Thursday, May 22, 2014

An Open Letter to Mark Abbott, Managing Director of Egdon Resources.

 22nd May 2014
Dear Mark,
Thank you for coming to Donington-on-Bain Village Hall in Lincolnshire on Wednesday 21st May 2014 to present your plans for oil exploration at Biscathorpe in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  And thank you for having the patience to listen to me politely for over half an hour while I told you to change your job.  I found it an interesting conversation.
You and I both started our careers as geologists; you became a successful businessman and I a campaigner against the exploitation of fossil carbon.  We have some common ground but we are operating in different paradigms.
You came to our community to assure us that you operated in a well-regulated industry, acting at all times within the law, in accordance with UK government policy, and that you took your responsibilities towards protection of the local environment seriously.  You think you can manage your planned operations in such a way as to produce little nuisance for local residents and with little risk to the natural environment including the world-wide rare habitat of a chalk-stream.  By and large, I believe you.  There is the issue of low-risk/high-consequence events such as a major well-head explosion but let’s keep fingers crossed and leave that to one side.
I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see no mention of global warming and climate change on your display material.  When I questioned your colleague, Martin, who has responsibility for environmental protection compliance, it became clear that he was only concerned with the ‘local environment’.  Somehow the atmosphere is not part of this.  In common with other oil and gas companies involved in the UK prospect, you appear to be happy to engage with the public about the local environmental threats, which, perhaps correctly, you regard as manageable risks, but are reluctant to draw attention to global warming caused by greenhouse gasses, the end waste products of your industry.  Carbon dioxide, you might argue, is the responsibility of he who burns the carbon, not the producer.  An arms manufacture would deny responsibility for the actions of the man with the trigger finger in the same manner.  That logic cannot be applied to fugitive methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas in the short term.
I was also disappointed, and actually quite surprised, that you had not heard of Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Here’s her website: Her job is to deliver an agreement between 194 nations at the Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015, replacing the Kyoto Protocol, to provide a mechanism for carbon reduction that leads to a safe climate.  Her many recent speeches to the oil industry, governments and other significant players have highlighted the danger of the ‘carbon bubble’ and stranded assets.  These are matters that directly affect the profitability of your industry and as a managing director I am surprised that you are not keeping abreast of these developments.  You told me that you had heard of fellow geologist Jeremy Leggett and were aware of Carbon Tracker but, again, you seemed unaware of the significance of the issues raised.  I suggest you seek a meeting.  He can be contacted here
You pointed out that Egdon is a very small player and that these are really matters for the big boys.  Did you read the letter from Shell last week?  They say “In summary, Shell does not believe that any of its proven reserves will become ‘stranded’ as a result of current or reasonably foreseeable future legislation concerning carbon”.  Thus they believe that Christiana Figueres will fail in her task and COP21 will not deliver the agreement required to limit climate change safely.  Sadly, they may be right, but that will spell the end of civilisation as we know it and perhaps worse.  The consequences of failure have begun to be spelled out by the World Bank particularly in their report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided Shell admit the problem in their 16th May letter: “We concur with the view in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that there is a high degree of confidence that global warming will exceed 2° by the end of the 21st century.”
From our conversation, Mark, it seems to me that your position is aligned with that of Shell.  You accept that global warming and the consequent climate change are real and are caused largely by man’s emission of greenhouse gasses.  You expect the continued use of fossil carbon, though declining over, as you put it, ‘the next few decades’.  You argue that exploiting the UK’s resources of oil and natural gas, in line with government policy, helps the UK economy and energy security and the generated wealth can be used to speed the transition to a low-carbon future.
All well and good, if only we had the luxury of time.  Sadly we don’t; there is no longer a ‘carbon budget’ left.  David Spratt explains this in his blog this morning at 
Last night the topic of ice melt came up in our conversation.  You said that you had read about it on the BBC website.  I was disappointed that you use the main-stream media as a filter for information central to your industry’s long term future.  As a geophysicist, you are part of that small proportion of the population able to read und understand the scientific literature, even in a field not directly your own.  Yet rather than reading the source papers you rely on journalism for a lay audience.  I suggest you follow the references given here by Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief just the day before yesterday.  You will see that we are already committed to the loss of many of the world’s largest cities and vast stretches of the best agricultural land to rising sea level, even if we stopped all carbon burning today.  On your journey to Donington-on-Bain, perhaps you visited the nearby market town of Louth.  Next year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the completion of the church spire.  In another 500 years it will only be visible to the jellyfish.  The areas most at risk are graphically illustrated in this piece published yesterday by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme:
In announcing the forthcoming UN Climate Summit 2014 in New York this September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process.”  He was addressing all of us but particularly those of us who are privileged to hold positions where we can make the required pledges.  That means people like you, Mark, who have an influence in the fossil fuel industry as well as people like me who have the resources to campaign.  No matter how small our individual influence may be, we have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Veteran campaigner, Bill McKibben, released his ‘Call to Arms’ yesterday asking that people come to New York in September, engaging in the democratic process that you talked about last night.  Democracy, Mark, cannot be left to an occasional vote (and I trust you voted Green in today’s EU election) for as 20th century history has shown, the most evil governments can arise through democracy.  Your reasoning that Egdon acts within the law and according to the policies of a democratically elected government form a weak defence, the defence of ‘only carrying out orders’.  Ultimately we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions.
So Mark, I think you are an honest man, trying to do your best for the world as well as for yourself.  I ask you to step out of your comfort zone, study what real Earth-systems scientists are saying, unmediated by politicians or journalists, and confront the inescapable conclusion that we have to stop burning carbon pretty damn quick.  Use the resources at your disposal to turn our path so that you may one day say to your grandchild, I was part of the problem but then I tried to be part of the solution.  It’s a big ask, because the first step will be to forego submitting that planning application to drill for oil at Biscathorpe.
Regards, Biff Vernon.

27 May 2014

Dear Biff

Many thanks for your emailed letter dated 22 May and for attending the exhibition in Donington on Bain Village Hall last week about our proposals for a conventional exploratory oil well at Biscathorpe. It was good to meet you and hear your views.

I hope you found the information in our displays and discussions with the Egdon team to be helpful.
We will continue to inform the local community of our plans by updating our project web page:!Wellsite Biscathorpe

You will have another opportunity to submit your views when Lincoinshire County Council’s planning department undertakes its statutory public consultation, following receipt of our planning application.

Yours sincerely

Mark Abbott

Managing Director
Egdon Resources U.K. Limited Tel: 01256 702 292


Anonymous Geoff Stratford said...

Well done Biff & thank you! I'll circulate this as widely as can.

6:28 pm  
Anonymous Deano said...

Brilliantly put.

5:16 pm  
Blogger biffvernon said...

Today I received a reply from Mark Abbott. It's quite dull but, for what it's worth, here it is:

12:17 pm  
Anonymous brighton against fracking said...

Brilliant! Have shared on BIFF and FFS

6:59 am  
Blogger biffvernon said...

Somebody is suggesting Egdon is now ripe for takeover - at 60p per share! Nice little earner for Mr Abbott.
However, his Nemesis, Christiana Figueres, is doing her best to destroy the value:

7:41 am  
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