The fracking earthquake rules aren't a mistake, they're the point

Jim Ratcliffe at Ineos is threatening to take his ball home over the rules about earthquakes and fracking. As of course he’s every right to, if the conditions for investment are unattractive then entrepreneurs can indeed go and do something else and elsewhere. This being one of the points that sensible people continually make, make taxes too high, regulation too restrictive, and new things won’t be appearing any time soon. Over time the country will be poorer than if taxes were lower, regulation less restrictive, as a result of that onward march of the application of technology which doesn’t happen.

With respect to fracking though this is the point of the regulatory regime:

Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos has launched a stinging attack over the way fracking is being regulated, claiming the industry "is being stopped from moving forward".

The petrochemicals and energy giant, owned by Britain's wealthiest man and one of two companies with the right to undertake fracking in England, has threatened to walk away from operations unless regulations are loosened.

Fracking must be halted if tremors of 0.5 or more on the Richter scale are triggered - a limit Sir Jim's company wants revising to a more "sensible" level.

The point being that there are those who oppose fracking on basic, even philosophic, grounds. They were able to get that 0.5 limit put in place. Not because it’s a sensible number or anything, but so that it’s an entire and complete barrier to anyone doing any fracking. By their lights this is a Good Thing. Britain is left poorer by not being able to use a cheap and abundant energy source.

As to proof that it’s not a sensible number, the British Geological Survey lists recent earthquakes. In the first 15 days of this month there were quakes over that 0.5 limit in Silecroft, Middlesbrough, Newdigate, Blairlogie, Hodnet and County Donegal. Two of those were felt by no human being at all or whatsoever. Fracking is, under the law, banned in those places for some number of days this month. No one has been fracking in any of those areas.

Ratcliffe is stating that this 0.5 limit precludes anyone fracking effectively or economically. Yes, he’s right. But to those who instituted the limit that’s the very point. They positively insist that we must all be poorer.