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Keep It In The Ground - Towards a Zero Carbon Britain Motion Passed in Two Regions

November 9, 2015 12:14 PM
By Simon Oliver

As part of the campaign to revise Liberal Democrat policy in the area of fracking and other unconventional fossil fuel extraction methods, two similar motions were submitted to the Yorkshire and Humber, and West Midlands regional conferences.

The motions both include the unequivocal rejection of fossil fuel extraction from shale deposits using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as well as moving forwards on the extraction of methane from coal beds, either through simple capture, or the coal gasification methods. The national motion will also address the other known unconventional extraction methods as well as drilling in the Arctic.

If you wish to support the motion being taken forward to the Spring Federal Conference in York this coming March, please sign our petition. If you want to contribute to the drafting of the motion, please get in touch.

Note that the East Midlands passed an anti-fracking motion last year.

The text of the West Midlands motion:

Regional Conference Notes that:

  1. Dangerous human-caused Climate Change is a scientific reality that is already damaging our society and threatens to unravel it entirely, and therefore represents an existential threat to future generations.

  2. The Liberal Democrats have led the way in developing and implementing policy to combat climate change.

  3. The current UK government is reversing much of the good work done by Lib Dem Ministers in the Coalition.

  4. Any constraint on fossil fuel supply will accelerate the supply and affordability of alternatives, driving the Green Economy.

  5. Licenses for exploration for shale gas, coalbed methane and coal gasification have been granted around Oswestry, Stoke on Trent, Telford, Coventry, Lichfield and Stafford.

  6. Peat and coal extraction are already banned or discouraged by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), while coal-bed methane extraction is encouraged.

Regional Conference Recognises that:

  1. We will continue to need fossil fuels until the alternatives are available in sufficient quantity.

  2. Unconventional forms of fossil fuel extraction have been shown to have less energy return on energy invested than conventional forms (excepting coal).

  3. The risks of these unconventional fossil fuel extraction methods have not been significantly reduced by regulation, and regulations do not sufficiently address their Greenhouse Gas emissions.

  4. Fossil fuel extraction for burning or release into the environment is inherently unsustainable.

Regional Conference Reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:

  1. The goal of a Zero Carbon Britain by 2050

  2. The Fourth Carbon Budget, which commits the UK to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 1990) by 2025

  3. Generational justice, where future generations are not disadvantaged by the actions of the current generation.

  4. The decarbonisation of the electricity supply in the UK

Regional Conference Calls on Planning Authorities in The West Midlands to:

  1. Resist central government efforts to rush them into decisions on fossil fuel extraction licensing.

  2. Listen to the opinions of local residents and wider public wherever extraction is under consideration.

  3. Use every legal tool at their disposal to support their planning decisions.

Regional Conference Calls on Local Authorities in the Region to:

  1. Encourage the inclusion in Mineral and Local Plans of renewable energy, district heating, energy efficiency and public transport schemes.

  2. Investigate and exploit the potential to use Council resources to generate renewable energy for the benefit of their local community.

  3. Using the twin NPPF requirements of reducing the need for gas, and promoting sustainable development. allow and encourage the inclusion of bans or moratoria on the domestic extraction of fossil fuels, within Mineral and Local Plans, especially those that use these unconventional methods:

    1. Hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits, or 'Fracking'

    2. Coal bed methane

    3. Coal gasification

Supporting evidence

A map of existing licensing areas and exploratory drilling.

http://frack-off.org.uk/extreme-energy-fullscreen/

One starting point for research into the issue is here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/07/much-worlds-fossil-fuel-reserve-must-stay-buried-prevent-climate-change-study-says

For how and why these extreme retrieval methods are worse than conventional methods, we look at the energy expended to retrieve the fuels:

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/02/peak-oil-not-myth-fracking
"tight oil comes in at 4-5:1. Oil recovered from (ultra)deepwater drilling gives 4-7:1, heavy oil 3-5:1, and oil shale (kerogen) somewhere around 1.5-4:1."

Based on that alone, the energy expended to retrieve the fossil fuels, these extraction methods all produce more emissions than conventional extraction methods.

Legal issues and the planning process

http://www.leighday.co.uk/LeighDay/media/LeighDay/documents/Guides/Fracking-guide_June-2015.pdf

The National Planning Policy Framework (to which all local plans must adhere). Both coal and peat extraction are specifically discouraged, while coalbed methane is encouraged:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf

p33: "so far as practicable, take account of the contribution that substitute or secondary and recycled materials and minerals waste would make to the supply of materials, before considering extraction of primary materials, whilst aiming to source minerals supplies indigenously; "

This requires energy conservation to take priority over new energy sources.

p33: "set out environmental criteria, in line with the policies in this Framework, against which planning applications will be assessed so as to ensure that permitted operations do not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or human health, including from noise, dust, visual intrusion, traffic, tip- and quarry-slope stability, differential settlement of quarry backfill, mining subsidence, increased flood risk, impacts on the flow and quantity of surface and groundwater and migration of contamination from the site; and take into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality;"

p36: "encourage capture and use of methane from coal mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas"

p37/8: "Local planning authorities should set out the strategic priorities for the area in the Local Plan. This should include strategic policies to deliver: climate change mitigation and adaptation"