La Treizième Étoile: 15/04/12 - 22/04/12 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
MEPs split over benefits and pitfalls of gas extraction by 'fracking' in the South West

Friday, 20 April 2012
In the wake of the news that a Government-appointed panel has said fracking - the gas extraction method which triggered two earth tremors near Blackpool last year - should continue, although with strict controls, two of the regions senior MEPs have emerged at odds with each other, with one labelling the plans that could pave the way for controversial gas drilling in the region as "sheer folly".

A fracking protester (Photo: Guardian/PA)The controversial process – known as fracking - involves injecting high pressure water and chemicals into shale rock to blast out trapped natural gas (see explanatory graphic below). Two firms have Government licences to test drill for gas on the Mendip Hills, just south of Bath, although they still need planning permission to commence their work.

Giles Chichester (Conservative) believes the gas could end the reliance on importing energy and "spawn a whole new industry and jobs" but Sir Graham Watson (Liberal Democrat) has rebuked this claim saying: "to even contemplate the extraction of a gas that requires vast amounts of water and chemicals which have the potential to contaminate an already scarce water supply is sheer folly”.

While both were in agreement over the potential to reduce dependency on imported supplies (EU countries depend on imported gas for over 60% of their consumption), Sir Graham said “
if the Russians turn off the gas taps, the UK is short of gas within 30 days. Even the whiff of a fuel strike caused chaos with fuel shortages at the pumps within 48 hours […] but in this day and age, where there are a variety of clean, affordable and renewable methods of securing future energy supplies, we should not be pursuing an energy source that can cause earthquakes."

According to a Government document produced in 2011shale gas resources in the UK could be considerable—particularly offshore—but are unlikely to be a ‘game changer’ to the same extent as they have been in the US, where the shale gas revolution has led to a reduction in natural gas prices” yet large areas of eastern and southern England were identified as having the best potential for shale gas – with large deposits reckoned to be found in Dorset and Somerset.

Nationwide, the process was unofficially suspended between June 2011 and April 2012 after it was found to have triggered two small earthquakes of Magnitudes 2.3 and 1.5 in April and May near Blackpool, Lancashire.

In September 2011, Bath and North East Somerset Council publicly expressed its concern that the hydro-fracturing process could contaminate the water courses leading to the natural hot springs – one the region’s major tourist attractions.

Labels: ,

‘Suspension will allow reform to continue and be rewarded" - MEP Girling on Burma EU sanctions

Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Earlier today the South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling spoke during the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in the debate on the situation in Burma. Recalling her participation in the historic first official delegation visit from the European Parliament, Mrs Girling spoke of her admiration for Burmese democracy and human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi and her support to the calls for the suspension – not full lifting – of sanctions by the EU in recognition of the changes taking place in the country.

Here is the transcript of her intervention in the debate:

"Mr President, I was also privileged to be part of the Parliament delegation to Burma. I had the pleasure of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in her home and I can only echo the words of David Cameron when he said that everyone has been inspired by her struggle.

However, I was also struck by her very cautious attitude to the way ahead. She was absolutely clear that any rush to completely remove sanctions would be premature and reminded us what happened after the last ‘free and fair’ elections in her country – that is, within months, the entire cohort of successful candidates were in prison as the military junta cracked down. She has welcomed proposals to suspend rather than lift sanctions and I believe that this is now the appropriate way forward. Suspension will allow reform to continue and be rewarded but serve as a reminder that the world is still watching.

On the other hand, I would also like to stress that it is vitally important for the well-being of the people of Burma that we move quickly towards opening up the economy and encouraging strong and fair governance, both politically and financially. European companies can, and should, play an important part in harnessing the entrepreneurial flair of the Burmese people and I look forward to seeing them thrive."


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.