Greenpeace and Arctic oil: Both becoming irrelevant.

m2308272One of my favourite quotes is from Oscar Wilde, who said that there are two great tragedies in life: Not getting your heart’s desire and getting it. I’ve used it before to describe Big Green NGO’s attitude towards shale energy. They’ve constantly lobbied for low cost, sustainable, local and lower carbon energy solutions, but they weren’t expecting natural gas -and now local oil – to provide them. All of a sudden, the low-carbon future they sought a few years ago has been replaced with seeking a no carbon at all destiny. 

The true tragedy of Big Green is not achieving low carbon aims, but to have their business model overturned. Greenpeace,et al exist not to cut carbon, but to talk about cutting carbon. To raise awareness of cutting carbon. To organise a new bureaucracy that provides a good living hugging the problem- but not the hard part of solving it. In this respect they are no different from another of the great scourges of our age, management consultants.  

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The land owner rights red herring

20130718-e76fd63d1c015bd8fe58f391a7083305caa5cd824ccf93f9273017d-200The US model of individual land owners generally possessing mineral rights has certainly been a major contributor to the rapid development of US oil and gas. But is it correct to assume the lack of them works the other way and will slow down development in Europe? Many people think so, as this report by Marcellus Drilling News for Natural Gas Now from the Platt’s Global Energy Outlook in New York last week shows:

The other panelists spoke about Europe and addressed the question of whether or not shale gas would revolutionize Europe the way it has America. These points were made: Over the next 5-10 years shale gas will NOT be a game changer in Europe the way it has been in the U.S. Public resistance in Europe is higher than it is here. Europe lacks much of the infrastructure (pipelines) necessary. And perhaps most germane of all, mineral rights in Europe belong to the state and not to individual landowners!

There’s no incentive to allow drilling when you don’t profit from it, other than slightly lower energy prices. MDN’s view: We need to kiss the American ground and thank the good Lord that our country is founded on the principle of private property ownership rights. Freedom for individuals is what has made this country great. Lack of freedom (over-regulation) is what will kill it.

I’ve always disagreed with that “conventional wisdom” and here’s why:

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Ed Davey needs some respect. Large.


rodney dangerfieldEd Davey is the Rodney Dangerfield of British shale gas. He don’t get no respect. As one of the most powerful Liberal Democrats in the cabinet, he gets an inundation of abuse from Conservative bitter enders who still don’t get the difference between getting the most seats in the 2010 election, and not actually winning the election. Being a Lib Dem and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, the right wing narrative is one of a Brussels stooge out to destroy the shale industry. 

Therefore. any positive statements he makes on shale gas can be conveniently ignored.  

The Green narrative (no longer-left BTW), is one where he has to pay lip service to his Conservative partners, especially Chancellor Osborne. He’s secretly one of ours seems to be the message. 

Therefore. any positive statements he makes on shale gas can be conveniently ignored.

Continue reading Ed Davey needs some respect. Large.

Russia loves fracking – for oil

Ukraina Hotel Moscow Russia MoscowOne of my stranger speaker invitations recently was earlier this month in Moscow to an Adam Smith conference on Russia EOR (enhanced oil recovery), where I found myself in the ironic position of giving a presentation to reassure the audience that fracking,for oil was safe.

Fracking is fracking and there is little or no difference between the methods used for gas or oil. Oil fracking in it’s modern form of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing using less chemicals than before was introduced by Harold Hamm in the North Dakota Bakken about ten years ago and the impact on US oil is now well known. The Bakken turned around the idea that US oil had peaked, and the technology rippled out to the Eagle Ford, Permian and Niobrara formations. One of the nails in the Peak Oil coffin has been the realisation by even the conventional wisdom this year that shale oil can go international. It’s already happening in Argentina, Australia and China, but the big prize is in Russia’s Bazhenov shale in Western Siberia.

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Clutching at trucks instead of straws: The end of the “controversial” era


complaintsThey say things often end with a whimper, not a bang, but the UK shale debate seems to be ending not with a bang, or a drought, or an earthquake, but with a whinge.

Has it really come to this? I share the big picture issues with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth over the climate and shale, even when I think they overstate environmental concerns. But surely they must be disappointed that according to the majority of reporting on the UK Strategic Environmental Assessment of Shale, the vital big global picture is ignored by petty concerns that are literally pedestrian:

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Mañana es para siempre in UK shale?

hugemeps-544x600In the UK, some investors would have us, or their clients, believe that the UK planning system is such an immutable force that it would prevent, now until the end of time, the development of any onshore oil and gas industry.

Another side of the narrative is to reinforce the idea that shale is only a US phenomenon, one which we shouldn’t worry our pretty little European heads with.  The UK doesn’t have a constitution of course, but a country that  does is Mexico.  

I’ve noted before that Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale continues into Mexico and shale doesn’t need no stinking badges in that regard.  But shale did have a barrier in the Mexican Federal Constitution.  Inextricably linked with the PRI, the paradoxically name Institutional Revolutionary Party which has ruled the nation almost without interruption since 1920, has been the notion of the national oil company Pemex being the only bulwark against the worst excesses of Yanqui petro-imperialism.

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The hidden European oil debate

jed clampettOne of several paradoxes in the UK and European shale debate has been how it’s been entirely about shale gas. In that respect it mirrors the debate in the US, where the Gasland anti-fracker movement has been almost exclusively against natural gas. Why aren’t people protesting about oil?

In the UK,  the Great Gas Gala had two incongruities, the first being one of how effective a contribution does a demonstration, of up to 2,000 people, make against the chief residents’ concern of increased traffic.

The second enigma, which the UK media has mostly ignored, is that Cuadrilla have noted from the very first public meeting in January last year, that they are searching for oil.

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Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s secret report on UK shale

New-Energy-Pioneers-2012One key development of 2013 has been the continuing strength of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.  From a global perspective, there are one, two many Marcellus formations worldwide. It also shows what can happen when a shale, this one on the doorstep of the US Northeast consuming region, is accessed and sold as local energy. Have we heard from anyone about mass poisonings in Pennsylvania as Josh Fox would like us to believe?  Or, as naysayers in the UK like to point out, does this prove that exploiting natural gas will be such a slow and expensive process that we may as well continue current energy policies?

This US EIA chart shows the story of the Marcellus. In 2010, production was minimal, yet today it produces 18% of all US natural gas. This can happen in the UK, Poland, Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain. If we want it.

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Shale energy: The halo or the handcuffs?

aa houdini magic 2 m-medium-init-2013 has been the year where any doubts about the reality of the US shale revolution have entirely disappeared. This was the year for example where the Peak Oil site The Oil Drum shut, an amazing development for a trend which was at the height of it’s influence  only a couple of years ago. Any doubts over shale’s sustainability have been swept aside by volumes of gas that can only be described as phenomenal. The debate, at least in the US, has transformed from shortage to seeking customers for gas. 

The bounty from the US, by year end seems to be providing the basis for what Europe lacks: an economic recovery.This from CNBC shows how the ripple effect of shale is becoming, according to Goldman Sachs, a “halo effect”:

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Infallible and invisible: Richard Muller


quantumleapLast summer, Professor Richard A. Muller of the University of California at Berkeley wrote this in the NY Times

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

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