Articles from 2011
What got edited out of the Independent story:
Story today in the UK's Independent on Sunday on shale gas in Lancashire.
When I spoke to Andrew Johnson Friday night he seemed determined to do the usual rehash of Gasland piece without pointing out inconvenient environmental truths such as it reducing UK carbon emission by 30% via gas for coal substitution. Imagine what an unfair and unbalanced story it would be without my input. You decide.
A controversial new technique for drilling gas wells, which campaigners say has polluted water courses in America, is to be tried for the first time in Britain later this month.
Supporters of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" say it could unleash so much gas across the globe that it will solve the energy crisis for the next century, as well as help reduce carbon emissions.
But an Oscar-shortlisted documentary film, released in Britain later this month, claims the use of the process in America has resulted in gas contaminating water supplies. Such is the concern that New York has introduced a moratorium on exploration of gas in the state while safety concerns are looked into.
I appear here:
Nick Grealy, a gas advocate who publishes the No Hot Air website, said that the problems with shale gas had been "over emphasised". "It's two or three incidents from thousands of wells. There is so much shale gas that the energy crisis is solved."
I have no problem at all with him editing me down, but what I think should have appeared is at least one reference to the various links I sent him too, little of which made it to the actual story although in general the story is less hysterical than it could have been.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have also expressed reservations about the gas, although they also say it could prove to be important in bridging the gap between coal and the development of renewable energy resources.
My actual contribution to him is below.
I think that the number one site you should visit to put the New York State Moratorium in perspective is that of US Ground Water Protection Council, the umbrella of all state water protection regulators in the US:
http://www.gwpc.org/e-library/documents/general/GWPC and hydraulic fracturing.pdf
The US Gas Industry view can be found here:
This organisation is very good, but the paranoid may point out that it is financed mostly by Chesapeake Energy
This web site is also connected to Clean Skies.
A frame by frame rebuttal of Gasland: The Movie is here:
In the UK, the Financial Times has had two good articles:
Robert F Kennedy Jr
Gideon Rachman: Shale Gas will change the world:
The Sunday Telegraph printed this in October 2009:
As for my current take on this January 1 2011
There have been a handful of cases where accidents have occurred in shale gas wells, out of several tens of thousands of successful wells. To abandon shale gas drilling entirely is not realistic, and in New York State there is only a moratorium as it is investigated further, despite a clean bill of health from other state regulators.
Natural gas drilling in Europe is likely to be subject to no less stringent environmental safeguards. Shale gas could be North Sea 2. Shall we put the genie back in the bottle?
It is only natural that for people who are facing natural gas extraction on land for the first time to have questions which should, and can, be answered positively. Any driller in Europe will have a community engagement program ready if the geology supports affordable natural gas production. So far, shale gas is only in the first stages, but it is worth noting that shale gas exploration is at various stages of development in every country in Europe apart from Finland and Portugal.
Apart from encouraging early results from Lancashire, potential UK gas resources could be found in at least a dozen other locations in the UK. There are positive signs of very large gas concentrations in Poland, Germany and France. China, India, Argentina, South Africa and Australia show promise as well. In short, shale gas is thought by some geologist to be ubiquitous. The problem for natural gas is not supply but demand.
Natural gas provides a clean and affordable energy alternative. If natural gas replaced coal entirely in UK electricity generation, the UK would reduce carbon emissions by over 30% overall according to a recent DECC study.
The main objections to shale have surrounded the following, but the:
Water Use: Several Million gallons are used on each site. That sounds a lot, but is less than one half of one percent of water use. It is far less than water leaks for just one example. It is the same amount of water a nuclear power station uses in four hours, a coal fired one in six hours or an 18 hole golf course uses in 28 days. However the shale well will recycle much of that water for a total use of ten years.
Chemicals: Hydro fracturing fluid is 99.87% water and sand. The largest concentration of the remainder is guar gum, a naturally occurring component used in ice cream and cosmetics.
Land Use: Current best practice means that a single five acre site, depending on geology, could be sufficient to access gas from a five square mile or more area. However, the drilling operation would only last two to three months and after that time would leave an above ground footprint about the size of two shipping containers.
No Hot Air has been studying shale gas internationally since 2008. No Hot Air is preparing a report to be published in February 2011 entitled UK Energy Policy: Time for Plan B?
Current UK energy policy is based on a formula of 2050/80/200. Eighty percent cut in emissions by 2050 at a cost of £200 billion. Plan B's initial research indicates a 2030/50/0 result. A fifty per cent cut in emissions by 2030 for no net investment. That would be achieved by the replacement of coal with gas along with efficiency gains and increased use of natural gas in the truck, bus and shipping sectors. Natural gas can replace diesel for a 20% cut in emissions and a 30% cut in fuel cost.
Happy to help, please give me a call most of the time Saturday if you have any further questions.
The Road Less Traveled
Well worth reading is this on Peak Transport. Like Peak Oil and Peak Energy, the idea that we are stuck inexorably into a pattern of permanently increasing carbon and cash consumption doesn't have to go on to the Malthusian conclusion of societal collapse -or unavoidable increases in oil costs.
For those who see $100 and more oil going off into the far off future, an alternative view based not on what if, but on what is:
A study of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point.
“With talk of ‘peak oil,’ why not the possibility of ‘peak travel’ when a clear plateau has been reached?” asked co-author Lee Schipper, who shares his time between Global Metro Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University.
My recent interest in pointing out that we have basically solved the energy crisis through shale doesn't mean I've forgotten about a few other trends. One is that Peak Oil is rubbish,a theory now non-controversial but back in 2008, PO was a foundation of accepted wisdom. That also means Peak Energy (in the OECD), which occurred in 2004-06 depending on which country and which commodity you choose. Peak Light is something that is glaringly obvious as we see the incandescent age of peak light pushing off lots of heat replaced by the LED era. So to me the idea that we've decided that we don't have to live miles away from each other makes sense. But then statements like this is like light to a bug.
“A major factor behind increasing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions since the 1970s has ceased its rise, at least for the time being,” Schipper said. “If it is a truly permanent change, then future projections of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel demand should be scaled back.”
The peak travel study runs counter to government models predicting steady growth in travel demand well beyond 2030. Schipper and Millard-Ball say that their own findings are “suggestive rather than conclusive.” They speculate that highway gridlock, parking problems, high prices at the gas pump and an aging population that doesn’t commute may be contributing to peak travel. People already spend an average 1.1 hours per day traveling from one place to another, and driving speeds can’t get much faster.
“You can’t pronounce one single factor for the slowdown in travel,” Schipper said. “The most important thing will be to see what happens as the economy recovers. Everybody expects oil prices to go up. But with new fuel economy standards, more hybrids and higher oil prices competing against a recovery in which people buy old-fashioned gas-guzzlers, the question is, what is going to win?”
The study notes that the trend started in the US in 2000, which makes me think that this isn't to do with prices. If gasoline were half the price, a big house an hour away might be more attractive than an apartment 30 minutes closer. But far fewer would choose to commute two hours instead of one for an even bigger one.
Not to mention the impact of the internet on those who don't commute at all.