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Media: the wages of ignorance

Richard North, 17/12/2012  


Tel 420-hal.jpg

While us mere mortals have to struggle down in the weeds to learn something of each new and complex subject with which we have to deal, it is comforting to know that there are intellectual giants such as Liam Halligan who are able to reach down and guide us in our endeavours.

Thus does this Gifted Hack tell us not to get too excited about shale gas. And, as a measure of his great intellect, he tells us in no uncertain terms: "While I’m no geologist, reports of 'earthquakes' in Lancashire during recent 'pilot fracks' make worrying reading".

One might, however, respectfully suggest that Halligan widens his reading a tad, perhaps taking in the Royal Society study, which has this to say about these "earthquakes":
The UK has lived with seismicity induced by coal mining activities or the settlement of abandoned mines for a long time. British Geological Survey records indicate that coal mining-related seismicity is generally of smaller magnitude than natural seismicity and no larger than 4 ML. Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of even smaller magnitude. There is an emerging consensus that the magnitude of seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing would be no greater than 3 ML (felt by few people and resulting in negligible, if any, surface impacts). Recent seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing in the UK was of magnitude 2.3 ML and 1.5 ML (unlikely to be felt by anyone).
Nevertheless, the Great Man, who isn't a geologist, also tells us that shale oil and gas is far from cheap, "not least because it requires the continuous drilling of small wells, rather than the long exploitation of big wells. So constant – and costly – drilling is needed just to maintain shale output, let alone increase it". Of course, that might once have been true, but as we have recently observed, technology is changing (and improving) all the time.  Small wells are no longer needed, and the drilling isn't continuous. 

Nevertheless, it is good to see the legacy media increasing still further its "powerful reputation for accuracy", leaving me to ponder whether, if I was able to cultivate the requisite level of ignorance, I too could qualify as a Daily Telegraph journalist.

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