for clean energy. This isn’t about fighting – let’s drop the battlefield language, including that word “campaign”, which is so often used in a derogatory, dismissive, belittling way. This is about getting people working together on a new, sustainable future, and it requires all the righteous anger rising up to be channelled into a positive, productive movement, fully expressing the will of the people.
Consultations and placard-waving demonstration protests are not the way forward – we need energy change, and that’s going to require a whole lot more democratic energy. People don’t want dirty energy, and they don’t want nuclear power. Dirty energy should be asked to leave the building, nicely, politely. Firm but fair.
Group Thinking – Democratic Intelligence
Investment in renewable and sustainable energy is creating long-lasting assets for the UK and other countries. We don’t need and we don’t want dirty, radioactive energy any more. A thousand cheers for German democracy !
The final part (I really hope it is the final part) of Adam Curtis’ trilogy on “Evil” Computers and “Devillish” Enviromentalists – “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” – a title drawn from a poem written by what would appear to be a madman – has now been uploaded to YouTube, allowing me to view it without taking part in the memory-eating public monitoring disappointment that is BBC iPlayer :-
Adam Curtis certainly reveals himself as a little monkeyish in this episode, throwing overarm and underhand javelins at “liberals” of all hues and cries, particularly environmental ones; and throwing in liberal references to primates wherever he can, seemingly to suggest that mankind has un- or de-evolved by adopting computing tools and studying the natural world.
We are stardust ? Well, not quite. As carbon-based lifeforms we’re actually the offspring of a young sun, composed of the lighter elements, with a low concentration of a few transition metals essential for our health and vitality. Irn Bru, anyone ?
The actual products of exploding old stars that got lodged in the crusty skin of the accreting Earth are often quite toxic to us. Over millions of years, heavy and radioactive elements, being of no use to the ecosystem, have been deposited at the bottom of lakes, seabeds, and ended up lodged in seams of coal, and caverns of petroleum oil and Natural Gas. Uranium ores and other nasties have been overlain by forests and deserts, and only rarely vent, like radon, from Vulcan’s infernal lairs.
And what do humans do ? We dig this stuff up to burn or fission for energy, and when we do it creates toxic waste, that hurts us, and the life around us. Why are we surprised that mercury from the coal power industry is killing fish and harming children ? Why is it a shock that the tailing ponds from mining tar and oil sands are devastating pristine wilderness and waterways ?
It appears that science has now caught up with shale gas extraction technology, and the result is a toxic shock :-
“Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells : A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells : By David Biello, Scientific American, May 9, 2011”
This might come as a bit of a nasty blowback for Christopher Booker, who was singing the praises of “gamechanger” shale gas at the weekend :-
“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”
[ UPDATE : SEVERAL NEW PLAUSIBLE FACTOIDS HAVE EMERGED NECESSITATING CHANGES. ]
Are they congratulating Wills and Kate ? The Americans probably reviewed the TV ratings for the right royal wedding and decided they too needed something to boost the morale of the nation. So they went and killed Osama Bin Laden.
Or not. He could have been dead for days, because the plans were made weeks ago. Was he killed pre-emptively ahead of the collective British regal marital hysteria ? Why did the young newlyweds ship out to an “undisclosed location” instead of jetting off on honeymoon, pronto ? Was there a “credible threat” made on their lives in retaliation at the death of the Al Qaeda spiritual leader ? Or was an unarmed Osama bin Laden murdered by a surprise military attack at night at his family home after an Al Qaeda threat was made on Prince William and his new wife ? You have to admit the timing of the news is interesting…
Bin Laden “buried at sea” ? Yeah, right. If his body was dumped at sea, that could cause considerable affront to his supporters, but at least it would cover the fact that he had been dead for well over 24 hours, which would be an even worse affront according to Muslim burial traditions. If the body was no longer fresh enough for a photo shoot a hypothetical burial is necessary, one that can obscure the facts from international cameras and mobile phones. The Americans sent in a hit squad rather than dropping bombs from drones. Why go in person ? To make sure they have video and photographic evidence of the killing to show to Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama a few days later ? And by what moral and legal justification did Barack Hussein Obama issue a kill order instead of capturing Osama bin Laden for trial for his alleged crimes against humanity ?
Meanwhile, back in Libya, several other funerals have taken place after a NATO bombing raid in Tripoli, at night, targeting the Gaddafi family home, the victims of which included a son and some grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi (and possibly even Muammar Gaddafi, the Brother Leader, himself, was killed too, although we don’t know that for sure yet) and sparked massive protest, which may lead to foreign troops “on the ground” to “finish off” the war – maybe disguised by gas masks, or under cover of enacting war crimes warrants. Various world leaders have declared they want to see the end of the current regime in Libya. NATO might be used to protect energy supplies. It could get a whole lot nastier now. What had Libya and Libya’s leader done to deserve this ? Declare energy independence ? :-
“Oil companies fear nationalisation in Libya : By Sylvia Pfeifer and Javier Blas in London : Published: March 20 2011 : Western oil companies operating in Libya have privately warned that their operations in the country may be nationalised if Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s regime prevails. Executives, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the rapidly moving situation, believe their companies could be targeted, especially if their home countries are taking part in air strikes against Mr Gaddafi. Allied forces from France, the UK and the US on Saturday unleashed a series of strikes against military targets in Libya…”
Osama bin Laden was arguing for a end to foreign interference in Arab territories, which naturally would have involved reasserting national control of oil and gas resources, and retaining wealth in the countries of origin. And many western strategists believe that this “threat” should never be allowed to happen. Osama bin Laden, in poor health, had probably negotiated a deal where he was allowed to live peacefully in retirement, but things changed, and the American Navy stormed his house at night and killed him and attacked his family. If the United States go after a sick man, and nearly murder his wife just because she happened to be in the way when they shot him (no taking prisoners, then), what will they do now ? Take out Pakistan for harbouring him (even though they agreed to host Osama bin Laden’s retirement in the first place) ? Or cut international aid intended for disaster relief in Pakistan ? It is now a distinct possibility that by encouraging universal joy over the death of the “sinner” bin Laden, a great piece of media entertainment, the world audience is being warmed up for overpowering violence against Libya, whipped up by American hawks. The deal breakers. All the wrong actions for all the wrong reasons.
And what did Barack Hussein Obama say ? “No Americans were harmed“, whilst “bringing Osama bin Laden to justice…Justice has been done“. Internal moral compasses may flinch at these words. Justice normally involves a court of law, not the President of the United States watching an “enemy of America” being liquidated on a secure webcam. Two victims of extensive and enduring negative American propaganda have been attacked with full military might whilst tucked up in bed at home. Who’s next ? Julian Assange ? Hugo Chavez ? Some other man made out to be a demon ? And while Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader in the United Kingdom says the world is now a “safer place”, Americans are being issued with travel advisories.
When did Colonel Muammar Gaddafi learn of threats from the world’s major oil consumer countries against his rule ? Was it in early 2011 ? Or was it several years earlier ? On the public stage, he has been deliberately reduced to a figure of fun, and his message advising non-aggression and protection from aggression is being lost. He is now a desperate man :-
Outside the usual political and media circles, questions are being asked. Why has the United Nations sanctioned military engagement in Libya in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 ? Why the heavy firepower here, in Libya, when the ostensible rationale for intervention was only to implement a No-Fly Zone ? Why not gloibal military action elsewhere in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) arena where there are other despots making life unpleasant or endable for their citizens ?
I present to you two possible futures for Libya, both of which will require extensive cooperation with foreign corporate and political players, something that Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (or Qaddafi) threatens, or rather, depending on various news reports, “threatened”.
1. The Dash for African and Arabic Natural Gas (and Oil)
In a carbon-constrained world Natural Gas is a boon – it has roughly half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal when burned to produce steam to generate electricity. Any country that’s got Natural Gas, especially good quality Natural Gas that doesn’t have to be hydraulically “fractured” from rock strata, is a country we will learn to love and trade on significantly generous terms with.
There has been extensive surveying of Libya, and the whole of North Africa’s Maghreb region, including the type of offshore seismic surveying that found extensive gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean that Israel is now laying claim to (and preventing Gaza from exploiting). This has led to quite a lot of excitement in the fossil fuel energy industry, so, reading between the lines of the conference agendas, there is high dollar value under Libya’s maritime territory :-
In addition to Natural Gas there may well be high levels of top quality oil – and keeping up the flow of crude oil, as we all know, is crucial to the health of the world’s economy. Threats of re-nationalising the Libyan fossil fuel resources therefore caused corporate shock :-
“Oil companies fear nationalisation in Libya : By Sylvia Pfeifer and Javier Blas in London : Published: March 20 2011 : Western oil companies operating in Libya have privately warned that their operations in the country may be nationalised if Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s regime prevails. Executives, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the rapidly moving situation, believe their companies could be targeted, especially if their home countries are taking part in air strikes against Mr Gaddafi. Allied forces from France, the UK and the US on Saturday unleashed a series of strikes against military targets in Libya. “It is certainly a concern. There are good reserves there,” said one executive at a western oil company with operations in Libya. “We have lost some of our production [because all operations have stopped] but our bigger concern is what will happen to the exploratory work as that gives you a future rather than the immediate impact,” he added. Most of the world’s large international oil companies have producing assets in Libya, including Spain’s Repsol, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni, which is the largest single investor there. Germany’s Winstershall – a unit of BASF – and OMV of Austria are also present. The country is the world’s 12th largest oil exporter, and the escalating violence there has triggered a jump in prices to nearly $120 a barrel. More than half of Libya’s oil was exported to Italy, Germany and France last year…”
BP had to evacuate its staff, and extend a favour to some British citizens, during the recent uprising :-
Production in the country has taken a hit due to the fighting, but order should soon be restored. Clearly, long-term stability in Libya, with unhindered, inexpensive access to the country’s oil and gas resources is an important part of the national security interests of many Western democracies.
2. Solar Libya
The DESERTEC project of the European Union seeks to roll out solar power in the desert sands of North Africa, and makes the promise of economic and social development of the countries that take part, although that dream has been questioned :-
Let’s face the facts here – massive new energy projects in North Africa will be financed and developed through large multinational, transnational corporations, companies who have contributed to the economic slavery of Africa for, let’s approximate here, centuries.
What guarantees can the Maghreb have that this is not a further land grab on Africa’s potential ?
In addition, the recent social and political volatility in the Middle East North Africa region could jeopardise the noble plans of the European Union to reach out in energy partnership.
Hang on. Wait a minute. Is the wave of uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa connected in any way to the interests of oil and gas companies who want Future #1 to prevail for the whole region, not just Libya ?
American companies have been so keen to sell nuclear electricity projects to Saudi Arabia and others around the Arabian Gulf – but has this been encouraged from the high-ups to keep the Arabs off the scent of Renewable Energy ? Forget nuclear power – it’s expensive and awkward. Iran only pursues civilian nuclear power to irritate the United States Government. A solar Arabia could give the Middle East and North Africa a second generation of being the energy princes of the world. I suspect they will go for this in a big way very shortly, uprisings or no uprisings. Why ? Two little words – Fukushima Daiichi.
So there we have it – two entirely probable, slightly competing, futures being mapped out for Libya by the big guns of NATO (a euphemism for the USA). If Libya is split into two countries, the fossil fuel Future #1 will be likely applied to East Libya, and the desert solar Future #2 will be foisted on West Libya.
Continued interference in the country is a certainty.
Image Credit : Amelia Gregory
London Rising Tide presents…The Beehive Design Collective’s – ‘The True Cost of Coal’
DATE – Thursday 10th Feb, 2011
TIME – 7.30pm – late – with refreshments after the presentation
LOCATION – London Action Resource Centre : 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London, E1 1ES
‘The True Cost of Coal’ will take you on an interactive visual tour of the connections between coal mining, climate change, the ever-expanding capitalist economy, and the struggle for justice in local communities affected by the coal industry around the world.
‘The True Cost of Coal’ is a recently completed project by the Beehive Collective (part of the Rising Tide North America Collective), who create portable murals of collaboratively produced illustrations that tell an engaging and disturbing story.
Learn how the artwork is created by the collective and how they use their posters to run community workshop and for storytelling. The True Cost of Coal poster they have produced is quite staggering – check it out at :-
Their visually stunning, large scale Black + White graphics depict social justice and raising ecological consciousness in an unusual and highly creative way.
Come along to find out more at LARC, 7.30pm, Thurs 10th Feb.
For more information on London Rising Tide :-
London Rising Tide
c/o 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Telephone: 07708 794665
Please share your art with the Art Not Oil project :-
Climate Indymedia :-
Indymedia London :-
The documentary evidence shows that America’s business interests often outweigh its political progress. Yet it’s perhaps more concerning that, increasingly, corporate America is at risk of damaging good environmental governance.
With all the talk of free markets in international trade, the Coalition Government in the United Kingdom has felt the pressure to open up the back door to American energy businesses, whose highly-paid sales representatives in slick suits want us to buy their dirty energy projects – just take a look at the upcoming UK Energy Bill and its proposals for Electricity Market Reform.
American companies seem poised to sweep in and take all our public non-subsidy “support” for building new nuclear power plants. Viewers of a sensitive political disposition should look away now as this is a Wikileak :-
The country that brought you the engineering industry that brought you the giant Gulf of Mexico giant oil spill now wants to bring you unsafe deepwater drilling in Britain’s Continental Shelf – and the UK’s new Energy Bill would let them do that without demonstrating any learning from the BP April 2010 fiasco :-
There’s lots of talk in the energy sector and the financial markets about the American shale gas miracle “gamechanger” and how it can be replicated in Europe and across the world, and not enough discussion about the environmental dangers :-
It’s good to talk about local environmental damage from “unconventional” gas, but what’s not being discussed so widely is that these “new” resources of Natural Gas aren’t really very green, and neither are the “traditional” resources – in some cases they’re not much better than coal :-
We know that the Americans always seek to protect the interests of American-owned businesses – and we know they do that for the best of intentions – to keep America wealthy (except it’s really only a few people in America that have any wealth, but anyway…)
Yet I think there should be a limit to how far we have to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs for economic recovery.
To export all their dirty energy technology to Europe is just not helpful, and I think we should say no, no, no.
[ UPDATE 3 : Israel has said it has already prepared for just such an Egyptian disruption scenario, and won’t suffer from shortages of gas… https://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=206940 ]
[ UPDATE 2 : The Jerusalem Post says that it was reported that explosives were detonated at the terminal… https://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=206940. Why does the Jerusalem Post article contain a history of gas production in the region ? Part of the gas that comes through Egypt has come from Gazan wells https://www.joabbess.com/2010/08/01/natural-gaza-3/. If that supply fails, then countries round about will have to buy their gas from Israel’s new wells… Israel will probably blame Iran for the Egyptian gas terminal explosion https://blogs.forbes.com/christopherhelman/2011/02/05/egypt-pipeline-explosion-cuts-gas-supply-to-israel/. Apparently the gas supply to Israel may not have been damaged https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-05/egypt-gas-pipeline-feeding-israel-explodes-in-sinai-desert-arabiya-says.html, but they’ve turned the taps off anyway, as a precautionary measure https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/crisis-in-egypt/pipeline-blast-in-egypt-shuts-off-gas-flow-to-jordan-israel/article1895902/?cmpid=rss1 ]
[ UPDATE : We now learn it was not an attack after all… https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8305962/Egypt-crisis-Sinai-explosion-blamed-on-gas-leak.html. Notice the propaganda – we are reminded in the video report that there may be dark fundamentalist forces at work, even whilst being told that this was not in fact the case.]
An unidentified group has taken advantage of all the turmoil in Egypt, gone undercover, and attacked a gas pipeline, which means that supplies to politically moderate Jordan (and the more hardline Syria) will be cut off.
Who planned this ? It’s probably too early to say, but I can think of several possible answers to the question, and none of them are pretty.
“Saboteurs attack Egypt gas pipeline to Jordan”
“Jordan gas supplies to be halted a week after blast”
“Egypt Gas Pipeline Attacked”
“Gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria set ablaze in Egypt…Unless the pipe is repaired quickly, it could become a big problem for Jordan, a country already spending heavily in fuel subsidies, a Jordanian senior official said….”
In conversation yesterday evening somebody summarised the behaviour of banks and the energy industry as “greedy”, but I simply could not agree.
“It’s not greed”, I said, “most people are just trying to make a living.”
The corporations have an obligation to make profits for their shareholders, business managers have to be pragmatic, governments have to negotiate compromises and consumers are just looking to make the best use of their cash.
This is how we find ourselves locked into a vicious cycle of energy waste, through the production and use of cheap fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are so cheap, nobody can spare the investment budget to make vehicles and power generation more efficient. Natural Gas is so relatively inexpensive that it’s cheaper to heat leaky homes than insulate them. Petroleum is so cheap (even with the rising global trade price and proposed increased taxes in the UK) that a high proportion of its energy value is wasted.
“It’s not greed,” I said, “look at who owns the wealth. The overwhelming proportion of people don’t have any control. They’re just trying to get by.”
To talk of “greed” anthropomorphises the machine of the economy, imbues it with a human emotion where it has none. To say that bankers are “greedy”, or that corporations and their Chief Executive Officers are “evil” entirely misses the point. Almost everybody is employed by somebody else, and has to follow instructions.
Even High Net Worth Individuals are under pressure to respond to their “electorates”, those who consume their intellectual property rights.
However, “just following orders” is no excuse to let people off the hook when it comes to carbon emissions, just like it is no excuse for war crimes.
But it’s not “greed”.
That would imply guilt, but guilt is not a lever that can be used successfully to correct excess carbon emissions.
The public propaganda budget for most energy and mining companies is eensy weensy compared to the profits they can make by polluting and stealing.
Are you ready for another American energy myth ? Yes, the country with the energy production “community” that brought you the Gulf of Mexico spill disaster of April 2010, is now threatening groundwater pollution and seismic shocks at a county near you in the United Kingdom.
A glimpse of the public relations that have led up to this can be seen very easily by using an Internet Search Engine using an Internet Browser (like Google running on Google Chrome, for example), using the search term : “shale gas gamechanger”.
That little word “gamechanger” has been soaking through the business, engineering and financial press in relation to “unconventional” gas for at least six months. Everybody digests this word in connection with information touting the magical promise of virtually free gas in the rocks beneath our feet. And then they repeat the concept and this little sales word to others. It’s gone completely viral.
Roger Harrabin of the BBC (thanks, Roger) brings word that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has recommended a moratorium on shale gas operations until more science is known about the results of the engineering :-
“…”We are aware that there have been reports from US of issues linked to some shale gas projects,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) told BBC News. “However, we understand that these are only in a few cases and that Cuadrilla (the firm testing for shale gas in Lancashire) has made it clear that there is no likelihood of environmental damage and that it is applying technical expertise and exercising the utmost care as it takes drilling and testing forward.”…”
So who is this company “Cuadrilla” ?
It is an entity formed from one Australian engineering giant and one American financial giant, seeking to propagate the American way of life of developing “new” energy resources :-
“…Lucas announced that the Riverstone/Carlyle Global Energy and Power Funds, a group of energy-focused private equity funds managed by Riverstone Holdings LLC, has committed to subscribe US$58.0 million for equity in Cuadrilla Resources Holding Ltd, the holding company established by Lucas to hold its investment for unconventional hydrocarbons exploration and development in Europe.”
“Lucas was a founding shareholder in Cuadrilla and has supported the management team since the company’s inception. Lucas’ total investment as of today’s date amounts to A$52.4 million.
Cuadrilla has applied for, and in some cases been granted, exploration licences totalling in excess of 1.5 million acres in the UK, Holland, Spain and Poland. In addition, Cuadrilla has designed, overseen the manufacture of and delivered state of the art cementing and fracture stimulation equipment and is soon to take delivery of a DrillMec HH220 top drive rig.”
So, does this technology actually work safely ?
Nobody really knows, is the short answer.
“…Funded by the Cooperative, the Tyndall report demonstrates how the extraction of shale gas risks seriously contaminating ground and surface waters. In this regard alone, there should be a moratorium on shale gas development until a there is a much more thorough understanding of the extraction process…”
Why do we continue to have American companies imprinting their business models on the UK ? We have to have their “independent” nuclear deterrent, their behemoth nuclear reactor construction companies, their health insurance companies, their failed genetically modified crops, their privatised prison and school and health centre management policies, their tax concepts, their social control policies, even their zeal for state terrorism…sorry…”The War against Terror”. And nobody seeks to question why we have to copycat everything the Americans do, even when it goes badly wrong.
Why can’t we have a War against Error ?
We need a real “regime change” here – we need to say a big no to American energy policy. And that starts with asking a few questions about the way American companies do business.
Here’s just one example of the sort of practice that the people behind Cuadrilla get up to :-
“In 2000, Carlyle entered into a joint venture with Riverstone Holdings, an energy and power focused private equity firm founded by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. In March 2009, New York State and federal authorities began an investigation into payments made by Carlyle and Riverstone to placement agents allegedly made in exchange for investments from the New York State Common Retirement System, the state’s pension fund. It was alleged that these payments were in fact bribes or kickbacks, made to pension officials who have been under investigation by New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. In May 2009, Carlyle agreed to pay $20 million in a settlement with Cuomo and accepted changes to its fundraising practices.”
And you trust these people with the right motives when agreeing to finance shale gas exploitation in Europe ?
A. J. Lucas Group is the engineering partner in this enterprise :-
“The Company’s Oil and Gas segment is engaged in the exploration for and commercialization of hydrocarbons in Australia, Canada, United States and Europe. As of June 30, 2010, the Company held 56.95% interest in Cuadrilla Resources Corporation Limited (Cuadrilla).”
Starting with Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, they appear to want to dig up the whole of Lancashire :-
“Mr Cornelius said Cuadrilla would begin the extraction process in early January and would hope to have its first flare – gas burning at the surface – by early February.”
“If successful, the find would be extremely significant given Britain’s dwindling energy resources and our increasing reliance on imported gas. Cuadrilla had previously said the amount of shale gas in the Bowland site could meet as much as 5 to 10 per cent of Britain’s energy resources.”
“Now, after the first samples have been analysed, the suspicion is that the Lancashire fields could hold a lot more.”
“Now one site has been explored, the drilling rig will be moved to another site on the Bowland Shale to assess the size of the gas field overall. If those explorations also prove successful, then Cuadrilla will look to sell the entire operation to a large exploration company, like Shell, to carry out the expensive and time-consuming production process.”
Somebody has to say no to this. That somebody could be you.
What does shale gas “fracking” do to land, peoples and communities ?
Come and find out :-
“GASLAND : Opening 17 January 2011 : Winner – Special Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival 2010 : Nominated – Grand Jury Prize – Sundance film Festival 2010 : A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Another in a long line of essential environmental documentaries – each of which seems to be more alarming and compelling than the last…”
Come along and watch your own hellish future if you are unlucky enough to sit on top of gas-bearing rock formations :-
17 – 27 Jan, 4 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17, 19, 26 – 27 Feb 2011
A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Director Q&A plus panel discussion : After the premiere on 17 January there will be a discussion panel afterwards comprising the director Josh Fox, along with representatives from The Co-operative and WWF.”…”
Here’s just a few links to peoples groups opposed to the engineering of unconventional gas :-
It’s time our authorities read between the lines and regulated this practice away from Europe.
If we had a sparsely populated continent with lots of unused land, then maybe it might be OK. But with the risks still fully unquantified, we should keep this engineering out of well-populated and ecologically sensitive areas, particularly areas with water courses and farmland.