Articles from 2012
The UK should go mad for fracking
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 15 June 2012
James Lovelock in a broad ranging interview with the Guardian print edition on Saturday that's already on line. Must read both in the original article and the blog post which covers the interview in detail. Good to see that the Guardian isn't completely in thrall to gas haters such as Fiona Harvey and Damian Carrington or the eminently batty Suzanne Goldenberg.
So who is Lovelock?
Scientist James Lovelock is the man behind Gaia theory, and once predicted doom for our climate. He discusses nuclear (good), wind power (bad) and why fracking is the future
He says being allowed to change your mind and follow the evidence is one of the liberating marvels of being an independent scientist, something he has revelled in since leaving Nasa, his last full-time employer, in the late 1960s.
This is the full version of his statement on fracking from the blog, my emphasis
Gas is almost a give-away in the US at the moment. They've gone for fracking in a big way. This is what makes me very cross with the greens for trying to knock it: the amount of CO2 produced by burning gas in a good turbine gives you 60% efficiency. In a coal-fired power station, it is 30% per unit of fuel. So you get a two-to-one gain there straight away. The next two-to-one gain you get is that methane has only got half its energy in the carbon, the other half is in the hydrogen, so there's a four-to-one gain in CO2 output from the same amount of electricity by burning methane. Let's be pragmatic and sensible and get Britain to switch everything to methane. We should be going mad on it. The fear of nuclear is now too great after Fukushima and the cost of building new build plants is very expensive and impractical. And it takes a long time to get them running. It is very obvious in America that fracking took almost no time at all to get going. It happened without any debate whatsoever. Suddenly you found there was this abundant fuel source. There's only a finite amount of it [in the UK] so before it runs out we should really be thinking sensibly about what to do next. We rushed into renewable energy without any thought. The schemes are largely hopelessly inefficient and unpleasant. I personally can't stand windmills at any price. Hydro, biomass, solar, etc, have all got great promise, but they're not available tomorrow, or even in 10 years. There's a very good tidal stream farm that I've come across using a sunken barge with a turbine on it. It's much more reliable. They should have gone ahead with the Severn Barrage.
This probably sounds rich from me, but I think he's going over the top slightly on gas. I was particularly taken with his description of first greens:
The greens use guilt. That shows just how religious the greens are. You can't win people round by saying they are guilty for putting CO2 in the air. We do now know what we are doing when it comes to CO2 [emissions], but you don't have to go right over the top like the greens and shouting, "You're guilty!" I don't like it.
One thing being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope you get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don't know it. It's just the way the humans go that if there's a cause of some sort, a religion starts forming around it. It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion. I don't think people have noticed that, but it's got all the sort of terms that religions use.
The people who don't believe in the environment and climate science, etc, are the deniers. They are a totally different category [to the greens]. They've got their own religion. They believe that the world was right before these damn people [the greens] came along and want to go back to where we were 20 years ago. That's also silly in its own way. I don't see how any true scientist could be either a believer or a denier. The term "sceptic" has been hijacked, too.
It will be interesting to read the comments.The Guardian has an especial group of deniers and greens who brook no disagreement with their particular brand of certainty and will be at each other's throats all weekend. I'm comment number 3 by the way. But the wonderful thing about shale is how it shattered certainty.
But maybe we've got enough shale [gas] under Britain. There's certainly lots of it. Now, that's not the complete answer, but it will carry us on for the next 20-30 years. It will be a bridging technology. I lived through the second world war and there was no way in 1939 that we could beat the Germans. But we were just bloody lucky to live on an island. That gave us time to pull our forces together so that we could hit back. We are in a very similar position now. Fracking buys us some time and we can learn to adapt.