No fracking solution to climate change



Some British tabloids and oil lobbyists have jumped on comments made by an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change author that fracking could play a role in addressing climate change as an argument for it here in Aotearoa, so is fracking a green solution or not?

Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chairman of the IPCC said in a media report “The shale gas revolution can be very consistent with low-carbon development – that is quite clear. It can be very helpful as a bridge technology.” But then went on to qualify his statement with what the report actually said, that burning more gas would only cut emissions if it displaced coal.

I’ve been asked a few questions by journalists here about the claim fracking could be good for the climate and I’ve told them It’s really important that we don’t ignore the key finding of the IPCC report, that the world needs to be urgently making the shift to a completely clean, renewable energy systems. A study just published in the National Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences reveals shale gas emissions from fracking may in fact be up to 1000 times higher than earlier estimates. Fracking is not clean and it’s not renewable.

For some countries, currently heavily reliant on coal, natural gas and shale gas may help play a bridging role but New Zealand is not among those countries. Shale gas is talked about as a ‘bridge’ fuel between coal and renewables but in New Zealand it is a bridge to nowhere; we can easily, affordable and practically get to 100% renewables through wind, solar, geothermal, and using electricity smarter. However for New Zealand it is like someone who feels a little overweight and decides to quit fast food burgers to lose weight but switches to pies instead.

What the IPCC report also makes clear is if we want a safe climate for our kids we need to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 40-70% by mid-century and down to 0% by 2100. So even if we were to embrace fracking and there are plenty of environmental reasons not to, we only have 35 years or so to use it before we have to stop.

Fracking is a fossil fuel – it is a dirty, risky distraction from what NZ should be actually doing, which is moving to 100% renewables.

We can be the Saudi Arabia of wind energy and we have unbelievable untapped solar potential. There are four times more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels and we can see thousands of Kiwis in work installing insulation under peoples’ roofs and solar panels on top. We can replace our coal fired boilers with sustainable, renewable wood pellets. Fracked gas has no role to play in the transport sector and I would rather champion better public transport, like the Auckland CBD Rail Link, safer walking and cycling and electric cars than fracking.

TDB Recommends

Fracking is no solution to the climate crisis that confronts New Zealand. Clean energy is the solution to reduce emissions, grow jobs and build a richer New Zealand.



  1. Yes Gareth, the pattern for the climate change denialists is becoming clear. Now they have been forced to admit that human-induced climate change is actually reality, not fantasy, they have gone a step further. Now they are playing up the benefits of it (not that there are many) and claiming credit for it.

  2. Actually, Gareth, fracked gas does have a role to play in the transport industry, with trucks being converted to run on LNG, and ships too.

  3. Honestly – the thinking capacity of some people is difficult to understand.

    Shale gas has already resulted in the US reducing carbon emissions. Yes is a short term help – but it is helping.

    And anyone who thinks the world is going to suddenly stop using oil etc is plain stupid. The chinese and the indians all want better standards of living – and there are more of them (combined) the the USDA and all of europe. One cannot deny them the advantages the oil and coal has bought the west.

    The only solution is nuclear. When people like this airhead Hughes comes to that realisation – then progress will be made. untill then most will regard their utterances as dribble.

    • Barry,
      It seemed to me that “airhead Hughes” was only talking about an energy plan for this country that we could follow quite easily.
      The solution to the world’s energy problems is a much broader and complex problem to solve. I expect raising the Chinese and Indian living standards to Western levels, instead of lowing Western energy needs, is a recipe for disaster.
      Granted some prominent environmentalists, like Gaia’s Lovelock and the Guardian’s Monboit, feel things are so bad than nuclear energy is our only remaining option. I hope they have factored in the enormous fossil fuel costs of building and decommissioning these plants. “Andys”often bangs on about safer Thorium plants on this site, however, I have little knowledge on this subject.
      I’m afraid the bitter pill we will all have to swallow is that all of us on this planet are going to have to reduce our living standards if our environment is to remain sustainable.

      • YogiBare+

        The living standards and population both have to fall to be sustainable but it may be too late.

        Giving our best shot is probably inadequate but hope cannot include “growth”.
        That is a silly and damaging capitalist dream.

          • An interesting perceptive.

            Energy harvesting has been the driving force behind population expansion. Unfortunately the fossil fuels used to tap that cheap energy used to facilitate “growth” have not been without catastrophic cost.

            The whole denial lobby has gone on for nearly 40 years, this is since the MIT report in 1972 outlined the consequences, of our path of expansion across population , food consumption, pollution, industrialisation and energy harvesting,

            The picture forecast then backed with impressive data analysing patterns and trends.has continued right on the predicted track. Nothing new except our more sophisticated methods of collecting data have shed more light showing the situation appears to be worse than that predicted.

            Denial still reigns as the IPPC struggles to produce a picture with a most conservative report that is superseded each time showing that the ultra conservatism was misplaced. Typically each successive report shows things are much worst than the precious report stated. But scientific bodies have warned of erroneous analysis at every stage.

            Govts and the corporations that drive IPPC members, shackling them and the science represented when IPPC reports are generated.

            The mere devise of consensus makes a mockery out of the Task this body is set up to achieve.

            40 years of denial.

            40 years of big business purposefully undermining our future for short term profit of the corporate shareholders.

            40 years mind washing the public with fictitious argument.

            40 years of pouring spurn on those who have been muzzled with their message about impending catastrophic overshoot.

            Is this a good system.

            Is any Govt has not acted been responsible.

            Economics don’t really feature.

            The carnage is not a sustainable system.

            Population will reduce as will energy consumption but the impending collapse that will bring these both about is not an intelligent planned path.

            Unless the bankers have another plan which includes catastrophic collapse. If they do it certainly won’t be for those outside of a tiny selected few well fortresses from the rest.

      • What do we do with the nuclear waste?

        Continue to ship it around the worlds oceans looking for a home? Dump it on the worlds poorest nations because they’ll take it for a pittance in payment?

        That’s the biggest problem that proponents of nuclear energy can never answer. What to do with the waste. It’s pretty toxic stuff.

        I would have thought that geothermal, solar, wind and hydroelectric would be better alternatives than nuclear. That and increased efficiency of use.

    • Barry – atomic power?

      So Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima mean absolutely nothing to you?

      I don’t think it’s Gareth who is the “airhead” in this instance…

    • Barry read what Gareth said – fracking may be justifiable as a bridging technology if it replaces coal. That may be what is happening in the US but it isn’t the case in Godzone.

      Nuclear is a good energy source though — so long as it is the nuclear source called the sun.

  4. Nuclear is not a solution but another expensive mess.

    The cost of plants and the forgotten costs of waste disposal, if that were possible, makes nuclear the most expensive form of energy available many many times over. The toxicity of the waste cannot be ignored. The cooling tanks in Nuclear plants around the world are steadily filing with spent waste. Dangerous stuff and expensive to store. There is not practical solution thats why it continues to lay there without even a future plan in place.

    The problem is the massive mountains of waste accumulated are not included nor considered in in the nuclear budget. The plan seems to be to make the mess, take the profit and just walk away. But there is nowhere to go. The mess remains and the world is finite.

    Cheap energy has created the catastrophic problems we face.

    As our energy use has increased exponentially so has our use of non renewable natural resources. We have less than one third of the available resources left when compared with preindustrial times. So in about 150 years two thirds have gone and our rate of consumption is increasing along with our consumption of energy.

    Another direction is needed if humans are to allow a chance of survival.

    That appear to be too much for some to get their head around.

Comments are closed.