Shale gas: If we've got it, flaunt it
Energy minister warms to UK fuel
The shale gas revolution was given a guarded welcome by Parliament yesterday, with the economic and security benefits to the UK judged to outweigh environmental reservations.
Exploration consortium Cuadrilla reckons that the UK could be self-sufficient for 15 years using cheap gas extracted from the Bowland shale alone - and reduce its dependence on imports from Russia. Plus, techniques are improving, so the self-sufficiency period could stretch to several decades.
One of Parliament's loudest climate change advocates, the Greener-than-thou chairman of the energy select committee Tim Yeo (Con, South Suffolk), said that shale gas companies had to maintain public confidence and follow best-practice guidelines outlined by the committee. But, he said, the benefits of cheap gas were immense and shouldn't derail shale.
"I urge the government to consider the potential benefits to Britain. There are legitimate concerns, of course, about the environmental impact, and those concerns must not be ignored. However, those who call for fracking to stop completely must produce scientific evidence to justify their demands, and I do not believe that at present such evidence exists," Yeo concluded.
On earthquakes, Yeo noted that Cuadrilla had recorded tremors of magnitude 2.3 and 1.5 "probably" caused by shale exploration, and reminded Parliament that:
"To put that into context, the European microseismic standard classifies a magnitude 1 earthquake as one that is not felt, a magnitude 2 earthquake as scarcely felt, and a magnitude 3 earthquake as weak."
There was no threat to the population, or the environment, from the earth shivers.
David Mowat (Con, Warrington South) agreed, adding: "I believe that we have wrongly placed some efforts by confusing 'decarbonisation' with 'renewables'.
"Decarbonisation is necessary and it is a legal requirement. Some of the renewables targets might not always lead to us making the right decisions about how we decarbonise, and at what rate."
Energy Minster Charles Hendry gave it a guarded welcome.
"I think that it is too early to know how significant shale gas may prove to be as a contributor to future UK energy supplies," he warned, but warmly welcomed the potential benefits.
"The government are committed to ensuring that we maximise economic recovery of UK hydrocarbon resources, both offshore and onshore. We see it as in our national interest to maximise returns on our indigenous resources. We are moving to a situation where we are net importers of gas, and there is a multi-billion-pound benefit to the UK economy from optimising our resources. We are keen for that to happen," he told MPs.
He added, encouragingly for shale backers, that the public didn't realise quite how deep shale fracking takes place - far underneath the water table. He also pointed out that the flaming faucets featured in the scare movie Gaslands had been shown to be unrelated to oil or gas exploration deep below ground.
Hendry's boss Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat, recently raised the idea of handicapping the gas power stations with "carbon capture" technology that doesn't yet exist, but, er, typically involves pipelines taking the deadly CO2 compound out to sea.
MPs noted that Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP, was curiously MIA. Lucas was not present for the debate.
Perhaps her electric car had broken down.
Read the full debate here. ®
The demand for energy is on a rising, not falling, trend. (The population of this planet ain't getting any smaller!) Do you seriously the British to suddenly switch overnight to solar photovoltaic and heating panels, and giant concrete windmills striding majestically across the landscape?
That was never going to happen, regardless of what some anti-energy fanatics would have you believe. Short of building a lot more nuclear power stations, there really isn't a lot of choice: it's fossil fuels or bugger all. It's impossible to run a service-based economy so heavily reliant on electronics on sunshine and winds alone: neither source can provide a guaranteed baseline level of electricity without massive ecological damage. (I.e. holding lakes.)
Complex problems tend to have complex solutions. There is no magic wand.
Check out the criticism of the documentary called 'Gasland'. Misleading stuff. The director of Gasland is the worst kind of documentary film maker, pre-judging his content before starting filming, and instead of moving on to the next project, spends his time promoting and profiting from his fear story.
This rebuttal is from the 'industry' so obviously you should take it with a pinch of salt, however if you take the biased view of one side, it's worth seeing it from the (also biased) other side as well.
And here come the green loonies
If you go back and look at each and every scare the eco-loons have promoted over time, you will discover that pretty much all of them were either exaggerated scaremongering, beyond our control, or just plain wrong. The current obsession with limiting output of carbon dioxide, for instance, is basically utter gibberish as the latest research clearly demonstrates (global temperature is tracked by atmospheric carbon dioxide, with the CO2 lagging about 200 years behind the temperature).
Neither the USA nor China will have anything to do with CO2 limitation treaties, mostly because both are heavily dependent on fossil fuel industry for their economic well-being and rightly view limitations as limitations on their economies. So, without the big two emitters in the scheme, why should we beggar ourselves to achieve nothing at all?
A more sensible approach in these economic conditions would be to attempt to strengthen our industrial and economic systems by decreasing the cost of energy by whatever means possible; this would include shale gas and nuclear power. It would also be very sensible to start researching how to break down toxic long half-life radionucleotides into much shorter half-life ones; the major problem with disposal of these toxins is building a storage facility which will endure long enough to let them all decay to harmlessness, and shortening this period is a very useful way to achieve this.
Fast-neutron reactors are one method, and particle accelerator bombardment is another. Both want researching heavily, because if we get one working effectively, we will then have a unique UK industry that nobody else will even want to get involved with, let alone be able to do. Similarly disposal of plutonium is another possible UK industry (disposal by using in power generation) which would make the world a safer place by reducing the amount of fissile bomb-making material in the world.
On the other hand, we could all follow Mr Huhne's example, stick up useless windmills and wonder why we're all freezing and dying of starvation...