Leon Jennings and his search for the truth

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s CEO spends a lot of time sounding exasperated that he can’t have a proper debate about shale gas with the people who are against it because, according to him, we are environmental extremists.

He is wrong. We are just ordinary people who are trying to sift the truth from the stream of rubbish put out by his company.

Take this gem from our favourite rabbit in the media headlights,  Cuadrilla’s Health and Safety Director,Leon Jennings (yes he’s the one who previously gave us on air back in December an assurance that fracking is 100% safe!)

Leon Jennings

Leon Jennings

About 45 seconds into the clip here http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/21833740 he states unequivocally that

it’s going to mean that we don’t have to buy gas from abroad. We’re importing over 60% at the moment”

Well, nobody with a brain believes that shale gas is going to mean “we don’t have to buy gas from abroad”,

According to Reuters Research, UK annual gas demand is about 85 and 95 bcm and we currently import about 25 bcm from Norway and 25 bcm from other sources.

Mr Jennings may be right that we currently import just under 60% of UK demand from abroad, but if 60% is to be imported , and even Cuadrilla’s most extravagant claims don’t suggest they could fulfil more than 25% of UK demand (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20701772 ), it simply makes no sense to suggest that fracking will mean “we don’t have to buy gas from abroad.” Where else is all this gas going to come from? Perhaps we could use some of the hot air which is emitted from the Cuadrilla board of directors?

Seriously though, watching the earnest looking Mr Jennings spouting this rubbish to a couple of impressionable school kids, with apparent absolute conviction,  makes Cuadrilla’s communications strategy look tawdry to say the least. I wish we could say we were surprised.

Why do Cuadrilla insist on embarrassing themselves by putting this man in front of the cameras? We’re sure he’s a nice enough bloke but he doesn’t seem to be able  stop himself saying things that simply can’t be backed up with reliable evidence when faced with a camera.

We’ve written to PPS group asking them if Cuadrilla are aware of this interview and if they endorse the quote from Mr Jennings. We’ll let you know if they reply.

Interestingly whilst researching this article we looked again at the interview given by Mr Egan to the BBC. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20701772 )

In this interview Mr Egan seem to have the same struggle with logic as does his employee Mr Jennings. He says:

“Well if I can talk just about our licence area alone in Lancashire, er, um, our assessment is that there’s about 200 trillion cubic feet in the ground, and we think that’s probably a conservative assessment. Now to put that in context the UK uses about 3 trillion cubic feet per annum, so even if we were only able to recover a tenth of what’s in the ground we’d be able to supply out of Lancashire alone say a quarter of UK gas demand for thirty years. Gas in Britain is a critical part of the energy supply. People talk a lot about gas and electricity, and it’s important for electricity, but electricity only accounts for about a third of gas demand. Virtually every home in the country, in the UK uses gas for heating or cooking and the country’s running out of gas. Right now we import most of our gas In 20 years’ time we’ll be importing all of our gas – increasingly from further afield – from the Middle East and from Russia.  So we have a very simple choice. We can choose to develop our own resources, which are shale gas ,of which there is a lot as I just said, or we can continue to import. Now if we choose to import we’ll spend tens of billions of pounds importing it and we’ll get zero in tax revenue. If we develop our own resources we’ll get tens of billions in tax revenue and zero spent on importing. We would prefer the latter. “

So clearly Mr Egan is suggesting here (as did Mr Jennings above) that he believes shale gas can meet all of the UK’s gas requirements and in doing so reduce the import requirement to zero.

Initial resource estimates for the UK  by the BGS were tiny compared to Cuadrilla’s recent claims for 200 TCF – about 5 TCF for the Bowland Shale

However, a new UK wide resource estimate, which did suggest that the initial guess was would be increased by a factor of 300 was widely reported by the press but subsequently disowned by the BGS.

It has been suggested that predicting resource sizes based on current research is like sticking a pin into a piece of A4 paper and maintaining you know exactly what is beneath it. The fact is that nobody has any sustainable accurate idea how much gas is really under the Bowland Shale or under the UK as a whole, and there is simply no reliable basis in fact for Mr Egan’s suggestion that by allowing shale gas to be exploited we could meet 100% of predicted future demand for gas and reduce gas imports to zero.

Those of you who are of an analytical frame of mind may also have noticed that he suggests that there is a simple choice between developing shale gas or continuing to import gas. This is a perfect example of the rhetorical device known as the “false choice”, which is often used to steer an argument away from an area which is uncomfortable for the speaker, or which might undermine the rest of his speech.

Clearly Mr Egan would prefer you not to think about the other choices,  one of which would be to develop a coherent energy policy, which is not dependent on gas, but which concentrates on developing renewables. This option would  generate far more local employment, would help rather than hinder the UK in meeting its greenhouse gas emissions obligations, would also generate billions in tax revenues, but would not need the mass industrialisation of our area.

Offered a proper choice “we would prefer the latter

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