The under the radar plays in European shale, while the concentration has been on Poland, have taken place in Germany, the UK and France.

Although ecologists are happy to accept, as I do myself, that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real, anthropogenic and a clear and present danger what is their problem with shale?

If we exclude the emotional narrative of Josh Fox and Gasland, then the no less overwhelming consensus of science fact is that shale is not a danger to water in particular or the environment in general.

Global warming: Scientifically proven, but open to misinterpretation by those who are prone to conspiracy theories, selectively choose contradictory data, and have completely unconnected political agendas.

Shale gas: Scientifically proven, but open to misinterpretation by those who are prone to conspiracy theories, selectively choose contradictory data, and have completely unconnected political agendas.

The debate in Europe needs to be realistic and based on science - and economics.  Choosing economics as a driver doesn't demean any concerns about global warming, it is simple realism. The debate in Europe is tied up with those energy "experts" who do not choose to understand shale simply because their jobs depend on them not understanding it.

To many on the US right who ally themselves with climate change denial there is no greater threat than the fromage eaters: But how does this fit in that narrative:

France will not place a moratorium on shale gas exploration, but it will prevent the controversial drilling practice from endangering the public, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the country's ecology minister, told the L'Assemblee Nationale Wednesday.

The minister said France's exploration for shale gas would be less damaging to the environment than in some countries, including the US.

"A moratorium is not possible, mining laws do not permit it, but you can count on my vigilance that we will not see in France the kind of desolate scenes that exploration without environmental constraints brought in the US," the minister said, according to AFP's official parliamentary news service.

"Techniques which are destructive and dangerous for the environment are used there, and France will not commit to going down this route," she said.

Many greens forget that the majority of geologists study the earth because they love it. They, above most people, have a respect for the earth and want to have a sustainable future.

Mistakes happen. A worse mistake is to keep repeating them - not only is it bad karma, it's worse business.No one who operates in the real world wants to put the shale genie back in the bottle.

One reason why France is saying no to a moratorium, is the growing realisation of the huge size of the resource of not only gas, but shale oil, where France is in the pole position even ahead of most North American shales.

But gas in France can be interesting too. Small companies no one, except us, had ever heard of,  snatched up some good acreage three to five years ago. The story of shale in the US was small independents positioning themselves and becoming bigger independents or simply selling out to the bigger guys.  Yesterday's E+P becomes tomorrow's M+A.  A sign of this in France is how the big hometown teams are now interested:

Major French gas companies Total and GDF Suez are looking to claim domestic shale gas reserves by aligning themselves with specialist US companies to explore potential sites.

In March 2010, the French government issued three exploration permits in southeast France. One went to Total and two went to US gas exploration firm Schuepbach Energy.

GDF Suez is discussing with Schuepbach Energy a possible agreement to jointly explore the Villeneuve de Berg permit, which the US firm holds until March 2013.

Total and US firm Devon energy gained a permit, to explore the site of Montelimar. This permit runs until March 2015 and Total has 100% ownership of the permit, after it bought Devon Energy's French subsidiary.

French shale map

This map, from Developpement Durable shows existing licenses in yellow and green, current production in red and pending licenses in grey.

Two key takeaways of the European Unconventional Gas Conference this week were when will someone actually announce a major, or any, find in Europe and the importance of public engagement and education.

As usual, we still don't have any announcements. The fact that Lane Energy did not appear in their spot seemed significant. We're told they are planning to float the company on the London AIM, so perhaps this is the time to be quiet. On the sidelines, everyone is still optimistic about Poland but nothing for public consumption.

For those expecting any big scoops here, I have to say: Don't worry, they're coming. This is going to be a very interesting year. But not today.

The emphasis on public education comes from a growing realisation that where the European public has heard at all about shale, the narrative is increasingly negative. That was highlighted on Wednesday, when there was a demonstration outside the conference hotel.

It was a relatively small (40 or so), but noisy demonstation organised by the Parti de Gauche and a group called Sauvons les Riches, or Save the Rich. The narrative was basically Gasland a la Francaise and Gasland is opening in Paris February 13.

This may look like Josh Fox outside, but from what I figured, this was street theater, but underlining the scale of the problem the European industry faces in ensuring their side of the story starts getting told


More on the conference in future days and lots of other interesting stuff besides.

Next week No Hot Air will appear in a new version, but will remain a valuable source of independent information working towards engaging Europe's energy industry and beyond.

The question on European shale is going to rapidly move from not if, but when. Which means that questions on how need to provided and public policy at all levels needs to be engaged. I've been doing that under the radar for two and a half years, but the time is rapidly approaching that shale gas is moving from the underground to the street to the front page.That means the positive message of shale needs better communication and information.

The  All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Peak Gas meeting went well last night I thought, thanks to the SRO crowd there.  Many people didn't get to ask questions, and the way it was set up I didn't get to answer many of the questions from people that were called upon either.

Please do drop me a line at and I'll do the best I can.  For those who weren't there, the recording will be available soon on their web site,  I'll put it up here as well from next week. Thanks to

Paul Stevens was very generous and honourable given the circumstances.  Paul's certainly not too much of a shale detractor, although I still can't quite figure out what he proposes we do.

That's just one of the great quotes in the NYT today on how the air is getting cleaner:

According to the Energy Department, carbon dioxide emissions peaked in this country in 2005 and will not reach that level again until the early 2020s.

“It’s important to note that the future isn’t what it used to be,” said David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He pointed out that the Energy Department’s projection of emissions in 2020 was lower in 2008 than in 2007, and has kept falling.

It's also interesting that the Times does not make the common mistake of blaming demand drops entirely on the recession.  I've been making the point that oil, gas and electricity use peaked in most OECD countries several years before recession,  due in the most part to the many small improvements in efficiency from cars to lightbulbs to refrigerators to computers. That's important to understand because there are a lot of energy experts out there who still see the past as it used to be and would have us believe that in the happy event of economic recovery, it will be happy days are here again for commodity price bulls.

But we know that the air is getting cleaner for a greater systemic reason than demand:

The other big change is in the price and availability of natural gas. New drilling technology allowing for the recovery of gas from shale formations has led the government to double its estimate of how much natural gas can be recovered from shale. The result is that its price, already at bargain-basement levels, is likely to stay low for years to come.

That means that even if the mix of electric generating plants does not change, the cleaner gas-fired ones will run for more hours and the dirtier coal-fired ones will run for fewer. Making a kilowatt-hour from gas means emitting about 40 percent less carbon dioxide, compared with coal.

Natural gas is not the perfect solution.What is? But if we assume that not only water, but air and carbon is something vital that joins everyone on the planet, then we could have an informed debate from the centre.

Currently there are two schools: One is the catastrophist tendency which sees unmitigated carbon as the road to apocalypse. But that doesn't make any more sense than those who see global warming as some kind of elaborate left wing plot to destroy the economy and bring on apocalypse.

We need to have an intelligent debate that starts off saying:  Perfection is impossible. To pursue it is pointless, but as with many pointless things, pursuing perfection keeps a lot of people in jobs throughout the carbon mitigation industry.

No Hot Air wants to try to DO things. Not simply worry about things.