Last week three new reports commissioned by the European Union about fracking were released, which voiced strong concerns around fracking for shale gas, the unconventional gas sector and the lack of sufficient regulation in place to deal with the shale gas boom.
In the very comprehensive report, eight risks are highlighted which could cause significant human and environmental damage, including were water contamination, depletion of ground and surface water, degradation of biodiversity, air pollution and earthquakes.
It also looked into the climate change implications, seriously questioning claims made by some about the level of cuts to emissions this sector could deliver. The complicating factor is the fugitive emissions that are caused by shale and coal seam gas extraction; methane escapes into and water as part of the extraction process and is later released into the atmosphere, resulting, the report says, in emissions varying by up to a ‘factor of ten’.
It also concluded that the shale gas sector would only “help the EU maintain energy import dependency at around 60 per cent”, adding that there is “considerable uncertainty about recoverable volumes, technological developments, public acceptance and access to land and markets”.
As I said in the Otago Daily Times today, Coal seam gas proponents claim that embracing the unconventional gas boom will lower emissions by replacing energy generation from coal. But with information like what is found in this report about potential emissions, along with the fact that in New Zealand with about two-thirds of power generation already renewable, it looks just as likely to displace new renewable energy development as it is to displace coal-fired generation.
The EU reports also delved into the contamination of water which has occurred in the US due to fracking, and concluded that fracking should never be allowed in near drinking water supplies.
David Robinson, a lead spokesperson and lobbyist for the oil and gas industry in New Zealand, might want to have a browse through this report. He is quoted in this week’s NZ Farmer’s Weekly as saying there have been ‘no recorded incidents of water pollution in the world’ resulting from fracking.
He might also want to check Shell Todd Oil’s own monitoring reports, which have detailed groundwater contamination at fracking sites in Taranaki.
The European Union’s report pulls no punches when it states that ‘the present privileges of oil and gas exploration and extraction should be reassessed in view of the fact that the environmental risks and burdens are not compensated for by a corresponding potential benefit..’
If only our own Government would take our climate, health and environment into account when it assessed our options for energy, then perhaps we could take up the massive economic opportunities which lie in supporting and investing in clean energy.