How unpopular is Liz Truss’s Government

Liz Truss’s government is as unpopular as John Major’s was after Black Wednesday – this matters

The window of opportunity for the Prime Minister to win back disillusioned Conservative voters is rapidly diminishing.

By Ben Walker

A new survey by Ipsos (formerly Ipsos Mori) shows a lot of uncertainty among voters over Truss. Former prime ministers such as Gordon Brown and John Major polled just as high for uncertainty when they took office. But the number of voters actively approving of Truss is the lowest of all modern PMs: just 27 per cent say they are satisfied with her time as Prime Minister so far.

 

This 27 per cent isn’t too dissimilar from Boris Johnson’s rating of 31 per cent when he took office in 2019. But unlike Johnson, Truss isn’t pulling ahead of the leader of the opposition on all of the key metrics. Keir Starmer, while a damp squib with a few too many voters – not least a substantive share of those who voted Labour in 2019 – is at least far ahead in areas such as honesty and judgement.

The problem for Truss is that few voters see her as a major improvement on Johnson. Whereas 26 per cent thought of Johnson as capable, only 32 per cent think the same of Truss. That is an improvement, sure, but it’s not much.

While almost two thirds of voters viewed Johnson as out of touch in May of this year, 49 per cent say the same of Truss. For a figure who is an unknown quantity to some 44 per cent of Britons, these perceptions are problematic and suggest the public mood could sour quickly if she fails to impress. Just 23 per cent say Truss gives them confidence about Britain’s future. A low figure indeed but her saving grace is that an equal proportion say the same of Starmer.

Seventy per cent, meanwhile, look poorly on the current government. Just 20 per cent are satisfied with the way it’s running the country. The net figures here bear a striking resemblance to the proportion that was dissatisfied with the Brown administration during the 2008 financial crisis, Theresa May’s during the Brexit wars, and John Major’s in the wake of Black Wednesday in 1992.

This isn’t good. You are a new government and yet you are as unpopular as Labour was after 11 years in office. You are as unpopular as May was after deadlocked votes on the number one issue of the day. And you are as unpopular as Major was after an economic calamity.

The political priority for Truss’s government is showing that it has the ability to manage the cost-of-living crisis. But after a mini-budget marred by political outrage over tax cuts for the rich, and a revolt in financial markets, the opportunity for the new PM to win voter confidence is diminishing by the day.

Daily accuses Truss of taking readers ‘for fools’ on front page

A regional daily accused ministers of taking its readers “for fools” on its front page after the fracking ban was lifted.

The Lancashire Post depicted Prime Minister Liz Truss and Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg as laughing at its patch when it covered the issue on Friday.

.Mr Rees-Mogg has said local people will be consulted before drilling resumes in any part of the country, but accused Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband and others who spoke out against it of being “luddites”.

LP fools

Mr Rees-Mogg added: “The scare stories have been disproved time and again. The hysteria about seismic activity, I think, fails to understand that the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale.

“People seem to think it is a straight arithmetic scale, which of course it is not.”

But his comments provoked anger from the Preston-based Post, which ran with the headline ‘They think you’re fools’.

Post editor Nicola Adam told HTFP: “As always, the Post takes a balanced approach to news, even polarising subjects like fracking.

“But as a local title impacted by this industry we will fight the corner of our readers and residents – and having their views and concerns belittled and condescended to so thoroughly, and with so little research, within the House of Commons, is unacceptable.

“The people of Lancashire have not reacted with ‘hysteria’ nor are they Luddites. They are a hard working community, and many are genuinely concerned about the impact of the fracking industry on their lives following earthquakes in the local area and subsequent safety fears.

“There was a reason fracking was halted – and it was very much down to science – not because Lancastrians object to job creation or energy production in principle.

“We would ask if politicians so dismissive of residents’ concerns would back fracking next door to their family homes? “

by David Sharman Published 26 Sep 2022                                                           Last updated 27 Sep 2022

Lancashire’s anti-fracking nanas return to battleground after Government U-turn

We’re going to keep on hammering this until we get the proper ban on fracking”

 

 

For eight years, a group of women helped lead the fight against unwelcome, unpopular and seemingly unsafe fracking in Lancashire.

A regular presence by the Preston New Road Cuadrilla site, the ‘Lancashire Nanas’ were distinctively dressed in yellow as they held vigils and protests, blocked roads, and even chained themselves to fences. The fight wasn’t without risks, with some arrested and others aware of the frustration caused to the powerful energy firm.

For a short while, it seemed as though their efforts had proved enough. A moratorium on fracking was put in place in 2019 and was hoped to be the end of the practice. A few nervous years followed as the prospect of the ban being overturned loomed large.

And those worst fears were confirmed this week as Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed the news they’d been fearing – a return of fracking with the rather vague caveat that it needed “local support”.

Protesters are now back in their dozens following the Government U-turn yesterday, prepared to battle again to make it clear that drilling for shale gas will not be welcomed in Lancahire. Mirror Online joined the front line this week at the site operated by British energy firm Cuadrilla until the tremor in 2019. Locals fear it could be one of the first to see a new application made.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross, said “ripping up the rules that protect people would send shockwaves through local communities.” But while politicians and environmental groups wade in, it is people like retiree Barbara Richardson, 66, who will create the Government’s biggest headaches.

Fracking and the Precautionary Principle

The UK Government has lifted the prohibition on fracking.The risks associated with fracking have been much discussed. There is widespread agreement that earthquakes cannot be excluded.

By Charles Foster

The precautionary principle springs immediately to mind. There are many iterations of this principle. The gist of the principle, and the gist of the objections to it, are helpfully summarised as follows:

In the regulation of environmental, health and safety risks, “precautionary principles” state, in their most stringent form, that new technologies and policies should be rejected unless and until they can be shown to be safe. Such principles come in many shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of strength, but the common theme is to place the burden of uncertainty on proponents of potentially unsafe technologies and policies. Critics of precautionary principles urge that the status quo itself carries risks, either on the very same margins that concern the advocates of such principles or else on different margins; more generally, the costs of such principles may outweigh the benefits. 

Whichever version of the principle one adopts, it seems that the UK Government’s decision falls foul of it. Even if one accepts (controversially) that the increased flow of gas from fracking will not in itself cause harm (by way of climate disruption), it seems impossible to say that any identifiable benefit from the additional gas (which could only be by way of reduced fuel prices) clearly outweighs the potential non-excludable risk from earthquakes (even if that risk is very small).

If that’s right, can the law do anything about it?

The principle has been invoked in the courts. The Court of Justice of the EU (‘the European Court’), for instance, observed that:

[Whether to have recourse to the precautionary principle depends as a general rule on the level of protection chosen by the competent authority in the exercise of its discretion . . . .

That choice must, however, comply with the principle that the protection of public health, safety and the environment is to take precedence over economic interests . . .’1

That last paragraph looks hopeful for fracking objectors. Or it would if the UK were still in the EU.

But EU law is rather disappointing. A recent exhaustive review of the precautionary principle in EU law concludes:

‘that judicial review can hardly do justice to the precautionary principle, as applicable to the risk management process and underpinning EU legislative frameworks. It will ultimately rest on EU risk managers and EU legislators to ensure that the principle is applied and that its overarching goals are pursued.’

There are some reasons (I hesitate to say that they are good reasons) why a general approach to the precautionary principle should be so cautious. But would they, if EU law extended to the UK, apply to the case of fracking?

Could any reasonable decision-maker, balancing the risk of earthquake against the benefit of a tiny reduction in fuel prices, take the risk? The balancing act concerned isn’t one that can rationally be delegated to risk managers or regulators. The irrationality is at the legislative source. EU law might have provided a remedy.

But we’re now beyond the reach of the European Court, and soon retained aspects of EU law will be excised from English law.

 

What is the problem with UK Fracking

The first problem is that there simply isn’t enough gas. For fracking to become a viable business on a large scale in the UK, an enormous geological resource of shale gas is necessary. The enthusiasm for shale gas tests in the UK between 2011 and 2019 was founded on government-commissioned reports from the British Geological Survey (BGS), which predicted that several tens of years of gas supplies would exist beneath central and northern England, south Might be possible. Eastern England and Central Scotland.

But such reports are clearly speculative, and always calculate the maximum possible resource. Typically, after more detailed work, commercially viable reserves do not exceed 10% of the original estimate.

In the UK, the results of exploratory drilling were mostly poor. The drilling triggered several small and several moderate earthquakes. To add further insult, rock samples were analyzed and found to contain only small amounts of extractable gas or oil.

The gas and oil that is there is not at the extreme underground pressures found in the more successful shale fields of the US and Canada. These high pressures are a sign that there is too much fuel to extract easily.

The idea that the UK has a similarly vast potential shale gas resource implied that its shales had not already generated the gas – that potential was still to come. However, laboratory results suggest that the gas may have already been generated in these rocks in the geological past. Over millions of years, Britain’s landmass has been buried, raised, reburied and destroyed. This complex geological history has provided many opportunities for gas to leak through many of the country’s faults and crevices so that only remnants remain. If the UK wants to develop a major US-style fracking industry, 280 million years is too late.

Even if enough gas is discovered, the challenge is to bring in specialist equipment and skilled people for drilling and development. Thousands of boreholes would be needed over ten years to produce the gas in abundance for the country. The disposal of huge amounts of salty and radioactive wastewater is actually another major challenge.

No wonder the UK government is wary of saying that the agreement of local residents is needed before fracking can proceed. Because fracking has a difficult history in the UK, and was only imposed top-down by the David Cameron government, there is widespread suspicion and mistrust in the communities affected by the proposed drilling.

Those doubts can probably be turned into acceptance by long conversations, providing better information, and building trust – but that takes years. Another option proposed by some shell developers would be to pay cash directly to local residents and communities – up to 6% of initial revenue in some cases. America shows that sharing financial spoils can provide quick routes to change opinions. But stronger regulation is needed to prevent shale developers from paying a community to support development, then rapidly exiting an area once the gas is exhausted, and abandoning the consequences. A broken borehole drilled in 2019 near Preston still hasn’t been plugged.

A long time ago Britain had a lot of onshore shale oil and gas. But because the country has an inaccurate geological history, oil and gas have been long gone, overflowing with abundant faults and fractures. American and Canadian geology is very simple, and that’s why their shale gas is still there.

Solar and wind make electricity cheaper than gas, and methane leaks are warming the world to a great extent. Both the International Energy Agency and the IPCC clearly state that there is a need to sharply reduce fossil fuel production. Why would the UK destroy its best international reputation and the world-leading clean energy industries of the future? Fracking in the UK poses a number of commercial and technical challenges, which may or may not be overcome, there is a vast public perception legacy to convert, and an environmentally acceptable path remains unclear.

Jacob Rees-Mogg faces protests in Somerset

 

Protestors in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s own constituency have expressed anger over the government’s decision to lift a ban on fracking.

The North East Somerset MP and Business Secretary made the announcement last Thursday, but some local residents strongly disagree with the decision.

A ban on fracking in England  was put in place in 2019 due to concerns about earth tremors.

Mr Rees-Mogg said allowing fracking will help with the energy crisis. He promised local people would be consulted before fracking gets under way in their area.

British Geological Survey maps show there could be shale gas under his constituency, but although licences have been granted in North East Somerset, no drilling has taken place.

Concerned protesters attending a small demonstration in Monkton Combe, near Bath, said renewable energy is the answer.

Member of Parents for Future UK, Charlotte Howell-Jones, who organised the demonstration, said: “We’re here to say that as communities we don’t want fracking, we don’t want new oil and gas, we want clean, cheap renewable energy.

“New oil and gas isn’t going to lower our bills, it is only going to raise our emissions and it is imperative at this point for everyone in the UK that our bills come down and our emissions come down.” Ms Howell-Jones said recent research says more than 75% of the UK support onshore wind farms whereas only 17% support fracking.

“Fracking takes a lot more energy to get the shale gas out of the ground, a lot more than oil and gas, renewable energy is now nine times cheaper than UK gas, and these oil and gas fields are going to take ages to come on board, so renewable energy is actually the answer.”

Fracking in the UK has been a controversial subject within local communities and amongst MPs due to its association with minor earthquakes.

Prime Minister Liz Truss has backed fracking as a way to help boost the UK’s domestic gas supplies during a time of skyrocketing energy prices.

She pledged that local support would be needed for sites to go ahead – and the Conservative manifesto for the 2019 general election said fracking would only be reconsidered if “the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”. But resident Sal Gould said she does not believe the county should be investing in more fossil fuel projects.

“I’m frustrated, worried, it just doesn’t make any sense at all, and I just can’t get my head around why they are doing it,” she said. “I think he [Jacob-Rees-Mogg] is going against what the scientists are saying, and he just needs to listen to scientists and the people.

“People are worried now and ready to do something different [renewables].”

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Tina speaks out

Tina Rothery is a Blackpool resident, campaigner and co-founder of Nanas Against Fracking.

Hysterical “luddites” funded by Russia was how Jacob Rees-Mogg, in parliament yesterday, described concerned residentsopposed to fracking in England. What a slap in the face for those of us who have spent more than a decade trying to protect our communities from the dangerous, polluting shale gas industry. We have never received so much as a rouble or a vodka shot for our efforts.

Here in Lancashire, we actually believed we had won this fight – twice. Our first victory was in 2015, when Lancashire county council rejected planning applications from the fracking firm Cuadrilla for two large sites between Preston and Blackpool. This decision was overruled by Westminster in 2016, and work began in 2017 to transform the Preston New Road site from a field where cows graze into a shale gas site. Nanas against fracking, a group I co-founded, started protesting at the site that day too, and continued for more than 1,000 days.

Our second short-lived victory came in November 2019, when the government had to halt fracking and put a moratorium in place, because the work had set off an earthquake measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale. Even if it is possible to monitor earthquakes, which are one of the most immediately dangerous risks of fracking, the government had to face the fact that you can’t control them. The moratorium brought some relief to local residents and campaigners; although, of course, we wanted an outright ban put in place in order to finally draw a line under this and feel at ease again.

The government’s decision to lift the moratorium yesterday sent shockwaves through our community.  As an anti-fracking Nana, I know how much time and energy it takes to confront a heavily financed industry, while the government acts as its cheerleaders and police are used as security on fracking sites. My fellow Nanas Against Fracking feel angry and confused, as though we have been here before. In addition to earthquakes, we are racked with other worries, such as whether home insurance premiums will increase, as they have done for people living in areas near shale gas fracking sites in the US. Will we, like some of them, see higher incidences of childhood leukaemia ? What about the issues with maternal health – for example, an increased rate of stillbirths, for which there is some evidence in Utah ? What will be the impacts of the waste and methane released by fracking? Has the value of our properties already dropped?

Witnessing this gross failure of democracy can feel hopeless. I remember an older man in Balcombe in 2013 looking out of the window of a teashop in the village as it became populated with protesters. He said he had believed that working, paying his taxes, never breaking the law, raising his family, and owning his home meant that he was part of a democratic society, that he could call on the government if he felt at risk. But his MP – Francis Maude, who appointed Lord Browne, the chairman of Cuadrilla, as the government’s senior business adviser – did little to help. Seeing our protest, the man said he was relieved. He had been worried about what fracking would do to the health and wellbeing of people living in Balcombe, and that we were the only ones who heeded his call.

There is a place for nonviolent direct action too. It helps to infuse activism with joy. If you want to undertake a 1,000-day protest like ours, you have to come up with ways to motivate each other – such as acknowledging wins to be had before the primary goal is reached. We watched the share prices of the Australian firm AJ Lucas (Cuadrilla’s parent company), and celebrated when they fell after delays and bad press brought about by our activities at its site. We rejoiced in every new face who joined the movement (and those people who returned again and became familiar faces). We danced, sang and shared food.

The hardest thing about activism is stepping into it. Who would sanely choose to live in opposition to a more powerful force? To knowingly arrive each day accepting that arrest, violence and abuse are a certainty? We used to give public talks to communities at risk of fracking, and I called the talk The Unwelcome Gift of Truth. I hated informing residents of what was to come, because I knew the vast majority would find it impossible to ignore the risks their families would face; that they too would fall through the door marked “activism”, and maybe, like me, be unable to find the exit. How do you “unknow” the facts? How can anyone simply stand aside and trust that the government or its toothless regulatory bodies will keep us safe from this industry?

Yesterday, my fellow anti-fracking Nana, Anjie Mosher, told me: “Although the government has almost removed all right to protest, I will still peacefully stand up to do whatever I can to slow down and stop this industry before irreparable damage is done.” I’ll be doing the same, and I hope you will too.

 

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Reaction to fracking go-ahead

Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth also cite reports warning that fracking could “potentially contaminate” groundwater due to the chemicals used in the process; will increase noise and industrialization in quiet rural areas; uses large amounts of water; and risks further earthquakes of unpredictable frequency and strength.

Cuadrilla says the clay on its site is “very well suited” to fracking and that it would conduct daily seismicity monitoring if operations restart. It also says that polyacrylamide — the chemical it uses — has been assessed by the Environment Agency as non-hazardous to groundwater and forms 0.05% of frack fluid.

A report commissioned by the government in April and published Thursday found it was still not possible to accurately predict geological activity as a result of U.K. fracking operations. But in a reversal of its 2019 position, the government now says more sites will need to be drilled to investigate further, while Rees-Mogg told the BBC this week the government will look to raise the level of seismic activity allowed at fracking sites going forward.

Some investors certainly see potential for a restart in operations, with shares of onshore oil and gas company Egdon Resources — listed on the U.K.’s Alternative Investment Market — up 6.3% Thursday and up 365% this year.

However, analysts say many hurdles remain, not least regulation, environmental concerns and the operational complexities. The are four main areas identified as potentially viable for shale gas extraction and more than 100 sites have been granted exploration licenses for fracking, but these still need permits from various regulatory bodies to progress further, along with political backing.

“While currently high energy prices may improve the potential economic viability of fracking in the UK, it may be less certain over the longer term,” Tobias Wagner, senior credit officer at Moody’s, told CNBC.

“It remains to be seen to what degree companies are willing to invest at scale given the uncertainties and concerns,” he said.

 

REACTION FROM DRILL OR DROP

 

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FRACKING CAN GO AHEAD IN ENGLAND

Fracking can go ahead in England, the government said on Thursday, lifting a ban on the controversial process.

A moratorium was put in place in 2019 following concerns over earth tremors.

But with the energy crisis worsening globally and world leaders scrambling to secure energy supplies, the question has been reopened.

The decision comes alongside the publication of a new scientific review into the practice by the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The BGS has concluded there is still a limited understanding of the impacts of such drilling – a way of mining gas and oil from shale rock.

 

“In light of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority”, Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said in a statement announcing the end of the ban.

Fracking in the UK has been a controversial subject within local communities and amongst MPs due to its association with minor earthquakes.

In 2019, at oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire, more than 120 tremors were recorded – although most were too small to be felt.

Alongside the announcement on Thursday the government published a new review, commissioned in April, from the British Geological Survey (BGS) which considers any changes to the science around the practice.

On the risk of larger tremors from fracking the report concludes: “Forecasting the occurrence of large earthquakes… remains a scientific challenge for the geoscience community.”

Within shale rock there can be small faults and areas of stress. During drilling, water is injected into the rock to extract the gas. The water lubricates the shale rock, moving parts of the rock along these faults. This movement can trigger a tremor.

The BGS points out that although there has been progress in identifying these faults there is limited exploration and therefore “it is not possible to identify all faults that could host earthquakes with magnitudes of up to 3…even with the best available data”.

“The BGS report indicates that in terms of the science, little has changed since the 2019 moratorium on fracking,” said Honorary Professor Andrew Aplin, at Durham University Earth Sciences Department. He was not involved in the review.

This worries campaigners and locals who fought to stop the practice.

“Ripping up the rules that protect people from fracking would send shockwaves through local communities,” said Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross.

“This announcement suggests that the government is planning to throw communities under the bus by forcing them to accept ‘a higher degree of risk and disturbance.”

But Rees-Mogg said in his statement that: “tolerating a higher degree of risk and disturbance appears to us (the government) to be in the national interest given the circumstances.”

WHAT MP'S SAY

 

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A few Comments on the Liz Truss Announcement

“Liz Truss’s energy plans show the UK has effectively abandoned net-zero targets just three years after its world-leading commitment to cutting emissions.”         The government’s former Chief Scientific Advisor 

A major new fossil fuels campaign, including lifting the ban on fracking and expanding drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea.                                                                         The new prime minister’s administration              (In July 2022 Daily onshore oil production in the North Sea was still at historically low levels despite increasing oil prices.)

The drive for more oil and gas production was “completely at odds” with the UK’s legally binding net-zero target, Furthermore, it would bring large quantities of greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels to the market directly ahead of the 2050 deadline for reaching zero. The plans, announced last week by the prime minister’s new energy secretary, Jacob-Rees Mogg, were “extremely alarming”.

We’re looking at a situation where the crisis is with us here today,” . But we don’t recognise that when we say ‘let’s go ahead and start new fracking operations in this country’. It beggars belief. What it seems to show is that the leadership in the government does not understand the nature of the climate crisis.                                                                                         Sir David King, head of the Climate   Advisory Group, who was chief scientific adviser to the government between 2000 and 2007.

“We are lifting the moratorium on fracking. We will extract every   ounce of oil and gas from the North Sea. ”                                                                                            Rees-Mogg, (who has previously dismissed climate science as “alarmism”, )

During Ms Truss’s leadership campaign, she derided the role that renewable energy increasingly plays in the energy system, in particular solar power, which has become the “cheapest electricity in history”,  (IEA).

 “Sir David King speaks the truth. Most sensible countries realise that the economically rational course is to drive rapidly for zero emissions, because it boosts the whole economy and tackles the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis in one fell swoop”.

“Truss’s current energy plans will do nothing for the economy any time soon, and will in fact create substantial stranded asset risks.” 

“Further, they accelerate climate breakdown, contributing to the deadly heatwaves and floods we see around the world, and do nothing to impact the soaring costs of energy that will leave households and the national overdraft in trouble for years to come.”

“If Truss and Rees-Mogg continue on this course, it begs the question – whose interests are they serving?”

Sir David suggested the leadership of the country was using Russia’s war in Ukraine as an opportunity to expand the use of fossil fuels – even though doing so failed to address either the climate crisis or the energy crisis. He said: “The immediate consequence of the Russia -Ukraine war is that energy prices have gone shooting up. The response to that [should be] to build more renewable energy – we can use an extension of an already successful operation.”

“The opposite is to say ‘let’s use this as an opportunity to develop our oil and gas reserves’ – using the war as an opportunity to do this, knowing it has nothing to do with managing the short-term problems of the war”.

“All of that indicates massive cynicism at the top of government. What they’re saying is ‘we’re not going to be in government in 2050, but we don’t believe in the net-zero target’.”                                                                                                                                    Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s policy director

 Sir David was “right to raise the alarm about the government’s enthusiasm for fracking and drilling more gas and oil. He said: “At best, it’s difficult to see how this enthusiasm for new fossil fuels is compatible with the prime minister’s commitment to deliver on the UK’s climate targets. At worst, it’s a sign that the new government is more interested in placating wealthy fossil fuel lobbyists than it is in tackling the mounting climate emergency and addressing the energy crisis for good.”

Energy experts have repeatedly called on the Government to expand support for renewable energy technology and storage, implement a national insulation programme, invest in rolling out more heat pumps and halt investment in fossil fuel programmes.                                               Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy,

 

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