A message to the miners

Wytch Farm Oil Well

Wytch Farm Oil Well

I was talking to a UKIP activist in Derbyshire recently, and he asked (rather wistfully) if we could make a UKIP commitment to seeking to re-open the remaining deep coal mines in the Midlands which are currently scheduled for closure.  It would win a lot of votes (he said) in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Believe me, I should like nothing better than to re-open the mines, and to restore a once-great British industry.  But the offer wouldn’t be credible.  The hard economic fact is that British deep mines are uncompetitive.  We could buy American coal at a fraction of the price — and all the more so since demand for US coal has nose-dived in the face of the shale gas revolution.

All is not entirely lost.  There are techniques of Underground Coal Gasification which recover gas and energy from mines where the coal seams are too shallow or otherwise difficult to access, without actually going down and carrying the coal back to the surface.  Moreover there are huge areas extending under the North Sea where this should be viable.  It could become a major industry in future decades, and as such it would reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, reduce our balance of payments deficit, and provide jobs for British workers and revenues for the British Treasury.

Companies like Cluff Natural Resources are working on projects in this area, and deserve three cheers from all of us.

But coming back to the East Midlands: suppose we could go to the former miners and mining communities of the region and offer them a new energy extraction industry, which would deliver economic benefits — and jobs — comparable to the coal industry, but would be cleaner, safer (and in all probability deliver cheaper energy) than coal?  An industry that would not require men to work for forty years in darkness and coal dust.  That would not carry the risk of pneumoconiosis and other lung diseases.  And yet an industry that could transform British economic prospects, perhaps on a scale that coal did in the 19th Century?

And by the way, (if you care about CO2 emissions) it’s an industry that could dramatically reduce emissions by replacing coal for electricity generation.

Of course there is such an industry.  It’s called shale gas, and we’re sitting on reserves that may amount to 264 trillion cubic feet.  That’s a central estimate for the Bowland shale    Conservatively, that could supply the UK’s gas needs for 25 years.  Many in the industry believe we should be looking at much larger figures.

We will, of course, get the chorus of disapproval from Big Green — environmental NGOs often subsidised by us as tax-payers through the European Commission.  But I’ve actually been to the US, where they’ve been fracking for fifty years, and frankly the black propaganda is absurdly exaggerated.  There have been a few minor problems, as there are with any industry (hundreds of thousands have died in coal and hydro — but very few in the nuclear industry, or in shale gas operations).  The operators are learning all the time, and safety standards are constantly improving.  Any shale gas drilling in the UK will be very tightly controlled and monitored — as well as scrutinised by hippies in GreenPeace T-shirts.

But the clincher is surely this.  At Wytch Farm in Dorset in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and close by Poole Harbour, they’ve been fracking for years.  And local people seem not to have noticed.  200 wells over forty years, and no adverse consequences.  And closer to home (for me at least) they’ve been fracking for decades at Beckingham Marshes in Nottinghamshire.  Again, until the latest furore, local people were not concerned, and indeed few knew about it.

We have to have energy to run our economy.  We have to get a grip on security of supply, and on the balance-of-payments damage from relying too much on imports.  It would be nice to be able to offer former miners a new, 21st century energy opportunity.  And it would be wholly irresponsible to ignore the vast resources under our feet.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to A message to the miners

  1. Me_Again says:

    I suppose it could be about the rate of extraction. If the rate of extraction is low then the wells last for a long time.
    I’ve just been looking at switching utility suppliers and so I was faced with the to ‘fix or not to fix’ choice. So I thought I’d look for a forecast on whether prices would likely rise or not. I came across this item in one predictive text:-
    “Moving from tight oil to shale gas, Hughes’ latest data shows that output is only increasing in the Marcellus Shale (located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia). Excluding the Marcellus region, U.S. shale gas production peaked in August 2012, and has declined 5 percent since. Excluding the Marcellus and associated natural gas produced from tight oil plays, U.S. shale gas production peaked in November 2011 and has since declined 12 percent. Between the top five shale gas plays, constituting 81 percent of U.S. shale gas production, the average field decline rate is now 37 percent per year.
    Even so, production is still growing significantly from the Marcellus, driving total U.S. gas supply higher. Total gas production rose slightly more than consumption did in 2013. After working over the noisy monthly data in the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report, it became clear that Hughes’ insight about the Marcellus being the main driver of increasing production is key. EIA’s data (through September) indicates that the Marcellus was responsible for 97 percent of the 2013 growth in the combined gas production from the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Marcellus, Niobrara, and Permian plays, as declining production from some plays canceled out increasing production from others.”

    Be interesting to see how quickly they have worked the ‘other’ fields out that he mentions and how intensively they were in production.

  2. Thomas Fox says:

    The sooner this Greenyism is out voted by the people and a return to extraction of coal and shale gas energy the better.
    The North of England on both sides of the Pennines has all the cheap efficient energy beneath the surface to last for decades .So let us again create employment in these deprived areas to replecate the Victorian business without the soot and smoke ?

  3. Jane Davies says:

    I’m not a greeny and don’t wear Greenpeace T-shirts but they do have a place, to keep an eye the natural world and to ensure that the human race does not completely destroy the planet. Constant snide remarks about them is unnecessary and counter productive and I would like to think that any future government (hopefully UKIP) would work side by side with those who can see the bigger picture.

    • catalanbrian says:

      Jane. I agree with your views on Green issues as it is necessary for someone to keep an eye on big business. I, too would like any future government to adopt a less rapacious approach to energy and resource use. However that will not happen under the extremely unlikely election of a UKIP government (indeed the likely outcome at the next election is a maximum of one UKIP MP) You have seen from this blog the views of UKIP’s energy spokesman and they are about as far away from those held by most of us who support organisations such as Greenpeace as it is possible to be. The problem with organisations such as UKIP is that they have this one public agenda (to get out of the EU), and while I disagree with this I can understand that others are entitled to an opposing view. But it should be remembered that UKIP membership is made up not just of these narrow agenda people but also those who hold extreme libertarian views, so any UKIP sponsored government would almost certainly give the green light to massive environmental exploitation just as is happening in the USA.

      Beware of UKIP’s offering of a simple “we’ll get you out of Europe agenda” as their overall beliefs run far beyond that, and much of that will not be entirely palatable to you.

    • Me_Again says:

      Ignoring the Spanish prawn below Jane I have to agree totally. I believe this ‘rabid greenyism’ became the prominent way to think of those with concerns about our environment when the movement was hijacked by the global warming gang.
      Up until then we were simply tree huggers or those of us with awareness and having studied the subject were part of the precursor to the environment agency.

      Back in those days it was I think sensible and productive greenyism like reducing the the turds on the beach by banning sewage outflows into the rivers and the sea. Can you remember when outflows went straight into the rivers and sea? No fish in rivers like the Don, the Trent, the Ouse, the Humber, Witham and Nene and dozens of others. Now they all have fish in them and you wouldn’t need a course of antibiotics if you fell in.

      Farming too, a single deliberate or accidental spill of silage into a stream and everything in the water for 5 miles dies. Ceaseless over-spraying of pesticides and herbicides. algal blooms in streams caused by nitrogen leaching.

      Tankers going down channel flushing their tanks -we used to film them from the SARs and send the film to the DTI for prosecution- all these things are in the past. We now expect clean turd free beaches and rivers that don’t appear like rivers in Chris Rea’s ‘Road to hell’.

      All this and much more ended due to people with the knowledge and training saying stop that, its dangerous.

      Brian below just talks B*llocks because that’s all he knows how to do, there are plenty in UKIP with an eye on the wider issues.

      • Me_Again says:

        It seems Brian has promoted himself above. So read above in the above instead of below -if you know what I mean.

      • catalanbrian says:

        Jane, I think that my case rests! I forgot to mention that other disagreeable feature of many UKIPpers – rabid offensiveness.

      • Me_Again says:

        Bri, what do you mean? That was gentle reproach, toned down because of a lady viewing. If we had a private word you’d really hear what I think of you and your EUplillic cronies.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Thanks for the laugh Me-Again, (Will?) please don’t hold back on my account! Say what you really mean I have been known to cuss on many occasions, especially when reading ‘stuff’ about idiot politicians and the ruination by these morons of a once great country.

    • So you and your ilk are the only ones ‘who see the bigger picture’…..get over yourself please.

  4. Roger you say that “We could buy American coal at a fraction of the price — and all the more so since demand for US coal has nose-dived in the face of the shale gas revolution.”………..

    But surely if we started burning Coal so would the US …..& everyone else?. Then how much will it cost
    I’m sure many miners would like to go back to work but I’m equally sure there would be technical challenges

    I wonder if this Carbon jizyah imposed upon society by Pachauri & the Crooked IPCC, UNEP & WMO is really necessary?

    Either way Roger, as I have repeatedly said, I’m currently for 4th Gen Nuclear – delivered today!!!

  5. Thomas Fox says:

    GreenPeace are losing out to the true science in that the minute C02 at 0.000400 % of atmosphere is not a driver of any global temperature . So UKIPs manifesto of more native shale gas is ecomicaly necessary but many voters are brain washed in believing the fake IPCC version !
    All it needs is UKIP to make the true science available to counter the Libdems and C Lucus,s biased noises ! Then democracy will be restored to UK .

    • Me_Again says:

      Wish it were that simple Thomas. What you call true science is disputed equally forcefully by those sitting in the trench opposite.
      It’s like a re-run of WW1 all ideas fully entrenched, no room for manoeuvre on either side.
      If God popped down for ten minutes and told us all the correct answers, one side would still disbelieve the other.
      It’s so sick and sad, like watching BBC parliament and all the children in there. I despair.

      • Thomas Fox says:

        What has anoyed me is chairman Tim Yeo belittleing a climate scientist in CS. select committee hearings when he is biased in favour of expensive renewables ?
        It is as you say a war of opposing views where the true value cannot be decided mathematically so the battle is perpetuated until one side discovers a secret weapon ?

      • Me_Again says:

        Yes Thomas, a secret weapon. Would have to be of massive and irrefutable size methinks.
        The problem for me [or is it my advantage?] is that I can, I think, see both sides of this coin. Plainly trampling all over nature and altering the atmospheric concentrations of various substances with our activity, isn’t something a wise person would recommend is it?

        However to go from giving sage advice, saying look we should try not to pump crap into the air because we really don’t know what it might do, all the way to the doomongers saying woe, woe and thrice woe and coming up with all sorts of non verifiable quasi evidence is an entirely different game.

        But what happens is that whichever side you take, you appear to be drawn into a vortex of ever more extreme ideas, theories and resentment against ‘The Others’.

        It certainly isn’t good science. Only politicians work for consensus not true scientists because true scientists provide evidence to back their hypotheses.

  6. Mike Stallard says:

    People often say that UKIP people are amateur and single issue.
    Judging by the sheer expertise of the above article, I think we can safely put that to bed in your case, Mr Helmer.

  7. David says:

    Question to the brian, if fracking was being pushed into becoming a vital part of our economy, by one or all three other parties, possibly one which you support (or non of them) would your message be the same?

    • catalanbrian says:

      David, of course my message would be the same. We cannot keep on wasting valuable finite resources. And you should be aware that I am not against fracking and have never stated so, although I think that we need considerably more safeguards than the likes of Mr Helmer and his buddies would have us believe is necessary. Furthermore and more importantly I oppose the unnecessary and greedy use of fossil fuel energy. That is how I have lived and continue to live my life. And no I am not what you might understand to be a “treehugger”. I am just a normal bloke who believes that it is right to minimise my resource usage and I would have thought that this was a “no brainer” for others. Clearly not, it would seem from the views expressed elsewhere on this blog.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Totally agree Brian…this fracking lark must have strict safeguards. This has been my mantra all along. Pumping sqillions of gallons of toxic water into the ground is a recipe for damaging the water table and contamination of drinking water, not just for humans but for every living creature and for crops. Polticians can brush aside this threat by saying it will all be recycled but, excuse me, to quote Victor Meldrew, I don’t believe it.

      • Me_Again says:

        Joy to the world, I found something to agree with you about.

        “Furthermore and more importantly I oppose the unnecessary and greedy use of fossil fuel energy. That is how I have lived and continue to live my life. And no I am not what you might understand to be a “treehugger”. I am just a normal bloke who believes that it is right to minimise my resource usage and I would have thought that this was a “no brainer” for others.”

      • David says:

        Why do you say waste, are there any split figures on what is waste & what is necessary use?
        So what are acceptable safeguards in your view,against what i believe the gov. have already set.
        Fracking has got to be much, much safer than coal mining.

  8. Richard111 says:

    It seems, alongside Germany, we are one of Europe’s biggest importers of US coal.


    We should be using our own coal.

    • Me_Again says:

      The irony of Germany going from nuclear to imported coal in only two breaths is breathtaking.
      It has to be the stupidest knee jerk reaction ever…………….

      • According to Stefan Schultz @ Spiegel Online

        “One of the biggest challenges of Germany’s ambitious energy revolution is …..but a new generation of [Coal] power plants may herald a glowing future for the fossil fuel.”

        If it’s Good enough for Germany well……It may be Good enough for us 😉

        Methinks .Gov should Finance at least one (Experimental) Deep Mine Coal Pit if it is in the Interests of National Energy Security!

        Nottingham & District Branch Officer

      • Me_Again says:

        I think they should have sat down and had a good think about it first. Maybe let a few geologists point out that earthquake of the magnitude 5 or greater are as rare as hen’s teeth in Germany so then they could have reached a sensible conclusion.

        The irony is that their CO2 production just went through the roof for no sensible reason.

      • cerberus says:

        That stupidity is a tribute to the tragic influence German Greens have on government policies. It is also an indictment of the power of politicisation to thwart economic progress. If it were not for politicisation energy provision would be governed by market forces. Consumers who opted for green energy would soon penalise themselves in comparison with those who chose conventional fuels, “green” energy provision would not last five minutes in the absence of government subsidies.

      • catalanbrian says:

        And that is exactly why such matters should not be left up to commercial interests.

  9. cerberus says:

    Is energy consumption a good or an evil?

    The fact is energy use is inextricably linked to high living standards and economic development. if (admittedly a big if) we value those things then we should look favourably on increasing energy consumption and not seek to penalise it with targeted taxes. Yet in practice the reality is that companies that mine energy resources such as oil and gas are singled out by governments to be punished for their activities to a much greater extent than other manufacturers by high taxation. That is insanity, nothing less. If any country is crying out for inexpensive energy it is the UK, with a debt millstone around its neck of £1.387 trillion on latest figures. Yet the answer to that by the EUphile triumvirate parties is to squander untold billions on such as windmills, solar panels and, maddest of all, the HS2 EU mandated shiny toy train set at a likely £80 billion down the drain.

    To value high energy consumption is not in any way to say we should use energy inefficiently! That is something that needs to be left to consumer choice in the market place, the most effective engine for weeding out inefficiency ever devised by mankind.

    As an aside, why should any business be taxed in the first place? The very idea is a complete nonsense conceptually in the sense that all taxes fall on the individuals who are its ultimate customers, with implacable inevitability. Even to suggest that taxes can be born by anything other than individual human beings is a misconception. Taxing companies simply has the effect that the true crushing burden of the size of the unproductive and indeed counter-productive state sector can be hidden all the more effectively, to the benefit of politicians and their fellow travellers. Hardly any kind of recommendation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s