Archive for January, 2012

Tar Sands and the FQD – and now: Serbian oil shale threats

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Excellent news: 18th January Obama rejected TransCanada’s application for the Keystone XL pipeline (for connecting the Alberta Tar Sands with the Mexican Gulf for export of tar sands fuel worldwide including to UK and the EU). But the US State Department said this does not preclude a re-application with a different route (to avoid the Ogallala aquifer). Obama stated that “The rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment”. TransCanada announced they will re-apply. Let’s hope we don’t get a Republican President elected in November – as their climate denying or sceptic candidates support the KXL and most Republican Congressmen have been ‘bought’ by Big Oil such as by the infamous Koch Brothers (Tea Party funders & founders). Assessment by The UK Tar Sands Network.

Also – Canadian First Nations are making an effective united stand against the proposed pipeline from the Tar Sands towards the Pacific (and thus China).

The FQD: EU member states are meeting on 23rd February towards a vote on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) – legislation that would strongly discourage tar sands fuel from entering the UK and EU. I say ‘towards’ – as we are unclear whether the vote might again be delayed – not just by Norman Baker’s alternative methodology – but now by another alternative proposal – this time by the Netherlands (home of Royal Dutch Shell) – as another spanner in the works to derail the FQD.

More good news: Tim Farron has met Simon Hughes (former LibDem shadow for Env & CC) on the FQD and tar sands and has decided “to bid for a question to the Secretary of State on this issue at the next session of Energy and Climate Change questions in the House of Commons” and discuss it with Norman Baker. Unfortunately I have learnt that many LibDem MPs and the GreenLibDem tweeter still find it hard to believe that Norman Baker could work to scupper the FQD. I will now have to try and persuade the GreenLibDems that his actions threaten the FQD – at least by unacceptable delay, and in December I wrote a critical assessment of Norman Baker’s statements which has been emailed to LibDems. We would like the GreenLibDems to support Tim Farron and Chris Davies MEP on this matter.

If you have a spare moment do email Tim Farron that you are very pleased he has decided to pursue this matter (and for signing the moratorium on fracking EDM).

One point I am emphasizing is the urgency for the FQD to be implemented before investment decisions (and pipeline permits) for high-carbon unconventional oil infrastructure are made – which are largely export dependent and thus influence-able by an effective FQD.

A recent new example of this urgency is that “by 2012” the Serbian Government is announcing “corporate players” interested in entering the race to extract shale oil from Serbia. Shale oil life-cycle emissions are 50% higher than for conventional oil according to the EU Commissioner’s proposal for the FQD – which Norman Baker is delaying. Also – the extraction process is highly destructive and polluting.

For more info on these subjects see – which also links to the UK Tar Sands website and tweets.

Fracking good news and Climate denialism

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Fracking – good news

Tim Farron wrote (24jan12) that he has signed EDM 2292 “HYDRAULIC FRACTURING (FRACKING) (No. 2)” for a moratorium to be placed on this environmentally risky process at least until a detailed EIA has been published
Well done to all those who wrote or visited MPs in response to e.g. ‘The Take Fracking Action!’ in SLACC’s November Newsletter.
44 MPs have signed so far (27jan12) – but not a single Conservative (what does that tell you?!).

On 24th January’s BBC Radio4’s Today programme there was a c.7minute debate on shale gas exploitation and climate change between Tony Juniper and climate change denialist Lord Nigel Lawson in which Juniper gave a strong case and Lawson … well – judge for yourself: 2:42 to c.2:49 in….

This might urge you to sign and tweet this petition to tell pro-fracking Lawson’s climate sceptic thinktank ‘The Global Warming Policy Foundation’ to disclose its funders: This backs an FoI request by leading climate scientists for this information which hopefully went before a judge today (27th): Lawson and his GWPF are favoured climate writers by the Daily Mail, and you probably agree that Lawson gets too much climate airtime on BBC!

More on

New year, new projects – and what really happens at a HUB meeting

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Our first meeting of the year went all too quickly – so much to discuss and so many projects to organise. We kicked off with brief updates on our bids for funds. We moved on to current activities – volunteer project leaders explained the plans and what help would be needed and then set up their “stalls” to talk to small groups. We then moved round the room, finding out more about each project and working out how which ones fitted best with our own skills and interests. There are still some gaps to fill so please do sign up to do one small thing to join in and/or help.

The really high turnout meant we had plenty of participants for three discussion groups. Led by volunteers, we looked at the implications for SLACCtt of:
the nuclear approach put forward by George Monbiot (see for the article that sparked the debate); ….
The sustainable Brampton Household survey (see; and
how can we manage, analyse and make use of all the information that we are bombarded with from all directions?

Energy levels still high, we moved around and chose a different debate topic, adding to the comments/feedback of the earlier participants.

A few minutes for members to update us on other plans and invitations and the hall’s closing time was upon us. Discussions were still going on outside as we cleared up the room and made our exit.

Our conclusions?
The nuclear debate was fascinating. John summed it up as follows: “ Not many years ago, there would not have been a single pro-nuclear voice in a green movement. Last night I judged it was almost an even split – on the one hand, fears about nuclear accidents and the nuclear waste legacy; on the other hand, fears about irreversible climate change. Choosing which is the lesser evil between two planet-threatening options is not easy… It was also good to hear (SLACCtt member) Fiona talk with obvious authority about the pitfalls in George Monbiot’s approach. People wanted to hear the two of them debate the subject, so they could balance the arguments themselves. Fascinating stuff. We need to surface more of the experts lurking in the SLACCtt membership.”

Who knows – could we tempt George M to Cumbria for a public debate?

The Brampton debate focused on how useful it would be to follow this approach in South Lakes.
- Worth it for the baseline data but then needs to be on-going to be really useful
- Option of smaller surveys e.g. of traffic to measure specific impacts
- Quite a lot of work – option of recruiting a University student to complete this
- Government statistics are available for e.g South Lakeland that might be relevant
On the other hand:
- Issue of a small number of `anomalies` massively influencing the overall results
- Issue of how much of real costs, carbon component, etc can be captured in this way.

We also asked ourselves:
- Is this sort of data the best way to promote real change?
- Would our time, energy, money be better spent on interviewing people to discover what they see would make them change (rather than what we think would…!)
- And we concluded we should find out more – particularly the value of focus groups amongst peers/community groups discussing what changes have benefited them and why (viz CRAGS ) and then share outcomes publicly.

And finally, the information management debate – we’ve 3 pages of suggestions on information management and we’re focussing in on how we can use our website as a resource share knowledge e.g. with reviews of articles/books – maybe with a “members only” section of the site. The idea of a “green book club” gained support as did revitalising “green drinks”. And we’d love to know more about our members’ knowledge and skills so that we can help each other.

Thanks to all for your contributions and in particular to Chris, Karen and John for leading discussions and to Fiona for her invaluable input to the “nuclear” debate. (Thanks to Jo for facilitating, and writing this post.)