March 04, 2012

Shale denialists

Michael Kelly, Professor of Technology at Cambridge, has famously written to The Times that
Andrew Motion ... is correct to castigate climate change deniers, as the climate has always been changing, but he is profoundly mistaken in linking all those who oppose the current climate science orthodoxy into one group. The interpretation of the observational science has been consistently over-egged to produce alarm. All real-world data over the past 20 years has shown the climate models to be exaggerating the likely impacts — if the models cannot account for the near term, why should I trust them in the long term?

I am most worried by the billions of pounds being misinvested and lost as a consequence. Look out to sea at the end of 2015 and see how many windmills are not turning and you will get my point: there are already 14,000 abandoned windmills onshore in the US. Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering, and my taxes are subsidising it against my will and professional judgment.
Against this background, Phil Bentley of British Gas has chosen the Telegraph for a lecture to us about our energy bills. In the online version he tells us energy prices will rise for years because of green taxes and the cost of upgrading the National Grid.
Between £80 billion and £100 billion of investment is needed to upgrade the National Grid and other power networks in the UK over the next decade, meaning higher bills for millions of householders.

Meanwhile the cost of green energy tariffs and taxes could also add around £140 to the average household bill over the next eight years. While he did not put a figure on what the total rise will be, the increase could be several hundred pounds.
The printed version is more provocative:
Phil Bentley ... said households that put satellite television or mobile phones ahead of power bills had their priorities wrong.
So that's the deal, take it or leave it. Bentley is flexing his muscles, warning that investment in nuclear energy could increase bills further, and
government plans to simplify tariffs could have the "unintended consequence" of removing cheap deals from the market
- as naked as a threat could be. But magnanimously he said he would welcome a Competition Commission inquiry into household energy prices if it “cleared the air” and took no longer than three months. Good of him.

If the price of gas can halve in the US, why couldn't it happen here? We can see why that might not suit British Gas, but why couldn't it happen if the government stopped wimping?

In his letter to Saturday's Telegraph, at least Ed Davey mentions the dreaded S word:
Shale gas may prove a worthwhile resource for the UK, but it is in its infancy.
The government are scared of shale because of the extreme environmentalists who inhabit such blogs as Gas Drilling in Balcombe. What those greenies never tell you is that they want to make you poorer - no development is acceptable, no pollution.

If Britain had followed their criteria, we would have had no industry, no railways, and certainly no mines. They would like us to be peasants in smocks, living hand to mouth from the land. Greenies want policies which will make you poorer.

The excuse for this was that extra CO2 is causing runaway global warming. But we haven't got runaway global warming. Global warming is way below IPCC predictions. So, they decide on a tactical retreat: let's talk about man made climate change instead. The trouble with this is that the climate is stable compared with some of the changes seen in historical times when there was certainly no man made CO2 to make a difference.

If the CO2 theory didn't exist, it would be ridiculous to invent it now. Yet questioning it among environmentalists is akin to denying god in a theocracy. Not accepting the CO2 superstition is just not polite. It puts you beyond the pale. Yet the data deny the tenuous theory.

Oops, denialist data. So ... follow the data. Fear not to follow in the footsteps of the USA and let the citizens get richer, not poorer.

The standard ploy of the shale denialists is to point to individual incidents and call for more research. Yet a Polish study has produced answers that contradict catastrophe:
Hydraulic fracturing conducted at a test well in northern Poland didn’t affect the quality or quantity of surface and ground water and didn’t cause tremors that would pose a threat to buildings or other infrastructure, the Polish Geological Institute said in a statement on its website.
The shale denialists won't even say: "we'd love everyone to have cheaper energy, there are just so many problems". They throw up alleged problems, and as each one is knocked over they fall back on the principle of Fossil Fuel Bad until they can find another study - however obscure - which supports their predetermined conclusion. For theirs is no open-minded enquiry. There is no research project which could change their minds, for their minds are made up, and the calls for more research are just stalling tactics.

Never mind that fracking in the USA has halved the cost of gas and may lead to the US becoming an oil exporter. Never mind that it is increasing employment in the US and tilting world power away from undesirable régimes. Never mind that shale extraction is being actively pursued in Poland, Australia, India, Argentina, China especially, and other countries. Never mind that cheaper energy will help lift their citizens out of poverty and make their goods more competitive against countries which cling to expensive energy. Never mind that citizens of those countries will see a fall in their standard of living compared to countries which can get cheap energy from shale.

They prefer expensive and unreliable sources of energy - in the case of wind turbines, with premature technology deployment. But they can't any more use the excuse that fossil resources are about to run out. Shale gas and shale oil have busted that scare too.

Shale denialists don't want the best for human beings. They are happy to see billions of pounds being misinvested and lost as a consequence. They cling to their dogmas even though the data have discredited them.

Shame on government for kowtowing to them. Shame on the shale denialists themselves.


Captain Ranty said...

My next project is a windmill on the conservatory which may give me enough energy to run a dishwasher for an hour a day.

Woodsy42 said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

A great piece PS

A K Haart said...

Good post. We should be investing in shale gas and nuclear, not windmills.

More sustainable sources of power still need decades of R&D.

Anonymous said...

Hydraulic fracturing is old-tech, been around for a few decades now.
Horizontal drilling and then fracking is the new part.