What could be the most important thing that could happen for European shale energy this year? This is going to be hard to beat:

EXECUTIVE ORDER

SUPPORTING SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF UNCONVENTIONAL DOMESTIC NATURAL GAS RESOURCES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to coordinate the efforts of Federal agencies responsible for overseeing the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources and associated infrastructure and to help reduce our dependence on oil, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. In 2011, natural gas provided 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Its production creates jobs and provides economic benefits to the entire domestic production supply chain, as well as to chemical and other manufacturers, who benefit from lower feedstock and energy costs. By helping to power our transportation system, greater use of natural gas can also reduce our dependence on oil. And with appropriate safeguards, natural gas can provide a cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels.

In  Europe, as in the rest of the world,  Barack Obama's influence cannot be underestimated. Notice how deathly silent Josh Fox has gone in the US since the State of the Union address.The same will happen here. Opponents won't be going in to local councils in Europe and getting much traction from beating up on the POTUS, and shale supporters now have a valuable ace up the sleeve in his support of shale.

A key problem in the US has been how shale often degenerated into a Republican good/Democratic bad issue. Shale is much more important than that.There have certainly been some Republican opponents at the local levels and Democratic enthusiasts at state and national ones. What people have missed is that the old politics of right wing Texan hydrocarbon libertarianism may feel comfortable home on the range, but simply won't wash out there in the rest of the world. As US politics degenerates into battles based on right or left wing purity instead of rationality, shale ended up getting caught in battles where it didn't belong. Opposition to shale especially became a sort of entry requirement into the left after Gasland.The key scene in that movie wasn't flaming taps: it was the spurious connection to Dick Cheney.The narrative was that if you didn't see Josh Fox as the Woody Guthrie de nos jours, you were an oil company stooge. If you read the New York Times or Huff Post or MSNBC then you had to buy into a belief system frozen from the days of John D Rockefeller through HL Hunt through George W Bush to Aubrey McClendon. Those views stated that the hydrocarbon industry was automatically the enemy of progressive politics as much as the right saw supporters of any kind of regulation as a bunch of communists.

Here in Europe, because politics itself is more grown up, shale politics is even messier. Until now the only allies we have had in Europe have been on the right.James Delingpole for example is 100% spot on about shale, but absolutely barking on most else. Nigel Lawson loses hundreds of thousands of potential supporters of shale each time he opens his mouth.But similarly,progressive politics as epitomised by the Guardian and Independent newspapers in the UK or the Greens have fallen into a US style Gasland extremism. Like shale? Then you're a gas company lobbyist sitting in the naughty corner with the Tories The Lib Dems and Labour sit on the fence.That's just in the UK.

It's not so much that space forbids discussing shale politics in Ireland or France or the Netherlands, more like that life is too short; it's that complex. But overall  it's going to be difficult for The Guardian or Liberation or The Irish Times or Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as the BBC or FR2 or RTE or RAI to sell shale as an extreme American oil company plot when we can whip out this Executive Order. My US readers may not be convinced but Obama has done a great service for European acceptance.

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  • Andy

    I'll keep this short. Officials elected statewide here, whether Republican or Democrat, tend to support shale because of a common interest; the need for taxes. When Jerry Brown, aka Governor Moonbeam himself, fired his officials because they were throwing up roadblocks to drilling, we have a good example of this incentive for taxes in practice.

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  • Mr Kwok

    Nick, you do a great job and I'm 100% with you on Shale Gas, but I really must disagree with your comments on Lord Lawson and Mr Dellingpole. Between them they have done more than anyone else to calm climate change hysteria and to question the misanthropic green agenda. By contrast the energy industry have been far too happy to go along with all the low carbon nonsense rather than speaking up for the benefits of cheap energy.

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  • add

    Looks to me like the politics of shale in the US and the UK are very similar: all the enthusiastic supporters are on the right, and all the enthusiastic opponents are on the left.<br /><br />By your own arguments, all the people happy about shale are right-wing madmen. If I were you, I would think about that.

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  • Striebs

    In reply to: add

    The British of every political colour have either frozen in the headlamps or are cowering in the corner .<br /><br />The Americans are at least being bold and making a fist of it .<br /><br />The greatest risk of all is taking no risks .

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  • Steve

    You are your own worst enemy sometimes, Nick.<br /><br />The irrational opponents of shale gas and oil on the Left will never be convinced by your comments about Delingpole and Lawson, or your labelling critics of decarbonisation as "deniers". Pandering does not work, you will always be part of the "fossil fuel big oil conspiracy" for them. You simply alienate your friends.<br /><br />So why do you do it?

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  • Compulsion? Or perhaps I believe it. The left will come around. From a Marxist perspective,you have to create wealth to share more for eventual socialism. That's the Chinese theory for example. I have met Delingpole, he's truly scary . <br />Not entirely tongue in cheek, I pointed out to him that he only became interested in shale after Obama finally released his birth certificate.

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  • Tommie William

    In reply to: Steve

    It's not a complaint, just an observation. I get the same impression as Steve. Your passion and conviction might lead you to become Lawson himself. :-)

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