First the good news on shale this week,  because you certainly won’t find this in any of the UK press.  

Richard Branson is the brand name billionaire in the UK and the world’s richest hippy. For one example he has 2.9 million more twitter followers than I do which is  almost twice the combined circulation of the alleged quality newspapers (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and FT) . He’s not really my type of guy, but he seems nice enough for a billionaire.  In short he’s just as famous, equally as ubiquitous but only a tenth as obnoxious as Donald Trump. For example this week he was in the press for promising to give away half his money:

In their pledge letter, Sir Richard and his wife Joan said they wanted to use cash from the company to create 'a healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy.'

The above is just one example of how often he pitches up in the press, since he’s as tireless a self-promoter as one can get. But when it comes to shale gas, Branson is like the rest of us. In the UK we have shale gas opponents who get votes by tens and lose their deposits in elections given national media coverage.

Philip Mitchell, a member of the Blackpool and Fylde Green Party, said he also has serious concerns about the dangers of air pollution.

But support shale? Jesus Christ himself, to which Branson cultivates a resemblance, could promote shale gas, but even he would only find an audience at his own blog and get ignored in the rest of the press. I don’t usually requote in full,  but since he needs all the help he can get, I’m happy to oblige:

There is a big debate going on about fracking. Well, like anything, there’s good fracking and there’s bad fracking. 

The technology exists for fracking to work effectively, but it is up to industry to show leadership and prove they can do fracking safely. It is also up to policy makers to ensure they regulate fracking as responsibly as possible, with accurate pricing.

I have many friends and people whose opinions I respect who are campaigning against all fracking. They make many valid points, and there have been incidents where fracking has been done irresponsibly and taps have caught fire.

However, they need to think about the damage coal mines do and the amount of people who lose their lives trying to extract coal - the National Academy of Sciences estimates 10,000 fatalities per year from coal. Gas is much cleaner than coal and oil, and global warming is the number one issue facing the modern world.

The Economist’s series on Fracking in the West makes for interesting reading on this subject, and even-handedly makes the case for shale exploitation.

There should be more focus on solar and wind power, and we must increase commitment to these sources. Nevertheless, compromise is necessary in order for progress to be made, and all options should be considered.

It is well worth reading the International Energy Agency’s report Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, which addresses the environmental and social impacts of unconventional gas. It suggests fracking, while far from a perfect solution, can be a bridge to a low carbon world.

A second piece of good news is the emergence of Ernest Moniz as prime contender to be the next US Energy Secretary. Check out the hair to match Branson’s. Not all old hippies are anti shale it seems:

The likely nomination of nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to lead the Department of Energy has drawn criticism from some environmentalists who say his support for natural gas and close ties to industry would undermine efforts to tackle climate change. Moniz strongly favors natural gas as a "bridge fuel" and directs the MIT Energy Initiative, a research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is funded by some of the world's largest fossil fuel companies.

It may be premature, but it will be one strong piece of news for those who see shale gas as energy, climate and economic solution rolled into one.  Whether it’s him or not,  we need to see discussions on using shale to change things:

"When it comes to carbon, [natural] gas is part of our solution at least for some time," said Moniz, who served as undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration. "And we should take advantage of the time to innovate and bring down the cost of renewables. The worst thing w[ould] be is to get time and not use it. And that I'm afraid is where we are."

The worst thing is for green perfectionists to criticise the pragmatists actually cutting carbon. Perfectionists have achieved nothing, although without shale gas winning Ohio and Pennsylvania for Obama, we would have even less.  Time for them to say which side are they on. {jacomment on}

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