The end of “unconventional” “controversial” fracking?

No-Fracking-54772 200x200Language is important. Many industry people have objected to the term “fracking” for example, on grounds that the corruption of the original “fracing” or fraccing” has been twisted by shale gas opponents. My view has been that having lost control of the word, we’re stuck with it, but I may have to change my mind. When the facts change, I change my mind.

The original bad word of shale was “unconventional” gas. Despite the UK being the home of the “eccentric”,  “unconventional” is a kiss of death to most things in English society, and indeed in many communities world-wide as well. In the UK, it transmogrified into something even worse: “controversial” shale gas as it was invariably described by the media. Controversial denotes fear, debate, uncertainty or worst of all to some, change.

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“5 Fracking Myths Busted” – Busted

sign-myth-bustedA cross-post here from James Verdon of Bristol University who posts over at Frackland.  It hits the spot so well, that it would be pointless for me to repeat it.  JV’s site is well worth seeing, and he, unlike me, was actually invited to  the “debate” by Talk Fracking, so he must be famous!

A new anti-fracking initiative, Talk Fracking, is currently touring the country. Their website has a thin veneer of balance, claiming to seek an “open debate” on fracking, but you don’t have to scratch too deeply to see their true motivation.

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UK Shale Activists: Acting locally to screw up the world globally

errorI’ve said it before, and I’ll probably have to say it again, but UK Green NGOs who frame the UK shale debate in climate terms often fail to see global warming in a context that is actually, well, global.  

This from the latest BP Global Energy Statistics is the world as it is, not how it should be: How much CO2 is there and where does it come from? The EU, Brazil, Russia, India, China and USA combined produce over two thirds of the 35,094 million tonnes of CO2. The UK emits 513MT or 1.5% of world total.

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Is the UK anti-fracking movement barking their last?

azaimaandersonAs in the Hound of the Baskervilles, the most important thing is often what doesn’t happen. The hounds of the anti-fracking movement in the UK still yap around feet like annoying puppies, but the “movement” ’s influence is finally aligning with their numbers. Neither one is more than a stone in the shoes of newspapers, local councils, MP’s or even more tellingly, in those of an increasing number of mainstream climate scientists.

The Talk Fracking movement marks a watershed movement in the UK. Last summer, bored newspapers in the August silly season sent reporters down to Balcombe to take the pictures of pretty middle class girls for the front page that The Daily Telegraph uses to illustrate any point whatsoever. The weather was good, the train journey quick and the pubs of Balcombe and surrounds saw business soar. All of a sudden, bored journalists discovered the naughty thrill of the F word. Then everyone went back to school.

This summer an initial look at Talk Fracking was very alarming. It’s an obviously well financed campaign, although by who is unclear. Throw in the diesel powered bus choking the motorways, a five day tour, importing an American or two and they spend more in two weeks than I have in the past three years.

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The colour of envy: Deep, Deep Green hatred for shale serves no one.

poison-ivyThe recent collapse in gas prices in Europe produces exactly the outcome European Greens insist is vital in the fight against climate change – a drop in CO2 emissions. Why do they hate it so?

European Energy policy in general, and the UK’s in particular, depended for years on natural gas being so expensive and unobtainable, that the alternatives of clean energy and efficiency looked achievable in comparison.

European Greens, unlike US and Chinese ones, are suffering from a fit of pique: Natural gas is giving them their heart’s desire but it’s not making them feel any better. This is rather like seeing the girl or guy of your dreams one worships from afar ending up marrying the love of their life – but not you. One could turn around and try and sabotage the marriage, but what good would that produce?

A big-hearted person would welcome the good news and move on. But European greens take it personally.  Mean-spirited, they are happy to increase CO2 and decrease the amount of happiness in the world simply because the successful method wasn’t their method. The alternative to cheap natural gas of cheap coal or even worse, cheap lignite is the result as Germany shows.

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Today’s US reality is the UK’s tomorrow. If we want it

Predict-the-FutureRight from the start, the “unconventional” shale gas and oil industry has consistently out performed the most optimistic forecasts of proponents and the worst fears of opponents. The energy industry had been for a many years a mild little backwater where either the truly incompetent or those simply looking for a quiet life could lead a relaxing career, safe in the knowledge that next year would be like not only the last, but most of the previous twenty.

If there’s one thing that the inflection point of shale should teach us is to discount almost any energy expert going. I say almost, but I’m not so full of myself to say that I won’t ever be wrong. It’s just not yet. But with a few exceptions, Daniel Yergin, or Dieter Helm for example, most energy experts never predicted shale either at all or in it’s size for a simple reason. In this, like most people in any field, they confuse the rear-view mirror with a crystal ball.

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Visualising the unseeable. Every picture tells a different story

n15288lpzf2The true breakthrough that led to modern shale energy is not only about fracturing the rock, which has been around in various forms since the days when Edwin Drake dynamited oil out of the rock in the 1860’s Pennsylvania, but combining modern “fracking” with horizontal drilling.

Horizontal drilling lies at the heart of the upcoming UK legislation on simplifying access to underground resources. 

A key issue in the shale debate stems from trying to visualise the unseeable. Certainly, I have yet to see a diagram that breaks the “not to scale” barrier. A brave, if imperfect attempt from DECC attempts to conjure up an image of what we simply cannot see:

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Greenpeace turns down real debate

scottieUnlike Talk Fracking, the Greenpeace vehicle that has already decided the outcome of the shale debate even before their celebrity backers  juggle private jet schedules between second and third homes to see if they can attend, there was a genuine forum to discuss shale gas in detail at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam last month. 

The IASS workshop  “Shale Gas in Europe – A Transdisciplinary Approach” that took place on May 21-22 aimed to identify and assess key issues of a possibly emerging shale gas industry in Europe while facilitating communication amongst key stakeholders and improving the understanding on all of the pertinent issues involved. The participants came from Germany, the USA, the UK, France, Poland and Ukraine, and included representatives from science, governments, civil society and industry.

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Something’s happening. Something wonderful

UnknownTalk about getting down to the wire. Last minute negotiations between Russia and China meant the  fabled gas deal between them went past the wire. It’s hard to say what the actual price will be, the range of expert opinion being between $8.50 and $10. Certainly, we can say that the price is lower than it would have been before the Crimean intervention, so we can safely discount that Russia is coming out the big winner in this. But this may be a rare case where all people are winners to some extent because the deal looks to introduce a large volume of gas into the world market not only after 2018 when the first deliveries are to start, but more still into the 2020’s. That, most environmental scientists agree, is a win for the planet. 

The world gas market appears not to exist, but it does. Trading links from LNG trade become stronger with each passing year and Russian gas is going to reduce pressure on world LNG prices in the post 2018 onward short term. The connected impact of increased Russian gas going to world LNG markets from Vladivostok from 2020 onwards, gas will have several impacts far beyond Asia. This amount of gas may ultimately equal that sent to Europe. Adding that this will reduce LNG prices for everyone, this may ultimately lead to something unforeseen for the climate: Something wonderful.

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