Letter to JEP 5th February 2014
After a seven year wait we hope very soon to have an energy policy for Jersey – the Pathway 2050 energy plan. We shall finally have a policy on carbon dioxide emissions and a plan to meet our obligations under the Kyoto protocol. Or at least that's what I thought until I read yesterday that ' islands welcome frackers'.
Given all the work that has gone into preparing the policy document, the consultations and scrutiny panel hearings, I am astonished that the States appears ready, Janus-like, to promote fossil fuels at the hint there is a tax revenue in it for them, at the same time as claiming it is committed to the environment and our climate change targets.
On a practical level fracking appears quite unsuitable for Jersey. It requires significant water usage typically millions of gallons for each fracking episode for each well. And a well may be fracked a dozen or more times. Our future water supplies are not secure – hence the raising of Val de la Mare reservoir by 9 metres, and the plan to have water meters for all Jersey Water supplied homes. But the critical observation here is their intention to extract water from more boreholes in St Ouen’s Bay, exactly where the shale rocks that are the target of fracking are located.
A study of gas wells, by Watson and Bachu in a Society of Petroleum Engineers paper in 2009, examined 352,000 Canadian wells and found about 12 per cent of newer wells leaked, more for older wells. In a fracking well that leakage is not just water, it is encompasses assorted chemicals, some hazardous, as well as that potent greenhouse gas, methane. If there is a hazardous leak here in Jersey we do not have a ready means to bring in potable water if our ground sources become polluted. Perhaps we could run the desalination plant full out, but that surely won't be cheap.
Once water has been used to frack a well , it has to be disposed of – you cannot simply put it down the drain. Need I remind readers of the problems experienced in the area around and in the bay below the airport a decade ago from the PFOS in the firefighting foam ?
The evidence from elsewhere is clear – the people do not want it. France, Bulgaria, Romania and South Africa have bans or moratoria in place on fracking, even experimentally. Lots of local and town governments round the world have similar prohibitions. Even where not banned there have been ongoing protests by residents as seen in the UK and USA.
In our island we have barely any installed solar or wind power and we have made snail's pace progress on marine systems. It is insanity to risk a resource as vital as the water supply for a fistful of dollars when we have done so little to secure clean renewable and increasingly cheap to produce energy to our own population.