Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Shale Gas and the Environment: Engaging with the Public

"Communication with the Public," the title of an interactive session at the

Shale Gas Forum in Berlin, Germany, is not an easy task, especially when it
comes to reaching out to the public on energy-related projects that may
affect them.

Prof. Mike Stephenson, Head of Science, Energy at the British Geological
Survey, offered a case study example of how things can go awry.

"In the UK we've been working quite intensively on carbon capture storage
(CCS), introducing storing gas in salt," he said. "In Britain we've been
doing it for many many years, and it's known as one of the safest ways of
storing gas."

Stephenson said the site in question was near Blackpool, where concerned
citizens came to the fore after hearing about the construction of a CCS
facility "in their back yards."

"They are retired people, people with access to the Internet, people worried
about their house prices," he explained. "They had a bourgeois reaction."

"Just Google 'gas storage accident'," suggested Stephenson. "That was enough
to kick start an enormous campaign against gas storage, and it became an
easy way to make gas storage a frightening thing among the public."

He said this was a shame in that Britain had only nine days of reserve gas
storage compared to Germany's 70 days.

"I imagine that the reaction to shale gas will be similar," he stated.

Stephenson said that he had been engaged in a research project with
Cambridge University on acceptance of numerous energy issues, like CCS. "The
public are invited to a venue where I've given talks, I'm asked to leave and
then psychologists and sociologists monitor their opinions. Basically, the
result is you see extraordinary levels of ignorance from the public."

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