Oscar Wilde said In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.  

The sudden emergence, global prevalence and future permanence of natural gas resources, sets the stage for a tragedy being played out by the green movement in the United Kingdom today.

Measured by a reduction in CO2 emissions, the green movement finds itself on the edge of a success so complete that it not only meets, but exceeds their wildest dreams. But the Green movement also finds itself torn: This is a great success, a huge win for the planet. But the problem lies in it not being their success.

We don't have a climate problem as such, but we do have a Chinese Coal problem. China emitted 9000 megatons of CO2 in 2011. It will increase as China becomes the largest economy on earth anywhere from 2016 onwards. 80% of that is from coal generation.The US emitted 7000 megatons. The UK emitted 510. Both the US, UK and OECD have moderating to declining emissions as efficiency gains take hold and economies flatline.

This chart is based on US Energy Administation figures for CO2 emissions from coal in 2010, the most recent available broken down by source.  It shows two things:

The World has a huge climate change problem caused by China burning coal

Anything the UK, or EU, does to cut their overall emissions, is only gesture politics. Meaningless gesture.


The majority of EU emissions comes from Germany and Poland, both with significant shale gas potential.  

The UK has coal emissions of only 114 megatons out of 14,231 megatons.  China has 6,946.  What is the point of converting 114 megatons to renewables, when even a 10% replacement of China's coal with gas would save at a conservative 50% 350 megatons 

What this means is that instead of concentrating on an 80% decarbonisation target, the UK can via a replacement of coal in generation, increased efficiency and increased natural gas vehicle use easily cut 200 megatons for almost no cost.  So the cost of renewables, which may be several hundred billion pounds, is to reduce an extra 200 megatons over the gas heavy route. Again: hundreds of billions to save 200 megatons.

But if we replace  all China coal with natural gas, the planet saves, conservatively, 2500 megatonnes via a conversion from China coal to natural gas. Much, but not all of that will come from shale. China has multiple import sources, domestic conventional, coal bed methane and LNG, but also has shale gas reserves even larger than the US. Next week's IEA Energy Outlook will predict that by 2035 China's unconventional production will be greater than North America's. That may not happen. But who would feel safe betting that China won't?  

UK greens will be  as quick to deny China shale gas as they are to dismiss UK shale gas. In turn, UK antis still hope that even US shale is a chimera that will disappear as quickly as it appeared  - despite all evidence to the contrary.

Green movements, although possessing their heart's desire, are suffering through what psychologists would describe as  "cognitive dissonance".  

Within the syndrome are the usual cycles of  ignorance, denial, anger and acceptance that anyone passes through when confronted by new information.

The problem with the green movement is that they have very strongly held attachments to their solutions to problems. A key solution surrounds renewables:  they were perceived not only as low carbon but as energy secure by definition of local provenance.  Confronted with new realities, with changing facts, they continue to deny reality is actually changing.  We'll hear this in the UK over the next month. We'll get told that UK shale resources, despite what geologists say, aren't actually there. We'll get any number of people obsessing about how UK shale will be too difficult, physically, socially or financially

Natural gas is not perfect, but it is not perfectly evil either. We are on the cusp of an energy transformation similar to that of oil over coal a hundred years ago and coal over wood before that. But we have UK energy actors in the new troika of Nuclear, Renewables and CCS proving the Upton Sinclair Theorem

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Some UK greens have gotten so deeply invested in discussing  problems that they become blind to solutions. They also become emotionally attached to solutions in an almost quasi religous standpoint. When alternate paths appear, as they do in science, but far more slowly in value systems, we get anger and denial.  No matter. The facts have changed, as we will see in just over a month. Until then, and after then too, UK greens will obsess not about the solution gas provides the planet, but about the damage it does to themselves. Shale gas has true believers too. But they at least, are grounded in science and reality.

Greens are now forming an alliance with what used to be the original enemy of nuclear and also  CCS which Greenpeace was mounting chimneys to oppose only three years ago:

The leaders of Britain's nuclear, wind and tidal industries today put aside years of mutual suspicion and antipathy with an unprecedented joint appeal to ministers not to abandon their commitment to combat climate change.

With the Government badly split over green energy, the heads of organisations representing more than 1,000 nuclear and renewables companies have written to David Cameron, George Osborne and Ed Davey calling on them to agree a legally binding decarbonisation target for electricity generation.

And the FOE and Co-op accuse the gas industry of being only in it for the money!

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  • Draughtsman

    The leaders of Britain's nuclear, wind and tidal industries today put aside years of mutual suspicion and antipathy with an unprecedented joint appeal to ministers (to keep the subsidies flowing.) I appreciate that this site is not the place to discuss climate change but it must be evident to all but those suffering from extreme cognitive dissonance that the more than 20 years of hysterics and alarmism over carbon dioxide have been largely misplaced. The scientists and MSM have become increasingly desperate as the Earth has failed to warm and have resorted to fiddling the statistics.<br />For those decent and honest people who have been alarmed by all this then the case for gas as relatively low emission fuel must be firmly stated and a proper plan for economically fulfilling our future energy needs should be set out. The world will eventually have to make a transition from a fossil fuel to a nuclear econony with gas as the bridging fossil fuel. India and China are amongst those countries working now on next generation nuclear and this country should be doing likewise. Low grade 'green' energy sources are an expensive dead end.

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  • That's an accurate summary of the situation. <br /><br />I notice that the PM has been advocating electric cars running on wind-turbine electricity.<br /><br />This sums up the intellectual level of the science being peddled in Westminster.

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  • Excellent analysis Draughtsman.<br /><br />Only one small detail: "The scientists and MSM have become increasingly desperate as the Earth has failed to warm and have resorted to fiddling the statistics"<br /><br />The whole edifice of AGW was built on the original fiddled statistics of the "Hockey Stick"<br /><br />Hopefully, we now have some more robust (and less technically and economically illiterate) politicians in the DECL and we can move away (with some face saving for the numpties) from the financial, environmental and technical disaster of "Bird Blenders" and develop a series of combined cycle gas and nuclear power stations. <br />Shale also gives us a route to more secure transport fuel, industry feedstock and home heating. Win Win Win

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  • UK gas demand down around 50 MCMD due to low coal and carbon prices......the only CCS that makes sense is Coal Can Stay-underground<br /><br />The idea of taking 100 kWh of coal buried 200 million years ago and wasting 80 percent of the kWh in the coal is the maddest idea in the history of mad ideas. And paying billions for the priviledge of wasting 80 per cent of the energy.<br /><br />How about use the same billions to insulate homes, save gas, and have Coal Can Stay-underground<br /><br />That was easy wasn't it!<br /><br />There is no flaw in this argument.

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  • Draughtsman

    John Baldwin

    Agreed CCS is mad, but it is a political idea after all. I have been in the utility engineering profession all of my life and I have always liked to think that the project work I have been involved in has been worthwhile and has contributed in a small way to the prosperity and welbeing of the nation. I for one would not wish to become professionally involved in such an obscenely expensive and pointless undertaking.

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  • The gesture politics will be expensive. Heating bills will go through the roof, industries will be forced out of the country and all for nothing. Any chance of an economic recovery will disapear. Not good.

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