From the Revd Michael Roberts
Sir, - The Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson (Comment, 1 August)
has clearly put forward the case for disinvestment. Many, however,
are not as nuanced as Dr Atkinson, with his provisos suggesting
that investment in fossil fuels should continue if given a green
emphasis, and coal and tar sands are eschewed. I totally agree with
that, but he makes no mention of the fossil fuel that will be part
of our energy mix for decades and will reduce emissions: shale gas
or fracked gas, and similar sources of methane.
It is much cleaner than coal or diesel, and, if buses and
lorries were powered by gas rather than diesels, mortality rates
would drop in our cities - and emissions would fall as they have in
the United States. It is odd to note that in 2008 natural gas was
hailed by greens as the best fuel to replace coal, and now, when it
is plentiful, it is shunned by many.
In recent years, Christian greens have been totally hostile to
fracking, and usually do little more than repeat the errors of
Gasland or green NGOs such as Greenpeace. I read Michael
Northcott's A Political Theology of Climate Change,
reviewed by Dr Atkinson (Books, same
issue), with amazement, not only for its conclusion appealing
to the Venite to argue that fossil fuels should stay in the ground,
but for its scientific and technical inaccuracies.
I was stunned to read that "Oil is the principal source of
nitrogen for agricultural fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticide."
Nitrogen makes up no more than two per cent of oil, and the
principle source of nitrogen is the air.
I was even more amazed at his brief treatment of fracking. He
states: "Studies indicate that as much methane is emitted into the
water table, and into the atmosphere, as is captured by the
wellheads." He cites two papers, which only claim that up to ten
per cent is lost. That is not 50 per cent!
Further, he should have noted that these estimates (based on
research funded by anti-fracking charities) are considerably higher
than other studies, which put it at less than five per cent. He
then makes unjustified assertions that fracking causes the
toxification of groundwater (it may do when drilling is carried out
in a slipshod way), and that greenhouse emissions are "equivalent
to or above those of coal extraction". This comes from the same
sources, and is simply inaccurate. This kind of cherry-picking of
the literature should not take place. Sadly, since fracking
appeared on the stage, I have not seen one accurate Christian
assessment, except for one in The Church of Ireland
Gazette, by a fellow geologist.
Perhaps the best thing the Churches can do is to invest in shale
gas and hold the companies to safe and environmentally sensitive
extraction. That would fulfil Dr Atkinson's provisos. This is our
best hope for the future, rather than disinvestment and
demonisation of the cleanest fossil fuel, with the attendant risks
of increasing fuel poverty and a declining economy.
35 Worcester Avenue
Garstang PR3 1FJ
From Mr Paul Wilson
Sir, - The Assistant Bishop of Southwark may desire to make the
cost of power more expensive for individuals and business by
closing coal- and gas-fired power stations, but his (EIAG)
rationale is highly questionable, if not plain wrong.
The last time this country was reliant on "clean" fuel, there
were fewer than ten million people to feed, clothe, and heat, and
only modest industry, and the working poor died of consumption in
their cold, damp hovels in alarming numbers every winter.
Industry will become increasingly uncompetitive, and a large
proportion of the more than 60 million people needing work and
living wages will be faced with decreasing work opportunities and
cold, damp winters. The world is a village now, and a very
competitive one. Some industries already avoid this country because
of the cost of fuel.
And why would any companybe concerned if the Church
"disinvested"? The Commissioners invest for the benefit of clergy,
not the benefit of the company. Any shares "divested" will only be
sold to another investor or institution, of which there will be no
PAUL WILSON (Lay Canon)
60 The Mount, Curdworth
Sutton Coldfield B76 9HR