When I told people three and four years ago that the sudden emergence and future permanence of shale gas is the best news for the economy and the planet, I wasn't thinking of stories like this on shale and the steel industry. This is as fundamental a shift to the steel industry as the invention of the Bessemer process in 1850's. It also disrupts the world coal industry even more.  

World coal use is divided very roughly into coal for generation (lignite and thermal coal) and coal used as an intrinsic part of the steel making process, metallurgical coal or coking coal. On a global basis, about ten percent of coal is met coal. I've been trying to figure out the carbon implications of met coal use. On one hand, the process uses up  50% of the coal to produce the heat which fixes the carbon to the steel, which in this case can be seen as some sort of carbon capture and storage. That makes it harder to know the actual CO2 implication of this news from the US, as natural gas starts to replace met coal in steel making, where Voestalpline and Nucor are:

among at least five U.S. plants under consideration or being built that would use gas instead of coal to purify iron ore, the main ingredient in steel.

“That technology has been around 30 years, but for 29 years gas prices in the U.S. were so high that the technology was not economical,” said Michelle Applebaum, managing partner at consulting firm Steel Market Intelligence in Chicago. “This is how steel will be built moving forward.”

UK shale energy acceptance in the coming year will depend on a variety of sources supporting shale.The ultra greens like to pretend that any Frack Head as Andrew Rawnsley calls supporters are CC deniers from the right wing of the Tories and/or UKIP. Proof of how simplistic that analysis is, comes from how one of Andrew Rawnsley’s allies against fracking is Nick Griffin of the BNP.  Does that prove Andrew Rawnsley is a black shirt?  Of course not, but it doesn’t prove that supporters of shale can’t approach it from a left wing progressive analysis either.

Proof of this comes from a very welcome and important ally. David Miliband, for non UK readers, was the Foreign Secretary under Gordon Brown and narrowly lost the last leadership contest for party leader to his younger brother Ed. He’s given a platform in the home of the little England right wing, perhaps because he would be so off message at The Observer, despite his impeccable left wing credentials

My New Year’s wish is ..realise it’s better to admit you’re wrong and get things right than to plough on for fear of doing a U-turn and get things wrong.

Already this sounds like good advice to the Labour Party in particular and DECC and the Greens in general.

I've often pointed out how silence can speak as loud as words in the shale debate. Last Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a preliminary report of it's study into Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.

The cynical may point out to the timing. Friday afternoon before Christmas is as good a time as any to bury bad news. But who is the report bad news for?  Allegations of water contamination lie at the heart of public concerns over shale. The debate has not lacked for emotive descriptions of actual or potential catastrophe from many quarters, repeated unchallenged in the press. Only one example here is Josh Fox, in France's Libération newspaper

In France, media and politicians talk about the "miracle" of shale gas. What is it?

This is a nightmare. The use of these gases pollute the water, air and threaten health. Wells allow gas to escape and chemicals in groundwater.We can not grow anything. The landscape is devastated.

Significantly, even in a paper that makes the UK Guardian look like the Daily Express, the rest of Libé's coverage has been very balanced. Certainly we have to ask ourselves how, in a mediaverse where US news events, meaningful and piddling alike are on continuous view thanks to rolling news, has anyone missed devastation,famine and poisoning on such a scale?

A key objection to UK and European shale is that Europe is too crowded, a story any seach of this site will show I've addressed many times. According to the expert opinion, England's Green and Pleasant Land could be re-industrialized thanks to shale gas, and it's a valid question to ask. That was my immediate question when I first talked about shale here over four years ago. The debate isn't informed by pictures of vertical wells in Wyoming and similar blots on the landscape in the parts of North America where there is a lot more landscape than here. But the Europe is too crowded for natural gas myth is prevalent and is used by those who are alleged experts (but are more interested in pushing nuclear or coal ) and those who admit their ideas of what a gas field look like comes from the movies. In our debate yesterday on Voice of Russia Radio, Vanessa Vine of Frack Free Sussex and Fiona Harvey refused to believe UK shale gas development wouldn't look like a return to the industrial revolution. This picture of Jonah Field in Wyoming, a 1990's tight gas field has been used by not only shale antis but also by the BBC and Telegraph. Who would want to live here? Not me for sure, but the US doesn't all look like Wyoming, as not all the UK looks like the Cotswolds either.