I"m not a scientist. But if the overwhelming majority of scientists are convinced that climate change is happening that is good enough for me.  Similarly, the vast majority of scientists tell me shale gas can be extracted safely, then that's good enough for me too.  Anything else, in either subject, is nit-picking that distracts us from a rapid uptake of natural gas in generation, vehicle transport and the connected carbon reductions.  Gas can be good for the enviroment and the economy. It's not either/or. It's both. 

What we need to talk about when we talk about shale is pragmatism, realism, science and no extreme positions either side. Right wingers can choose shale for economic reasons but it will lead to carbon reductions that they might otherwise see as a socialist plot. The left can still have less carbon, but also free up economic resources to provide for other projects.  

Unfortunately there is very little leadership from progressives on shale.  They seem to feel more comfortable with fighting each other  or simply getting comfortable jobs where they get paid good money to talk about carbon reductions but not actually achieve them.  They also seem to confuse shale as a victory for the right when it's more complex than that. I recently came across this from last year, but it remains valid:

Richard Ward is director of energy initiatives at the Aspen Science Center and senior energy advisor to the UN Foundation’s Energy Future Coalition. Ward was previously with Royal Dutch Shell, where he served on the Shell Group Sustainability Executive and prepared the sustainability strategy.

The scientific consensus is stark: Earth systems are dangerously close to tipping points which, once crossed, could ignite negative feedback loops and catastrophic climate change beyond human capacity to remedy. Because burning hydrocarbons is the cause, many environmentalists advocate a complete ban on carbon fuel sources in favor of renewables. This is compelling until we consider the numbers. The US uses about 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy a year and emits 6 billion tons of the world’s 30 billion tons of CO2. We use nearly 40 quads of oil for transportation and about 40 quads of energy for electric power. By contrast, our production from wind and solar is only 0.5 quads. To replace the 67 quads of oil, coal, and natural gas with wind and solar would take decades. In this time, the emissions from coal and oil would drive the planet over the brink.

The tipping point is a good point to make.We need some urgency, about actually cutting carbon, and that starts by having realistic ideas about energy in general. It is irrelevant whether you want renewables or not. Renewables are not around the corner: they don't physically work even with massive money we don't have thrown at them.Waiting for a slow but sure takeover of the world by renewables also means spewing coal and oil emissions into the atmosphere, ensuring that we'll end up with two pointless outcomes: We'll spend a huge amount of money we don't have, and the approach will actually make climate change worse.

Even if we were to able ramp up solar and wind power by 20 times our current capacity over the next 20 years, the total contribution would only be 10 percent of the energy we need. We do not have time to be purists. The renewables revolution must occur. But we must make significant cuts in the carbon emissions today – and natural gas offers the fastest way to do that.

And before we get the nit pickers shouting Howarth, he has that covered:

Just because transitioning from coal to renewables and natural gas is smart doesn’t mean it will be easy. The coal lobby will not go away quietly. They sponsor climate skeptics, support efforts to shut down natural gas development, and flood the air space with disingenuous information. Fear is their best tool. The latest example is that leaking pipes will make a shift to natural gas more dangerous and emit more methane than staying with coal. Environmentalists must not be fooled. It is good that the EPA has raised leaking flanges and compressors as a concern, not to discredit natural gas, but to improve regulations to ensure that the gas stays in the pipes until it is burned.

Where environmentalists are really failing the planet is trying to discredit natural gas entirely when they should be at the table ensuring the regulations actually work. To be out of the room on the street shouting about issues that either never existed or have been solved makes them appear ridiculous:  Not a position that any political group can afford.  We need to cut carbon.  Anything else is dangerous:

Coal-fired power plants remain among the top emmitters of fine particle pollution, mercury, SO2 and NOx in the country. According to the Clean Air Task Force, this pollution caused over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, almost 10,000 hospitalizations, and more than 20,000 heart attacks. Shifting to renewables and natural gas is the patriotic thing to do because significantly more Americans die every year from coal emissions than have died in the World Trade Center attack and the eight years of Iraq and Afghan wars combined (nearly 11,000 fatalities).

We must resolve these environmental and public health concerns as quickly as possible so that natural gas can be used without harm. The technical solutions are well known; no inventions are necessary. We just need the will to come together and work it out. We have missed so many chances in the past to shift our energy system. This could be our last chance; we cannot miss this opportunity.

As I pointed out, this is from March 2011.  Environmental opposition has squandered millions of tons of CO2 emissions and caused over 18 months over 19,000 premature deaths and 30,000 heart attacks . In comparson to these numbers,  we have anti gas groups talking about completely inconsequential and minor occurrences.  What is the more proximate danger?  Those numbers above or  a crack in the wall? 

Following this I noticed a crack in my kitchen wall, damage to a concrete floor, and several tiles dislodged in my bathroom."

Or this someone's hair falling out

Stroud, who is a 29-year-old hair stylist at the Downtown Hair Co. in Towanda, told the commissioners that three weeks prior to April 11, she became ill. Her hair began falling out, she had heart palpitations, shortness of breath and stomach cramps, she said.

which was later debunked anyway.

 Granville Summit resident Crystal Stroud's claim that she suffered barium poisoning by drinking well water contaminated by natural gas drilling has been refuted by a DEP investigation, DEP officials said on Thursday

Then there are those less concerned by thousand of human deaths, but are suckers for cute animal stories:

Dozens of cases of illness, death and reproductive issues in cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, and humans could be the result of exposure to the gases or the chemicals used in the process, Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and veterinarian, Michelle Bamberger, have found. They interviewed animal owners in six states—Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas—and cited 24 cases where animals seem to have been affected by the gas drilling.

What is more pressing 24 sick animals or 20,000 dead humans?  

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0 / 3000 Character restriction
Your text should be less than 3000 characters

People in this conversation

  • Chilli

    Nick, I haven't read as much alarmist baloney since the last IPCC report. But if it helps gets cheap shale gas into UK homes I'm all for it. We can worry about massive fraud and corruption of science at a later date as global temperatures continue to plateau.

    0 Like
  • Martin Brumby


    Absolutely agree, Chilli.<br /><br />Nobody, but nobody suggests that the climate doesn't change. The question is whether this is due to human CO2 emissions and whether there is ANY evidence (not computer models) that it is likely to be a problem.<br /> <br />Nick seems to be uncharacteristically credulous about the "overwhelming majority" (75 out of 77 specially cherry-picked "active climate scientists") <br />http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/#more-60090<br />and about "tipping points" and all the rest of the agit-prop scams.<br /><br />But I also agree that we need to get some affordable & reliable energy fast. And Shale Gas is likely the only option for that until / unless we build a massive amount of nuclear. That's the priority. I don't fancy shivering in the dark. <br /><br />An interesting post here about Ed Davey's "Seminar". I suspect some of the requested FOI 'answers' are probably in some nohotair posts. But the response from the Cabinet Office is disgraceful.<br />http://autonomousmind.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/frack-off-cameron/

    0 Like
  • Dung

    I agree with everything you say about shale and disagree with everything you say about climate change ^.^ However I would like to bet that if you put the same effort that you put into learning about energy, also into climate change then you would become perfect. Keep up the good work Nick.

    0 Like