undeadA few weeks back I noted that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth may have done the UK shale industry a great favour by promoting their Frack Free Promise initiative.

Since then, the original 821 shot up to 1189, accelerating the bluster to category five proportions:

Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Sam Pearse said: “For the first time hundreds of candidates from all the main parties are saying a clear no to fracking rigs, trucks, and gas flaring turning up in their constituencies. This unprecedented display of opposition against fracking from our politicians is a sign that the tide is turning on this controversial industry. 

“Fracking is not the answer to our energy needs. Instead of gambling our future on an unproven and risky industry that may never deliver, the next government should invest in the tried and tested clean technologies that can provide safe, home-grown energy for decades to come.” 

Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy campaigner Donna Hume said: “With a thousand election candidates from all the main parties now taking the frack-free pledge, this issue is firmly on the election agenda. If voters want a cleaner future, they can check on our website to see if their local candidates do too.

Well, that didn’t work out too well did it? I had promised to provide an update on the non-issue of shale in UK politics, something I’ve been pointing out for some months as most opponents evaporate and UK shale opponents are generally outnumbered by Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least in the streets of London despite a half dozen or so industry events this year alone. I remember the days when a demonstration was sign of a conference’s success, and the non-appearance of demonstrators mirrored the non-appearance of any gas molecules. Maybe everyone got bored as the UK national sport of energy analysis paralysis ground the industry to a stalemate. 

It would be pointless, and indeed, churlish, to point out how the political campaign against shale was completely irrelevant, when even the Green Party barely mentioned it.  Mike Hill on the Fylde has come, and now gone, and the handful of vocal candidates lost their deposits. Even in Scotland, it must be noted that 40 SNP MP’s didn’t sign the pledge against the 16 who had. I haven’t done analysis on the 29 Plaid Cymru candidates but they only won three seats in total so they won't be any great danger except to themselves.

In short, we have a "social license to operate" the old fashioned way, by winning elections. Gone is the biggest zombie fact of UK shale, that the public will run in horror from it. However, noisy and irksome the antis will continue to be, we have to remind not only ourselves, but planning officers and councillors too, of the lesson that will be obvious to the national government and MPs: there isn't a whole bunch going on here. Time to move on.

The true story of the election was far greater than shale. I’ll come out here and admit I (like a growing number of Londoners) voted Labour because as important as shale is as an issue, there are others, Europe and austerity being only two. Shale, and sadly I think, the environment in general, was one big yawn to voters. 

But this of course leads us to about the greatest amount of luck the UK shale industry has ever had. I had planned a few autopsies this week to commiserate with fellow frackers over the prospect of yet more delay, bureaucratic hand wringing and the old fashioned pettifoggery which has marked the industry over the past few years. That would have been the outcome given the lead Labour had in the polls last Thursday morning. Labour is  not against shale, but it would have been open to pressure from coalition partners in the case of a hung parliament. 

The Conservative victory now provides us with a government not only enthusiastic about shale, but one able to provide certainty for investors over the next five years. Parts of the press, even those sympathetic to the cause, still don’t quite get it though

Although no one wants to see Britain’s countryside turned into Texas, with a “nodding donkey” in the corner of every green field, our economy will wither and die unless we find a way to harness our onshore fossil fuel resources. The jobs and industrial growth created by shale in the US should be enough motivation to exploit our own resources 

The reality is that the Fylde will look about as industrialised as a garden centre, urban energy won’t be much different, and potentially better than existing industrial estates and Cheshire is going to look like Ohio, not Texas. UK shale will have it’s own special way of accessing hydrocarbons and comparisons with Texas are as meaningless today as they were last week. It’s strange how supporters like the Telegraph accept antis take on how shale will look. 

It’s said that Labour failed because it didn’t recognise the “aspirations” of voters. Greens failed for similar reasons.They stuck to a doom-laden analysis of climate change as threat, where the most hopeful promise was vote for us, things won’t get worse.

Shale has always been about transformation, shifting paradigms and change for the better. You can’t get it all. But we can give far more than people think. The US has shown how quickly everything changed. If the UK does a quarter as well in 2015 to 2020 as the US did in 2010/2015 we’ll still be way ahead. 

The UK has incredible resources: geological, financial and scientific. The only thing the UK shale industry needs to run out of in the next few years is excuses.

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  • Mark Taylor

    I'm very pro-shale and believe environmental concerns are overblown with the existing safeguards. However it's worth pointing out that Mike Hill did not lose his deposit in Fylde and indeed walked away with 11% of the vote which is high indeed for a single issue candidate. More importantly most of his votes seem to have been taken off the Tory candidate. This will not have been lost on Tory grandees. Hopefully HMG will continue to push forward and early in the parliamentary term will be the time to do it, but it will be necessary to create social acceptance. Maybe this will come after a couple of successful trial drills.
    Thanks for the work you do in supporting shale.

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  • TooWindy

    A bit premature to say UK shale has reawaken with a Tories victory. Local planning council are still in charge and they are the same elected ones from the previous election. Nothing has changed. It will be business as usual, feet dragging. Shale was not a determining or big influence on the voters so neither it would be a huge pressure for local council to get on with it.

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  • Andy

    Terry Engelder has an interesting article whose title gives its theme away "Is US oil boom already turning to bust? OPEC can only dream"

    While you have to read the whole thing, it contains one chart that shows the price of oil and gas per 6 million BTU. If oil and gas start trading together again, the chart would indicate that the price of oil still has room to fall.

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  • Andy

    One more comment on Terry Engelder's article, while the graph does indicate that oil could still have farther to drop, it is equally true that gas could rise to reach the BTU adjusted price of oil and still be in the historical range.

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