In the better late than never category, one of the big guns of conventional economic wisdom, the FT's Martin Wolf discovers the Golden Age of Gas that the IEA published last June:

The world is in the midst of a natural gas revolution. Even the sober International Energy Agency refers to a scenario it calls a “golden age of gas”. If such optimism proves right, the implications would not only be far greater than those of the eurozone’s painful dissolution, but would also be economically positive. Never forget that ours is a civilisation built on cheap supplies of commercial energy. The economic rise of emerging countries is bound to make the demand for commercial energy increase dramatically in the decades ahead. Gas matters.

None FT subscribers can find it in the clear via the Irish Times.

The is pretty old hat to readers here, but it is easy to forget that 90% of people have never even heard of shale in Europe, and 9% have heard the wrong thing. But having people like Martin Wolf on side can be much more valuable than the average energy expert:

Martin Wolf is chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, London. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000 “for services to financial journalism”. Mr Wolf is an associate member of the governing body of Nuffield College, Oxford, honorary fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, an honorary fellow of the Oxford Institute for Economic Policy (Oxonia) and a special professor at the University of Nottingham. 

He has been a forum fellow at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos since 1999 and a member of its International Media Council since 2006. He was made a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Nottingham University in July 2006. He was made a Doctor of Science (Economics) of London University, honoris causa, by the London School of Economics in December 2006. Martin's most recent publications are Why Globalization Works and Fixing Global Finance. 

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  • Mark

    To put the water in perspective, you could always look at United Utilities water tariffs.<br /><br />For "business" users of potable water<br /><br />-Select 50 - for consumers whose annual volumetric usage at one site will be in excess of 50 megalitres (50,000m3) p.a. but below 180 megalitres<br />-Select 180 - consumers from 180 megalitres per year to 3,000 megalitres per year<br />-Select 3,000 - >3,000 megalitres per year<br /><br />All the water companies have similar tariff structures <br /><br />Is there a mistake in the article - it quotes "7.5 to 15 million litres of water and 57 to 225 million litres of chemicals" per shaft. Leaving aside the point that water was chemical the last time I looked, this implies at least 90% chemicals

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  • Sadly out of date / out of touch article - doesn't understand that per unit of electricity generated:<br /><br />- coal mining / steam turbines consume more water than shale gas mining / combined cycle gas turbines<br /><br />- shale gas mining / combined cycle gas turbines generate under 40%, not 50%, of the CO2 that coal mining / steam turbines do<br /><br />Also, no reference to Texas and Polish studies showing shale extraction does not contaminate the water table<br /><br />Sloppy journalism!

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  • As he is an uber-economist it is no surprise that he did not put the water use and chemicals issues into perspective. The numbers sound big but, as has been well-illustrated on here, they are actually not significant. One of the articles about Cuadrilla's work mentioned that United Utilities were happy to meet their water requirements from the mains. It would be interesting to find out whether the typical backflow could be handled by the sewers and waste treatment works; my guess is that it could. Indeed there may be a hidden advantage in countries like the UK where major infrastructure is likely to be close to the drill sites. 15 million litres is a trifling amount to a water company.<br />I was surprised that he did not expand further on the economic consequences. For example, I was reading yesterday that Dow, Chevron and Shell have plans for new ethylene crackers in the US, there may well be more. As ethylene is a prime feedstock for a huge range of products, this will promote many other projects: expansions; re-opening old plants; "on-shoring" capacity from abroad; etc..<br />The killer fact in the article was that using ethane from shale gas gives margins 3 to 4 times those of the traditional route - naptha from crude oil.

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