The Fracking Debate Gas Can Win: Climate

The “ticking off” of Friends of the Earth received today now means the opening, by them, of a new front on the anti fracking debate.

Donna Hume, a Friends of the Earth senior campaigner, said: “No ruling has been made against us. The ASA offered to drop the case without ruling after we confirmed that a particular leaflet was no longer being used.

“We continue to campaign against fracking because burning fossil fuels is dangerous for the climate. As well as that, the process of exploring for and extracting shale gas is inherently risky for the environment, this is why fracking is banned or put on hold in so many countries.”

Reality Check: Fracking is banned or put on hold in so many countries by using same tactics exposed today.  

Donna Hume then dug deeper in the FT:

Donna Hume, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the case was intended by Cuadrilla “to distract from the real issues about fracking, and how burning fossil fuels is dangerous for climate change”.

That’s interesting, because they have steadfastly refused to debate on this very issue. The UK onshore industry should welcome the debate moving to climate, because this is one we can also win.

On the debate itself, firstly fossil fuels are bad for the climate. And some should be kept in the ground. But which and whose fossil fuels?  Answer this question, and shale gas protests will remain where they mostly are: A minority obsession of the misguided.

The industry and environmentalists already agree on coal. We hate it as much as Friends of the Earth, but they don’t do much about it and the natural gas  industry needs to point out how we beat it more and more every day.  A climate debate with the FoE should be welcomed.  Almost everything they say is an open goal.  Keep it in the ground? Of course. Keep coal in the ground, which is a quick, easy and elegant way of combatting the CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) debate too.  Keep coal in the ground everywhere.  There’s enough gas globally to do this.

But then as the Friends of the Earth say, Shop Local First.  That’s a campaign with as catchy a title as Keep It In The Ground, but with two important differences:

Firstly, unlike KIITG, it  not only makes a lot of easy sense, it works

Secondly, it makes consumers themselves aware of their choices.

The problem with energy is that people feel divorced from it.  Apart from FoE, few people use the F word with electricity and gas until the bill turns up. Most people think electricity comes out of the wall and don’t realise the huge chain from the well head to the burner tip of their central heating either.  The gas and electricity industries spend a huge amount of time and fortune thinking of gas and electricity so that consumers don’t give it even a second thought.  Our success is thus our undoing.  As a result many people think electricity falls out of the sky, making them especially  open to persuasion that it could fall out of the sky and that only the oil and gas industry, not the laws of physics or the reality of British geography are preventing them from having a perfect zero carbon future.

At the same time, people have been so inured to lights, heat, mobility and connectivity that they only  think of power when it doesn’t show up. They hate it and love it all at once.

The debate can now move to the three big Issues of the energy trilemma: carbon, security of supply and affordability.  Shale has to fight the war on these three fronts.  Talking about jobs  is a distraction that sounds so 1980’s. Unemployment is so low that we have to import people.

Talking about security of supply is a bit more complex. The old debate of “When will the lights go out” is so 2005 Peak Oil.  We’re up to our butts in gas, but the question of where gas comes from is important.  We should be able to combine fears of imports with green fears of high carbon for example to produce a cleaner, greener and inherently better Drill Local First campaign that makes sense to not only FoE and Greenpeace but to the silent opponents of shale within what I call the M+S /Waitrose demographic too.

Then it comes down to price. I could write a book on gas prices, but because I can write a book on gas prices, who needs yet another “expert”?  The public, at least according to the media who profess to speak for them, don’t do complicated.  And nothing is more complicated, more covered in alternate layers of transparency and deceit than UK energy prices.

So on gas prices we should just try and give the Readers’s Digest version to people, which is in fact a bit easier now the shale revolution has arrived, or just point out some obvious home truths.  We can fold that  into security of supply.

But carbon is complicated and incredibly easy at the same time. The issue isn’t just a UK one. It’s called global warming for a reason.   Just as Shop Local First makes the guilty rich feel slightly less guilty as it makes them slightly less rich by paying a premium for local, so too can the benefits of local over imported energy be made more obvious. We need to make the idea of using imported high carbon zero tax natural gas as socially unacceptable as buying non free range eggs or not recycling.  Think Global, Act Local was one of the great lines of the 1970’s.  It urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities.  We can flip that brand and make people realise that in the big picture, local natural gas is as much a no brainer as locally produced eggs.

2017 is going to be a pivotal year in UK shale.  We’ve come so far to fail now, especially when the opposition present such an open goal for the industry like climate.

We all know in the UK that our little corner of the world in the rest of Europe is watching.  France, Germany, Ireland, Holland and Spain beckon. UK shale will be simply the opening act of a wonderful opportunity.  Of course it’s taken an age to get various people to come to their senses, but once they do…

European shale has high costs of entry measured in time. But on the other side we have rapid commercialisation into  existing infrastructure into a high priced market.  I know it’s tough to take the long view for what sometimes seems like ever and ever and ever. But all bad things must come to an end. The other side will be something wonderful for everyone in the UK, Europe and indeed throughout the very same earth the FoE pretend to have such an amicable relationship with.

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