Saturday, August 24, 2013

Double standards or setting standards?

Sou | 5:49 PM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

There's a "Friday Funny" on WUWT today in which Eric Worral pokes fun at some fracking protesters.  (Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing - injecting water into underground rock to break it up.  The process is becoming more common as sources of gas and oil become more scarce.)

The protesters are not ostensibly protesting the extraction of oil (or gas) in their neighbourhood so much as protesting the fracking process.  In this particular case the site is in Balcombe, a village in Sussex in England.  The site is apparently known as Lower Stumble.  All so very country English.

England has changed beyond all recognition in the last few decades.  Some things are probably the same.  England is still on a small green island in the North Atlantic.  There are probably still people who live in villages who've never been more than five miles from their place of birth and that of their forebears going back five hundred years or more.  Though they would be fewer and fewer.

There are English who love their countryside.  This fierce protective nature crosses boundaries of class and culture and can be traced back to feudal times and probably even earlier.

The English have a reputation for being understated, mannered, orderly and well-behaved.  If one person stops in a street for more than 30 seconds, as often as not a queue will form behind them :D  However when pushed too far the English have a tendency to push back.  You may recall Greenham Common, the poll tax riots, coal miner strikes, police strikes and other protests going way back in time.

Balcombe has a Parish Council, which conducted a poll of residents for their attitude towards fracking.  Of the 284 polling cards returned, 82% or 234 said that the Council should oppose fracking.  The top reasons  for objecting, after increased traffic, were all related to concern for the impact on the environment.  Balcombe has about 1700 residents.  So 17% of residents returned a card.  Allowing for the fact that a proportion of residents will be children, 17% is not a bad return but I've seen better - and much worse.

It's hard to imagine any mining activity in Sussex.  I don't think there are any coal mines there.  One thinks of green meadows, narrow roads and tiny villages when one thinks of Sussex.  Or maybe gaudy Brighton pier or the Battle of Hastings.

However there have been mines in Sussex.  I've discovered that way back in neolithic times, around 4,000 BC flint was mined for tools.  Much more recently, since the late nineteenth century, gypsum has been mined.  The largest gypsum deposit in the UK is located in Sussex.

I'm straying from the point.  Is it hypocritical to protest fracking for oil while using oil products, like plastics?  It is being argued on WUWT that it is.  One person commented that using that argument, a meat eater (or wool wearer, or leather owner) would be hypocritical if they expressed concern about animal welfare.

Kajajuk says:
August 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm  Consumers of plastics have their concerns with fracking mute by their consumption? Cool.  So as a meat eater i can have no objections to the way animals are grown and harvested for food. That’s brilliant! As i use electricity, likely generated by nuclear power stations, mum is the word…shhhh

I would argue that WUWT is applying double standards.  Many science deniers on WUWT strongly oppose wind power generation, making up all sorts of reasons such as "it kills birds".  Yet most of these same people don't oppose hunting, motor vehicles, electricity distribution or tall buildings, which kill many more birds than do wind turbines.  And that's not counting the complete destruction of habitat caused by open cut mines of coal and uranium.  (I expect their attitude towards cats varies.)

One prolific WUWT writer, wondering Willis Eschenbach, even wants to turn every less-developed nation into a Beijing - smog and all.  He reckons that only fossil fuel is any good for energy production and seems to oppose any form of clean energy.  He even proposes using up every bit of fossil fuel that can be mined as soon as possible, despite the fact that he calculates the world would run out in only 80 years or so if it did so.

Thing is, that if not for environmental movements and environmental activism in the sixties and early seventies, the world would probably have taken a lot longer to introduced clean air and other environmental protection legislation.  Los Angeles, Sydney and London would have suffered more extreme pollution days for many more years than they have.

Back to fracking.  Is it dangerous?  Does it pose a risk to ground water?  What about the stability of the land in the region or further afield?  Although it's not a new process, it does seem it's being used more often and in more places, because oil and gas in easy to get places is pretty well all extracted.  So we're going for the more difficult deposits - in the ocean and on land.  Fracking makes it easier to extract the oil.

Finally, I don't agree that there is any hypocrisy in objecting to a process used to get resources while still accepting the benefit of the resources themselves.

WUWT readers and others are free to object to the process by which energy is produced.  They can object to clean energy without objecting to energy as such.  They can even, as they do, object to clean energy because they favour dirty energy.  They can and do object to safer forms of energy while favouring less benign forms of energy.  It seems odd to the rational person and speaks to their values, but it's not necessarily hypocritical.

What is a display of double standards, to my way of thinking, is to object to people opposing fracking on the grounds they are being hypocritical (because they use oil products), while at the same time objecting to clean energy while being happy enough to use clean energy when it's available.

One last thought in this meandering article, some of the greatest conservationists have been conservative politicians.  In my own state, Victorian Premier Dick Hamer was a champion of the environment and conservation and remained so after he left politics.  In the USA, conservative President Theodore Roosevelt arguably did more to conserve areas of land as national parks than anyone before or since.  Philanthropists of conservative persuasion have similarly done much good work when it comes to protecting the earth.  So it does seem strange that so many conservatives argue against protecting the environment, argue against clean energy and argue for practices that pose known and unknown risks to our world.


  1. Teddy Roosevelt may have been a Republican, but it would be hard to call him a conservative. In fact he is widely recognized as a leader in the Progressive movement of the era, championing much stricter control of corporate misbehavior in addition to his conservationist achievements. The Republicans of his era were much different than the brain damaged party we see which is hell bent on destroying the USA.

    1. You could say the same about Sir Rupert Hamer I guess. Comparing him to the leader of the opposition Liberal Party (conservative party) in Australia, Tony Abbott, would be unthinkable. Tony Abbott models himself on the right wing of the current Republican party in the USA.

      But Hamer led the same Liberal party in Victoria.

      I think the meaning of 'conservative' has changed, not that Hamer (and maybe Roosevelt) were not conservative.


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