Cat, meet pigeons, pigeons, meet cat

Vast areas of southern England will on Friday be identified by the Government as targets for fracking, with ministers also announcing that energy companies will be allowed to frack under homes without owners’ permission.

A British Geological Survey study of the South, spanning from Wiltshire to Kent and including the South Downs National Park, will be published, mapping out the likely location of billions of barrels of shale oil.

What a lovely political fight this is going to be!

33 comments on “Cat, meet pigeons, pigeons, meet cat

  1. Great I say. Chance to improve balance of trade with the rest of the world, improve energy security, and drive technical knowledge, later exportable as services through service companies.

  2. it’s worth noting that the legal definition of drilling under someone’s property without permission as trespass was the result of everyone’s favourite Phoney Pharoah, Mohammed Fayed. He brought what’s known as the Bocardo case and won a Pyrrhic victory – it was defined as trespass but he had to pay his own costs and got awarded tuppence ha’penny damages. Now the Greenies are moaning that it’s not going to work that way any more. Lie down with dogs, fleas etc

  3. On the contrary, Tim, the debate is getting less noisy by the day. It’s no longer “unspoiled countryside vs fracking” it’s do you prefer a small drill pad and some heavy plant movement or do you want your view spoiled by a fucking wind farm.

    If I was in one of those villages getting £800K I’d be lobbying for a little Combined Heat & Power plant as well.

  4. Newsnight did a good piece explaining the difference between UK and USA and why fracking hasn’t taken off then spoilt it by having Carloline Lucas on. Her first words were global warming so I switched off and went to bed.

    Anyway, I agree with Owen and thought this is great. They also had a load of middle class families from the SE in the Newsnight piece and they were almost a parody of themselves, complaining about their green unspoilt lands and that religion of the middle classes, house prices.

    As BiF says, this is going to be a great spectator sport fracking Vs wind farms, get the popcorn ordered.

  5. I think the only question is whether they will respect other people’s property rights or they won’t. If they do, fine. If they don’t, well that could be a problem.

    They shouldn’t force people to have fracking on their land. They should not forbid people to do it either. Nor should they deny landowners proper compensation if they are found to have suffered a loss. But they will of course.

  6. The first evidence of oil wells I ever saw were the nodding donkeys in LA decades ago: jolly rather than threatening. As for the UK, look at the tidy wee field on the Isle of Purbeck. You have to look hard or you wouldn’t be aware of its existence.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wytch_Farm

  7. SMFS, people aren’t forced to have fracking on their land. It happens thousands of meters down in the ground. The drilling equipment might be on someone’s land – and they are usually well paid for the lease of it. In the UK we don’t have any property rights to the stuff under our feet, it belongs to the crown. As for the tresspass, its the same as allowing utilities to put their pipes and cables under our homes – in fact even less of a problem as utilities do their work a few feet down, while drilling is more like kilometers down.

    And the fracking is a smal part of the overall drilling process. Fracking takes a few hours to perform. Drilling is the process that takes weeks. But after the drilling and the fracking have been carried out and the drill equipment removed, all that is left is a small “christmas tree” of valves as the gas comes out and into the pipeline network. So unlike big huge wind farms or solar panels covering hundreds of acres, a gas well is a small patch of ground about a 1/4 acre in size usually hidden behind hedges.

  8. Mind you, the illustrations for Wytch Farm that someone has stuck on WKPD are brilliantly misleading. In reality you can’t see the production equipment for the trees, so stick up a picture of a drilling rig instead, because they are tall. What sort of rat fink misleads people on WKPD I wonder.

  9. There’s a nodding donkey right on top of the cliff at Kimmeridge; been there over 50 years. Looks a bit incongruous but nowhere near as bad as a bloody wind turbine.

  10. It’s my understanding that Brits don’t even own the mineral rights under their property, it all belongs to the government anyway.

  11. @SMFS: while I applaud your libertarian/fundamentalist property rights attitude, you have to be realistic. In the UK land owners have huge restrictions on their property rights already(Crown rights to hydrocarbons/gold, compulsory purchase, utility company rights etc), is it really very sensible to effectively say ‘You know what, you can veto a fracking well 1 mile under your land, but you can’t veto a gas main 6 feet under it’?

    Because as the law stands, thats the case – if a utility company wishes to put in a service, you can get some compensation for disruption/damage, but you can’t stop it, they have the legal right to force it through against the landowners wishes.

    So as a landowner I have to say if I have to accept all that, a fracking well 1500m down is not going to bother me that much. Especially if they bung me the odd bit of cash here and there as compo.

  12. Incidentally, given the wealth of the UK was created by the economic exploitation of the coal deposits of the North and of Wales, I think it ill behoves the South to now claim some sort of exemption, when the North had to put up with the side effects of coal mining for decades, if not centuries.

  13. Here’s the dilemma:

    Would I prefer lower energy bills and a tax rebate; or higher energy bills and higher taxes?

    Well thank you Caroline Lucas, Ed Davey and that French child molester for doing the math for me!

    Soon any village without its own Opera House will be facebook stalking Quadrilla.

  14. The first evidence of oil wells I ever saw were the nodding donkeys in LA decades ago: jolly rather than threatening

    I understand they still have those, cladded with walls to look like houses, in downtown Long Beach.

  15. Putin has just signed a deal with China for a new pipeline to sell them gas at a lower price than he gets from his existing pipes into Europe.

    This is a wake up call. Either he is worried about European production potential, or he plans to blackmail us like he did Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.

    Think it’s time to consider the Greens as KGB stooges and get fracking. Delivery to China is scheduled for 2018 (yeah, right!) which is the blink of an eye in E&P terms.

  16. I remember being taken to see a (the?) nodding donkey in Dorset as part of one of those healthy walks imposed on middle class children on holiday. Highlight of the day. I certainly don’t remember anything else.

  17. Since “Flatcap Army” brought it up:

    Bocardo SA v Star Energy Onshore UK Ltd

    An energy company had carried out activities relating to the extraction of oil beneath a property without the title owner’s permission. The issue raised was whether this constituted a trespass, and to what extent does the owner of the surface land also own the substrata which lie beneath. Star Energy had a statutory licence to perform acts necessary for the extraction of oil, and the works underneath the landowner’s property were performed from adjoining land and did not cause any damage to the land. Nevertheless, the landowner asserted that he was entitled to a ‘share of the spoils’ from any extraction.

    The Court held that a landowner owns all substrata which lie beneath his property up to a undefined depth where the notion of ownership becomes absurd. The works involved in this case would not be so deep to render the notion of ownership absurd, and hence a trespass had occurred. However, the Court held that the correct measure of damages was not a ‘fair share of the spoils’, but rather adequate compensation for the act of performing the operation (in this case installing pipes).

    This compensation was measured at £1,000.

  18. SadButMadLad – “people aren’t forced to have fracking on their land. It happens thousands of meters down in the ground. The drilling equipment might be on someone’s land – and they are usually well paid for the lease of it.”

    I bet, once the government back flips, they will be. They may be usually well paid, but that is not the same as always being well paid – or having the right to say no. I don’t think that the government ought to be allowed to say that a land owners *has* to allow his land to be used by drillers – access roads, trucks and all. Whether or not compensation is offered.

    “As for the tresspass, its the same as allowing utilities to put their pipes and cables under our homes – in fact even less of a problem as utilities do their work a few feet down, while drilling is more like kilometers down.”

    I am not actually all that big on that either but there is a social benefit there that is slightly more direct. And a small gas pipe is very different from trucks at 3 am.

    “So unlike big huge wind farms or solar panels covering hundreds of acres, a gas well is a small patch of ground about a 1/4 acre in size usually hidden behind hedges.”

    I agree with you about the over-all impact but I am even less fond of wind farms or solar panels.

    Tim Worstall – “Landowners own mineral rights *except* to fossil fuels, gold and silver.”

    When did that happen? These idiots in Whitehall look at authoritarian regimes elsewhere and suffer little man’s dick syndrome? The Middle East is a warning, not a lesson book.

    Jim – “while I applaud your libertarian/fundamentalist property rights attitude, you have to be realistic. In the UK land owners have huge restrictions on their property rights already(Crown rights to hydrocarbons/gold, compulsory purchase, utility company rights etc), is it really very sensible to effectively say ‘You know what, you can veto a fracking well 1 mile under your land, but you can’t veto a gas main 6 feet under it’?”

    I don’t think that the slippery slope argument ought to be taken as a justification for anything. The better solution is to move back and not allow gas mains either.

    “So as a landowner I have to say if I have to accept all that, a fracking well 1500m down is not going to bother me that much. Especially if they bung me the odd bit of cash here and there as compo.”

    If I had any land I would be happy for them to frack on it. Anything that screws Putin *and* the Arabs is obvious not just a good thing, but a double plus good thing. But that does not change the basic fact – liberal society and all that requires solid property rights.

  19. If the government and EU were to stop funding “environmental” protest groups/sock puppets and stop making membership a plus point on the CV of anybody wanting a well paid makework government job, there would be very little “movement” protesting fracking. Just the relatively few genuine locals who could be persuaded by proving the tapped wells will be no more intrusive than mobile phone masts and more lucrative for the local community.

  20. The Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 nationalised it, confiscating any oil and gas deposits from the landowners and vesting it in the Crown.

    Before then I think the Crown only owned gold & silver deposits.

    Coal was nationalised in 1946(?)

  21. “or he plans to blackmail us like he did Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.” , i stand to be corrected, but Russia was giving Ukraine cut-price gas, and applied the threat of removing the discount, whereas the West Europeans were always paying top dollar so cannot be “blackmailed” that Russia will remove our preferential treatment because we do not get preferential treatment, and we can always buy our gas off whoever so long as we pay market price.

  22. “I don’t think that the slippery slope argument ought to be taken as a justification for anything. The better solution is to move back and not allow gas mains either”

    Well thats not going to happen though is it (abolishing utility rights over private land)? So its hardly a slippery slope to go from ‘you don’t control the first 6 feet of your property’ to ‘you don’t control stuff below 6 feet either’, given we live on the surface. If it was the other way around (going from allowing fracking under private land 1500m down to allowing gas mains 6 feet down) that would be a slippery slope. But as its the other way around, and that fracking is a matter of national importance, and no-one will in practical terms lose out (and would have to be compensated if they did happen to have a 1500m deep cellar under their house), I really can’t see the issue here.

    If private property owners are given the right to veto fracking it will never happen due to the ideological opposition of a small minority, to the detriment of the rest of us, for zero gain for those opposed, other than the pleasure of being dogs in the manger on a national scale.

  23. Jim – “Well thats not going to happen though is it (abolishing utility rights over private land)?”

    I agree. It is a one-way path to the Gulag. The only question is how fast we are going to get there. I suggest as slowly as possible. How about you?

    “So its hardly a slippery slope to go from ‘you don’t control the first 6 feet of your property’ to ‘you don’t control stuff below 6 feet either’, given we live on the surface.”

    But it is a slippery slope to go from forcing you to accept a minor inconvenience for a few days in order to benefits your entire neighbourhood, and forcing you to accept heavy machinery, road access, trucks, drilling, large numbers of sweaty men swearing and so on, for a lengthy period followed by an industrial site for the indefinite future – all to enrich BP and their shareholders.

    One is a public good, the other is not. See the difference?

    If you want to take someone’s land for drilling, why not take their land for a new Tesco’s? A casino? A Monster Truck Rally ground?

    “and that fracking is a matter of national importance”

    Given that most gas goes into an international marketplace I wonder how much of that is true. But OK, let’s say it is. So is agriculture. So some passing Pakistani immigrants should have the right to grow okra in your front rose bed?

    “and no-one will in practical terms lose out”

    Then there is no need to pass these sorts of laws.

    “(and would have to be compensated if they did happen to have a 1500m deep cellar under their house)”

    If the compensation was fair they would have no need of these laws.

    “If private property owners are given the right to veto fracking it will never happen due to the ideological opposition of a small minority, to the detriment of the rest of us, for zero gain for those opposed, other than the pleasure of being dogs in the manger on a national scale.”

    Perhaps that is so. Except those opposed would lose money as they would have to buy a lot of property they have no interest in. I don’t think that the antis are so rich or so numerous. But if they are, so be it. Property rights are more important than cheap gas. As you can see in Russia. Or Qatar. Or Algeria. Or anywhere with natural gas actually. Except the US.

  24. “But it is a slippery slope to go from forcing you to accept a minor inconvenience for a few days in order to benefits your entire neighbourhood, and forcing you to accept heavy machinery, road access, trucks, drilling, large numbers of sweaty men swearing and so on, for a lengthy period followed by an industrial site for the indefinite future – all to enrich BP and their shareholders.”

    Not the way it works. You have a single wellhead where they drill small boreholes miles underground in different directions. It is much less intrusive to the average homeowner than utility work, where you really do have trucks, jackhammers, etc operating right outside your front door for weeks at a time.

  25. SMFS, the industrialisation of the countryside just doesn’t happen. That’s scaremongering by the protesters. They show images like the Jonah gas field and make out that the same will happen here. It won’t. Each drill pad will be as industrial as if a house was being built. There might be a number of trucks for a short period, but only those who live in a very rural location will notice any difference above the usual number of trucks on the roads. With horizontal drilling, a pipe a few centimetres in diameter, kilometres below your property and drilled from kilometres away from your property will cause no disturbance as opposed to the utility workers who will be digging the road outside your house.

    The tremors that are claimed to come from fracking actually come from the waste water put into old wells in America. Here in the UK water water is processed and cleaned so it won’t be causing a problems. The tremors in Blackpool were very very minor and hardly felt.

    As for being forced to accept drill pads on their land. Even if the government backflips, they won’t need to force it through. There will be always landowners willing to take the money so no need to create a strawman.

  26. I’m all for respecting property rights, but I’m not sure they should be extended to allowing homeowners to veto trucks driving past their property. Homeowners in the UK are mollycoddled enough as it is.

    Also, it won’t be BP doing the drilling, it’ll be Total: they’ve bought into UK shale more than anybody. Cue more complaints along the lines of EDF making money for the Frogs off the backs of hard-working British families.

  27. “But it is a slippery slope to go from forcing you to accept a minor inconvenience for a few days in order to benefits your entire neighbourhood, and forcing you to accept heavy machinery, road access, trucks, drilling, large numbers of sweaty men swearing and so on, for a lengthy period followed by an industrial site for the indefinite future – all to enrich BP and their shareholders.”

    You have got all this entirely wrong. No-one is going to be forced to accept the well heads, and drilling pads. Its the underground drilling trespass that they will have to accept, most probably hundreds or thousands of meters below ground level. They only need one well head for miles of fracking radius – there will always be someone in a locality that’s prepared to take the (probably fairly substantial) rent for having the drilling rigs and well heads.

    And if you think that having British gas or one of the water companies put a main through your property is a ‘minor inconvenience’ then you need to get out more. The work goes on for months, they make a terrible mess of the property (usually because they want to do it at the worst time of year possible) and getting compensation for the damage is a nightmare. A horizontal drill passing hundreds of meters below ground level would be a dream in comparison.

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