Strange bed-fellows: Gazprom and Greenpeace

Strange bed-fellows

Strange bed-fellows

What would bring such unlikely bed-fellows together?  Opposition to fracking, that’s what!

Yesterday, George Osborne announced his new gas strategy  which includes plans for 26 Gigawatts of new gas capacity by 2030 (Memo to Osborne: How much of this is real mainstream capacity, and how much is simply back-up for the ridiculous quantities of wind power we’re planning?  You know, about back-up, George, that’s the capacity that has to be supported by “capacity payments” for available capacity standing idle, underused and used inefficiently in the name of green posturing).  Find the policy statement here.

It includes a billion pounds for “Carbon Capture and Storage”, or CCS.  This is the preposterous idea that we can collect CO2 from power station chimneys and put it somewhere safe for the next million years.  Even Greenpeace, which you might have expected to like CCS, has serious worries about its viability.  The rest of us should have serious worries about its cost.  It has not been demonstrated commercially, and may never work, but cost estimates suggest it could add 50% to the price of coal-generated electricity:

I like to compare CCS  in the climate debate with “subsidiarity” in the European debate.  It’s a spurious idea that’s bandied about to reassure gullible sceptics — but it’s not something you actually do.

I was disappointed to see that Osborne’s gas announcement was very light on estimates of the available gas volumes in the UK.  I’ve been talking to people in the industry, including Professor Alan Riley  and speakers at the MEUC Conference last week , and they’re suggesting that UK shale gas reserves already identified could supply the UK for decades.  They add that once you start on shale gas, you tend to discover more and more, and that there’s not only on-shore gas but off-shore prospecting as well.  (And news not directly related to shale — we’re hearing that much more oil and gas than previously believed is still available from the North Sea).

Osborne may have been cautious on gas prospects because of the storm of criticism and misinformation about fracking.  Sensationalist media insist on describing very minor earth tremors (comparable to those associated with coal mining) as “earthquakes”, causing understandable anxiety.  I don’t have room here for a defence of fracking, but I commend the excellent article “Let’s Get Fracking” by “Rational Optimist” Matt Ridley

Why the storm of black propaganda against a technology which is tried and tested and known to be safe?  A technology which has limited and very temporary local impacts (especially when compared to wind turbines)?  A technology that can transform our economy, create many jobs, bring down energy prices, maintain our competitiveness, reduce our dependence on imports?

Just look at where the objections come from.  First the green NGOs, which will jump on any scare-story band-wagon to justify their existence, and in the hope of headlines and donations.  They are doing their fellow citizens a huge disservice.  They seem to hate growth, prosperity, jobs, industry and energy.  They are the true inheritors of the follies of Malthus and the Luddites.

Their spokesmen have been out in force to condemn the gas strategy.  “The chancellor is misleading people to position shale gas as the answer to UK’s energy woes. The impact of fracking in the US is irrelevant because energy experts say the US shale gas boom cannot be replicated here,” said Joss Garman, political director at Greenpeace. (He’s been talking to the wrong experts).  Martin Wright, Chairman of the Renewable Energy Association, says “The Chancellor must understand that gas is not cheap, nor does it offer stable pricing for the future”.  I think this is what Catholics call “vincible ignorance”.   Open your eyes, Martin.  The shale gas revolution is happening all around us.

Then, of course, there is Gazprom.  The big loser from the shale gas revolution (make no mistake — it is a revolution, and the world is awash with gas) will be Russia.  It has big reserves of fossil fuels, but in difficult locations where they’re expensive to recover.  Russia today has a quasi-monopoly on gas, which it has used irresponsibly.  But its hegemony is being blown apart by shale gas.  (“With one bound, we were free”, as the comic books used to put it).

Osborne is right to back gas, both upstream and downstream.  But let’s see a sense of urgency, George.

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11 Responses to Strange bed-fellows: Gazprom and Greenpeace

  1. Neil Craig says:

    The alliance between socialists and capitalists who control an undustry facing new competition is an old one. Hayek wrote of it 70 years ago. Ed Davy & Cameron spoke of it when he said leaders of the shale gas industry said it needed more regulation and restriction, when in fact he had been talking to leaders of the competing energy industries.

    In this regard Greenpeace are ersatz socialists, like the Nazis, committed to state control of everything and, despite being part of a government, Gazprom are capitalists controlling an industry facing competition.

    As with most such questions the answer is economic freedom.

  2. Eric Worrall says:

    Carbon Capture and Storage will kill people.

    Here is what happened when a volcanic lake in Africa suddenly released a large belch of CO2.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos#The_1986_disaster

    CO2 is heavier than air, so the wave of CO2 hugged the ground, and suffocated almost everyone within 25km of the lake.

    Imagine a similar catastrophe occurring in a populated area of England. There are several owners of depleted gas mines in the oddest places (I know of one in Surrey) who would love to convert their now worthless mines into valuable CO2 sequestration facilities. If through accident or negligence the reservoir fractured, and released some of the stored gas over the countryside above, entire towns could be wiped out, as people drowned en-masse in the suddenly unbreathable air.

    Even those who tried to get away would die – if by chance they got to their cars in time, the gas would suffocate their car engines as they attempted to flee the deadly release.

    • George Carty says:

      Certainly puts the alleged dangers of nuclear waste into context doesn’t it?!

      And that reminds me that Gazprom and Greenpeace have a second common enemy: nuclear energy. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder set in motion a phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany, and was rewarded by Gazprom when he left office with a cushy job paying half a million euros a year. The Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea (which Schröder worked on as part of his new job) has a capacity almost exactly what is required to provide the amount of gas which gas-fired power stations would need to generate enough electricity to replace the output of Germany’s nuclear power stations.

      Traitorous wretch — Erich Honecker would be proud of him…

  3. Mike Spilligan says:

    I suspect that Osborne is more than enthusiastic for shale gas – but is waiting for an opportunity to ditch Ed Davey, which could come only when the Coalition is fraying to the point of tearing apart, otherwise Davey can be replaced only by another LibDem.
    Incidentally, there is so much loose talk about “earthquakes”. Perhaps part of the reason for that is that the British Geological Survey regards all events as ‘quakes, there being no definition of a “tremor” either by magnitude or intensity. The naysayers will be technically correct, and be delighted, to refer to any fracking tremor as an earthquake.

  4. Jane Davies says:

    Still no comment from you on this article Roger. We must not let our enthusiasm to extract shale gas undermine any risks to water pollution. http://t.news.ca.msn.com/top-stories/livestock-falling-ill-in-fracking-regions

    As for Carbon Capture and Storage this is the stuff of nightmares, seriously scary.

    • I’ll try to answer it Jane…
      …..’We must not let our enthusiasm to extract shale gas undermine any risks to water pollution’……As you say.

      ….’A UK review by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering has concluded that fracking can be undertaken safely, as long as “best practices are implemented and robustly enforced through regulation.”…..As they say

      ….’Fuel poverty deaths three times higher than government estimates’….As this says.

      …..’Let’s get fracking, and slash our gas bills’…..As Matt says.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Call me cynical…but why doesn’t the review by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering re-assure me and give me a warm and fuzzy feeling?

      • Why Jane?………Because you are as cynical as me. Which is why the respectable institutions will not be the only ones watching and reporting on developments very closely.

  5. mikestallard says:

    If ever there was a society that was bent on self destruction, like the people of Easter Island (war) or those South Americans when their hinterland dried up it is our magnificent “Democracy” where four men sit in a darkened room deciding our futures for us.

  6. Pingback: Shale gas — addressing the doubters | Roger Helmer MEP

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