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Britain’s Fracking Tsar Resigns & Accuses Govt Of Caving In To Green Zealots

April 28, 2019

By Paul Homewood


Britain’s fracking tsar launches a scathing attack on the government for caving into green zealots:


The Government’s fracking ‘tsar’ today reveals her immediate resignation in The Mail on Sunday.

Natascha Engel’s decision to walk away from such a high-profile role is driven, she says, by her dismay that Ministers are jeopardising Britain’s energy security because they would rather appease noisy green campaigners than listen to scientists’ advice.

The result, she says in an exclusive interview, is that government policy is strangling the UK shale gas industry at birth – despite overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking, if properly regulated, is totally safe.

Killing off this industry, says Ms Engel, a former Labour MP, will cause higher, not lower, greenhouse-gas emissions, as we are forced to rely on increased imports of gas.

Ms Engel, 52, tells The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are facing a huge challenge from climate change, which can only be dealt with by getting serious about the energy we use. But using our own gas instead of imports will get our emissions down.’

Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is demanding zero emissions by 2025 – bringing Central London to almost a standstill for much of the past two weeks with its ‘direct action’ protests – also campaigns against fracking. This week the group will meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Ms Engel’s job – which has the official title Commissioner for Shale Gas – was to liaise between the Government, scientists, the industry and residents near potential fracking sites, and to give people factual information about the issue.

But last night, she revealed, she submitted an explosive resignation letter to Energy Secretary Greg Clark. It says she is stepping down because ‘a perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a Government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish’.

The Government, it adds, is ‘listening to a small but loud environmental movement that opposes in principle all extraction of fossil fuels. The campaign against fracking has been highly successful in raising the profile – and filling the coffers – of some campaign groups, but they do not represent local residents nor the wider population.’

The key reason for Ms Engel’s resignation is Mr Clark’s refusal to review the limit for earth tremors caused by fracking – 0.5 on the Richter scale. Tremors of this size, Ms Engel says, are so faint that detecting them requires highly sensitive equipment. The same rules do not apply to quarry blasting or construction piling, which can cause much bigger earth movements. They are also thousands of times weaker than the level 4 or 5 quakes geologists say are the smallest likely to damage buildings.

Ms Engel says: ‘A 0.5 tremor is much weaker than the rumble you might feel when walking above a Tube train. Yet if a frack unleashes a tremor rated 0.5 [caused when water is pumped underground into the shale to crack it and release the gas it holds] operators have to stop what they’re doing for 18 hours… this is making fracking impossible.’

The success of fracking in the US and Canada has led to an economic boom in these countries but also, crucially, lower emissions – because burning gas produces far less CO2 than burning coal, which it has partly replaced. In America and Canada, the limits imposed on the tremors that can legally be caused by fracking are much greater, according to Ms Engel: between 2 and 4.5 on the Richter scale.

Mr Clark has claimed that when Britain’s 0.5 limit was set in 2012, it was done ‘in consultation’ with the industry, implying that fracking firms supported it.

This, Ms Engel says, is untrue. ‘At the time, geologists and the industry fiercely objected,’ she said.

Today, UK drillers say they could operate with a limit of 1.5, ten times less than the lowest American ceiling (a level 2 tremor is ten times stronger than a level 1). When Mr Clark’s predecessor, Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, introduced the restriction, he issued a statement saying it would be reviewed when there was evidence that increasing the 0.5 limit would be safe.

Ms Engel says: ‘We have the evidence, but the only thing that’s stopping a review is the Government. Yet Mr Clark is refusing to budge and time is running out. If the Government continues to listen to campaign groups rather than science, then he is effectively putting an end to fracking in the UK.’ She adds: ‘Firms have invested hundreds of millions of pounds. They did all this on the basis that Government policy would be rational, that it would be scientific. But it’s not.’

A small minority of residents are opposed to fracking, she says.

‘But they are heavily outnumbered by people who want the benefits fracking could bring. In the areas where experimental wells have been drilled – Yorkshire, Lancashire and the East Midlands – historic industry has been destroyed, causing high levels of deprivation, and people tell me they desperately want industry jobs.

‘They are now very, very angry that a bunch of campaigners in London, backed it seems by the Government, say they can’t have them, because of almost undetectable earthquakes. Yet the Government is not listening to them.’ The irony, she says, is that by wrecking the shale gas industry, which the British Geological Survey says has the potential to supply Britain with gas for many decades, the Government is certain to increase emissions.

‘If you look at energy use as a whole, including heating and transport, gas accounts for 40 per cent of the total. There is simply no way renewables can fill that gap at the moment. We get less than five per cent of our total energy from wind and only 0.5 per cent from solar.’

Hence, she says, the inevitable consequence of killing the shale gas industry is that the quantity of gas burnt in UK homes, businesses and power stations imported from abroad will soar – and with it, the far bigger carbon footprint caused by the process of making liquified natural gas and transporting it here. Ms Engel says imported gas already costs £7 billion a year.

Moreover, by denying ourselves shale gas, ‘we are also depriving the Treasury of huge tax revenues, which could be spent on schools or the NHS’.

Ms Engel says she is also dismayed that groups such as XR, along with Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, had no concrete solutions other than to say we need political upheaval.

‘I cannot understand why politicians would rather listen to a teenager who tells children not go to school because they will soon be dead rather than looking at ways of reducing our emissions by taking gas out of the ground here.

‘We should be giving our children a positive and hopeful message: telling them to go to school, go to university, to become scientists and innovators who can find the answers to climate change.’

As fracking tsar, she says: ‘I was really excited to be part of a vision for the future, that would help restore Britain’s reputation as a creative, forward-looking country which took both emissions targets and prosperity seriously.

‘But for reasons I cannot fathom, the Government’s approach is not leadership, but paralysis.’


Whatever your views on fracking, Britain’s dependence on natural gas is indisputable, as a few simple charts show:


1) Gas still accounts for 39% of the UK’s energy consumption, compared to a paltry 3% contribution from wind, solar and hydro:




2) We import 49% of our gas requirements:



3) Although the majority of imports come via pipeline from Norway, LNG still accounts for 17% of imports:




4) Across the EU as a whole, indigenous production only supplies about a fifth of demand. About a quarter of its gas comes from Russia.

The EU is also heavily reliant on supplies from Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria.



5) In the UK, household account for about a third of gas usage. But, significantly, demand in winter peaks at four times that of summer, for obvious reasons.

Gas supply can easily be adjusted up and down to meet this demand pattern, but for the electricity system to do the same would involve a massive increase in both generating and transmission capacity.  To do so with a grid mainly reliant on intermittent renewable energy simply would not be practical, as it would raise the question of what you do with all of that surplus power in summer months.




Neither the government nor the eco zealots it seems to want into bed with have anything remotely resembling a practical plan of how to replace natural gas in our energy mix.

Which leaves us with two alternatives:

1) Make the best use of the gas resources we have.

2) Increase our reliance on imports from abroad.

I know which I would rather do.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    April 28, 2019 11:23 am

    Harrabin sticks his oar in by quoting an opinion of the unbiased Friends of the Earth; and, using the BBC’s stock and grossly misleading image of the fracking process.

  2. Gamecock permalink
    April 28, 2019 11:31 am

    Perhaps ‘tsar’ is an exaggeration.

  3. mjr permalink
    April 28, 2019 11:35 am

    GWPF have also shown in the past the comparison of gas costs to domestic and industrial consumers in UK, Europe and USA. (i think the retail consumer price in US was less than the wholesale price here). Making UK industry uncompetitive and causing fuel poverty here. You should find and show those tables.
    And isn’t it amazing that according to the Green blob, the science around Global Warming is proven …….. Yet it seems that the irrefutable scientific evidence that fracking is safe isn’t proven.

  4. April 28, 2019 11:44 am

    Harrabin tells us that the great and good think we can do without shale gas.
    We need to get rid of the idiots and get a sensibly Government that doesn’t pander to the greenblob with their insane ideas.

    • The Man at the Back permalink
      April 28, 2019 12:22 pm

      +1 Phillip.

      You just despair. The main flaw in Horrorbin’s argument is that we don’t have any great and the good to speak of.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 28, 2019 2:22 pm

      That’ll be the day, Phillip. Not a single party, as far as I can see, has any plan to do other than follow the eco-herd on this.

      Nature will win out in the end though I don’t expect to be here when it does!

      • matthew dalby permalink
        April 29, 2019 11:52 am

        Last time I looked (admittedly over a year ago) UKIP had something close to a sensible energy policy, i.e. end all subsidies for wind and focus on nuclear. As the only party to question the “consensus” on climate change they wouldn’t be likely to bow down to the zealots on fracking.

      • Rowland P permalink
        April 29, 2019 12:16 pm

        Yes, UKIP is the only Party which would campaign for the repeal of the Climate Change Act. They are also the only Party defending freedom of speech. Its members are by and large perfectly ordinary people; don’t listen to the MSM witch hunters intent on branding it as “right wing” or even “far right” in order to try and keep the status quo of the liblabcon dictatorship. And what do the Extinction Rebellion anarchists actually know about climate? I would venture b****r all!

      • Rowland P permalink
        April 29, 2019 12:29 pm

        Yes, UKIP is the only party to campaign for the repeal of the obscene Climate Change Act. They are also the only party determined to defend free speech. Don’t listen to the witch hunters of the MSM and press intent on branding it as “far right” when the vast majority of its members are ordinary people intent on trying to save this country from the EU mess; they (the MSM etc) are also intent, it seems, in preserving the status quo of the liblabcon dictatorship. Our politicians have been caught like rabbits in the headlights – frozen to the spot because of their total ignorance of the climate and meekly submitting to the anarchists now seemingly running riot on our streets. I am willing to bet that most of the Extinction Rebellion lot know absolutely b****r all about the climate.

  5. iananthonyharris permalink
    April 28, 2019 11:56 am

    This is the most left/liberal Conservative government we’ve ever had.They’ve given into the Green lobby, the trans lobby, the equality/diversity lobby, the pro-Islam/anti-Christian lobby and all the other minority lobbies that shriek loudly whenever their shibboleths are attacked. Pathetic!

  6. The Man at the Back permalink
    April 28, 2019 12:17 pm

    Well we are in a post-modern world now. Facts and reality are trumped (sorry no pun intended) by feelings now. We have discussed many times the lunacy, and environmental destruction caused by so called renewable ” free” energy.

    We are going to generate electricity by burning unicorn droppings. So electricity will be 4 or 5 times the price of gas (per unit) rather than the 3 times now.

    I have eluded in the past to the madness demonstrated in the self-build magazines who have to be fully WOKE on green matters. I mentioned that a few years ago I won “letter of the month” in two of them by pointing out the madness of the Renewable Heat Insanity (RHI) and the impossibility of the government’s “zero carbon by 2016” building regulations. Well all that went spiffingly didn’t it? I said then (as did Paul and many here) that the government’s drive towards banning gas in favour of electricity for all homes was sheer unadulterated stupidity.

    I have not read the said magazines for the last 3 years but decided that I might reverse my decision not to build for myself – I am too old really. So I bought two of the magazines this last week. I have to report that at least one person has started a kick back and listed the failings of the last decade and severely criticised the 2025 gas ban, predicting that the decision will be “re-thought out” at some point.

    What the hell Michael Gove is on (or William Hague for that matter) I don’t know.

  7. HotScot permalink
    April 28, 2019 12:19 pm

    Yea Gods, a politician actually pointing to science as evidence of the benefit of something. And a politician actually pointing out that the country is being run by minority pressure groups. And a labour politician to boot.

    Whatever next?!

    Seriously though, well done Ms. Engel for actually having the courage to call out the whole scam. Your successor now can’t ignore the matter and just sweep it under the carpet; they will take the job on in the full knowledge that the science is sound.

    • April 28, 2019 12:54 pm

      There is very little doubt that me Engel’s successor will be a member of the liberal elite. Both Roger Scruton and Toby Young were hounded out of their posts at ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ and the ‘Office for Students’ respectively for being conservative, and not members of the liberal elite. The so-called “Conservative Government” has allowed this to happen and is complicit in ensuring that all posts are now filled by left wing members of the liberal elite establishment. As Rod Liddle has put it “Nobody of a Conservative frame of mind will ever be allowed a role in government, or on a quango, not even when there is a Conservative government in office”.

      What’s to betting that the successor to Ms Engel will come from Greenpeace, FoE, WWF, the Green Alliance or a similar body?

  8. johnbillscott permalink
    April 28, 2019 12:21 pm

    A good spell of no power in winter will concentrate the minds of the people, professional protesters and politicians.

  9. Nordisch geo-climber permalink
    April 28, 2019 12:52 pm

    The LBC phone-in this morning before 10am illustrated the ignorance and stupidity of opponent’s knowledge and views of energy economics and shale gas in particular.
    One caller stated that venting methane into the atmosphere creates an effect 25 times greater than Carbon Dioxide. He didn’t seem to understand that the gas would be used as feedstock or power generation like all other sources of energy.
    Even when I write about energy policy to my local MP Rory Stewart, all I get back is the usual transition renewable BS, something we know thanks to analysts like Paul, can never work.

    We need to remember that more oil and gas has vented into the environment than man has ever produced, and at the end of the last ice age when temperatures rocketed, much permafrost disappeared and methane was released, yet there is no chemical signature of this in the atmosphere at all – it had zilch effect on climate.

    Reality has to dawn on government one day, so keep up the fight!

  10. April 28, 2019 1:20 pm

    Whrn there are rolling power cuts, as already happens in Belgium, the kids will be told it’s due to energy shortages/overpopulation/climate change.

    Same as when there is coastal flooding they will be told it’s sea level rise – not the truth, that ‘Natural England’ has a policy of not maintaining our ancient coastal defences.

  11. David Bishop permalink
    April 28, 2019 2:26 pm

    Paul, I’ve just emailed Natascha Engel in the following terms. I’m not sure how proper it is to put people’s email addresses up in public, so I’ve refrained, but if anyone else wants to to write to her, her email address can be found here, her website when she was an MP:

    Dear Ms Engel

    I write to convey my concern that you have felt compelled to resign from your position as Commissioner for Shale Gas with immediate effect. I learned about this from Paul Homewood’s first-rate site, Not A Lot Of People Know That, where you will find a high level of appreciation of your stance:

    I fully understand your reasons for your decision. While I beg to differ on your reported statement that “We are facing a huge challenge from climate change …”, I nevertheless fully support your rationale for resignation. Your excoriating message to the minister is bang on target, and coming from someone who was until yesterday an “insider”, cannot be dismissed as blather by either the minister or his minions or the rest of the green zealots who as you correctly point out now steer Britain’s pitiable energy “policy”.

    I fully support your position and urge you to continue to make the case for fracking with this mendacious and incompetent minister and wider government – and I say this as a (probably former) conservative!

    Yours sincerely
    D Bishop (Mr)

  12. Jackington permalink
    April 28, 2019 3:06 pm

    A question often asked these days What are the Conservatives actually for? They are after all the same as Labour, Lib Dems and Greens. Step forward Nigel Farage the country needs you and your party.

  13. Dave Ward permalink
    April 28, 2019 4:21 pm

    “What you do with all of that surplus power in summer months”

    Simple – store it in some batteries!

    Yes, I know – but that’s what these idiots believe….

  14. April 28, 2019 4:53 pm

    Paul, apologies if this appears twice; I’ve now removed a link I put in earlier in case that was the problem. I have emailed Ms Engel in support of her stance, and others might like to do the same to encourage her to keep up the pressure on that ignoramus Greg Clark.
    I’m not sure what the protocol is for posting people’s email addresses on a site like this, but her former site from when she was an MP is here:

    It provides an email address. If you write to that, you’ll get an automatic reply indicating that she no longer uses it, but providing a personal email address instead. I hope that doesn’t seem unduly convoluted.

    That is my message to Ms Engel:

    Dear Ms Engel

    I write to convey my concern that you have felt compelled to resign from your position as Commissioner for Shale Gas with immediate effect. I learned about this from Paul Homewood’s first-rate site, Not A Lot Of People Know That, where you will find a high level of appreciation of your stance. ( I placed a link to this piece here.)

    I fully understand your reasons for your decision. While I beg to differ on your reported statement that “We are facing a huge challenge from climate change …”, I nevertheless fully support your rationale for resignation. Your excoriating message to the minister is bang on target, and coming from someone who was until yesterday an “insider”, cannot be dismissed as blather by either the minister or his minions or the rest of the green zealots who as you correctly point out now steer Britain’s pitiable energy “policy”.

    I fully support your position and urge you to continue to make the case for fracking with this mendacious and incompetent minister and wider government – and I say this as a (probably former) Conservative voter!

    Yours sincerely
    D Bishop (Mr)

  15. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 28, 2019 7:11 pm

    I hope Natascha can write some sensible energy policy for a sensible party. She’s on the right track.

  16. Vernon E permalink
    April 28, 2019 9:23 pm

    The blind stupidity of the government’s stance is that we don’t yet know whether we do or don’t have viable shale. The permeability is everything and results so far are not encouraging. The 0.5 level is an utter nonsense but why won’t the minister compromise and allow limited and controlled fracking up to at least 1.5 to find out once and for all whether we have an asset or not.

  17. dennisambler permalink
    April 28, 2019 11:03 pm

    ‘We are facing a huge challenge from climate change”

    Unfortunate that she has to repeat the mantra, but otherwise well done.

    • April 29, 2019 11:28 am

      Should read: ‘We are facing a huge challenge from climate change propagandists’ :/

  18. Derek Smith permalink
    April 29, 2019 1:21 am

    Ms Engel, well said and well done. It seems that folk would prefer unemployment nowadays. Any gas that might come from UK fracking sites will just be replaced by gas across the interconnector pipelines from Europe. A potentially income generating industry that could pay taxes (“to save the NHS”) will be killed before birth. We’re just too Green for our own good!

  19. Tom O permalink
    April 29, 2019 4:43 pm

    A quote –
    “Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is demanding zero emissions by 2025 ”

    What an aptly named group. Zero emissions would require all animal life on Earth to cease to exist, if not all life. And then there would be the volcanoes thumbing their proverbial noses still. I have to admire such totally ignorant people, and how they can’t even grasp the meaning of the words they use.

  20. Keith Parker permalink
    April 29, 2019 9:21 pm

    Who is funding the Extinction Rebellion (XR),and other environmental protesters.
    You might be surprised at the answer to this question.


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