Is gas killing green energy?

A widening shale gas revolution is killing the economics of renewable energy, even as falling costs allow wind and solar to overtake fossil fuels in niche areas, say energy executives and analysts.

This is the kind of article, which, although currently economically correct, is not helpful to gas.  We can't avoid the reality of the various analyses :

"You have one energy that represents today more than 20 percent of the energy mix, and solar today is close to zero and will represent maybe 1 or 1.5 percent in 20 years from now," said Jean-Jacques Mosconi, Total head of strategy.

"The economic viability of a lot of the renewables are getting killed because we have too much gas in the world right now," said Jeff Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs.

"When Germany say they are going to use alternative energy sources, I just don't see it, if you try to switch now to solar power it will cost them 20 times more," said Peter Csoregh at Robeco's Natural Resource equities fund, expecting instead greater use in Germany of gas, coal and imported nuclear.

...but this kind of article is like a red flag to the green bulls and gas doesn't need to alienate greens any further.  Despite what somepeople might think, the shale debate is not a case of gas good v bad renewables.  Placing gas on the right and greens on the left is an over-simplification that helps neither one. Gas has to be de-politicised and needs to be taken out of the political debate just as surely as we need to return to a fact based energy policy not based on emotion that helps society at large.

Way back three years ago,  far lower carbon natural gas was welcomed by many greens as a quick solution to the problem at hand.  Solar and wind are not the enemies of gas, coal is.  Again returning to the past,  the conventional wisdom saw coal as the cheapest and quickest energy source that also was fast and dirty.  Natural gas was seen as a more noble fuel, but expense and security issues precluded against it replacing coal.  In today's Golden Age of gas,  security is a dead issue and coal is increasingly the more expensive option head to head without considering any of the other externalities of coal.

What happened unfortunately is the greens lost control of their base.  Both gas companies and NGO's became ineffective in both presenting facts and battling emotions. The facts of gas are fairly set in stone, but the narrative surrounding the shale debate got lost.  One can argue about how unhelpful Gasland has been, but Gasland was so effective because it was the only player on the field. The more that is known, the more that gas can win the debate. The trouble is that almost everywhere, the anti side has got there first and it will be much harder to change minds today than it would have been if gas had been proactive.  Poland is a good example in that the benefits of gas were much more evident and the case was easy to make.  Even Poland can't be complacent as the Polish subtitled Gasland is introduced by Jose Bove and others, but gas got there first. It will be hard for Jose and Josh to make inroads in Poland, but not impossible if the anti-debate becomes stronger in the rest of Europe.

It will be easier for them if we fail to engage European Green NGO's.  But that is hard.  Firstly, the antis are already so strong that it is difficult to win a debate where the other side refuses to show up.  Many greens, and their supporters in the press, simply do not want to engage.

But shale gas in Europe is not going anywhere.  It's been in the ground for millions of years, and no one is proposing that we can have large scale production any time soon.  The shale genie is not going back in the bottle - a few more months or years as we see in France aren't going to change the geological reality of an energy source that is massive, affordable and far lower carbon.  But why postpone the inevitable?

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  • There is a universal answer for those who accuse gas of killing green tech. <br />That answer is, "So?"<br /><br />The head of the utility AEP announced this week that he would be shutting down coal plants rather than converting them to cleancoal tech, and that coal would be replaced by gas.<br /><br />My thought when I read that was, "So what's the problem?"<br /><br />(You probably don't want me as your lobbyist. )<br /><br />Right now gas' advantage is it is not nuclear, not coal, and not oil, and it is available sooner and in greater amounts than green tech.<br /><br />For what its worth that's not a bad spot.

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