It's ironic that the last words of the New York Times Green Blog come from Dieter Helm, who used to be the UK's name brand energy economist but suddenly persona non grata now he points out the utter failure of Kyoto to UK and EU policy makers at the same time he suggests natural gas is the obvious solution that lies if not under our nose, then certainly under our feet.

I'll miss the Green Blog but perhaps all the Green blogs of Europe can learn something.

The blog didn't actually solve anything. It provided a forum for countless environmentalists to nibble around the edges and to have counter productive vendettas. It allowed everyone to vent: Cuomo was a traitor. Shale gas is a Cheneyite plot. Everyone could argue about the best energy, completely losing sight of how the argument should have been against the worst. Assuming we all agree that whale oil is no solution, the blog got blindsided by the success of gas in replacing coal: The US's gift to the planet. In the meantime, they nibbbled around the edges, providing arenas for any number of 1% solutions or concentrating on which science fiction scenario was the most pure.

The Green Blogs of especially the Guardian, but also people like Business Green or 2 degrees or Ends long lost sight of actually wanting to accomplish anything except perpetuating themselves. The very last thing they would want to do is to put themselves out of a job. Solving CO2 would be the true environmental catastrophe, or at least to their little echo chamber cum eco-sphere portion of the environment. To varying degrees, they have all been hostile to natural gas, seeing it not as enabler of green targets but as enemy.  To them, the simplistic all carbon fuels are bad narrative  is getting carried away and threatens to take equally important issues along with it.

By shutting themselves out of the real world, where natural gas actually provides solutions, as imperfect as they are, greens run two risks:

1.  All the sites,  in common with allies like the CBI (!) and the Lib Dems, are so convinced of their righteousness that they are missing how the rest of the world is moving on. They too will one day wake up to find that it isn't 2004 anymore.  

2.  Most dangerously from a left/liberal perspective, they damage progressive politics by their all or nothing approach. We could end up not with the far off catastrophe, or not, of runaway climate change but with a far more dangerous threat.  

Pretending climate change is the only problem of our time ignores the others. Pretending that natural gas has no role and is in fact the enemy of the green economy enables not only coal in Europe, but parties of the right and all they include.  

In short, the Greens, if in fact they are true progressives, are walking us into a trap. We'll end up with the worst of all possible worlds: A dirty world built on right wing fantasy.{jacomment on}

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  • Andy

    Reading your blog is good because it points out that the world looks a little different when viewed from outside the US.<br /><br />The main difference is that in the US shale, if not quite the consensus energy policy everyone says they want, has become the default fuel almost everyone can live with. Democratic Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado drinks Green frack fluid. Former national Democratic party chair Ed Rendell opened up the Marcellus shale for business. The legislature in Obama's Illinois has arrived at legislation to regulate shale drilling. And Republican Governors in North Dakota and Texas are grateful for the tax revenues shale provides.<br /><br />When i look for evidence in the US of single issue fanatics of any consequence around the shale issue i see only the Green Anti faction.<br /><br />In happier news, it looks like Germany is now determined to pursue shale, which makes the out of power Greens very cross.

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  • People don't want to be virtuous. They want to be seen to be virtuous, especially by themselves.

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  • Rod Adams

    Natural gas, especially the the "new" shale gas (the first natural gas from shale rock formation came from a well drilled in Indiana in the late 1800s) has PLENTY of fans. It's difficult to have any conversation about energy and the climate without its fanboys jumping in and talking about how much better their fuel is than that nasty coal.<br /><br />Environmental organizations like the Sierra Club have actually taken large sums of money from shale gas companies ($26 million from Chesapeake Energy over a 3 year period) to use in their campaigns of demonization against coal.<br /><br />All this for a fuel that is - at best - a half-a--ed solution that still emits at least 400 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt hour and is terribly difficult to use for road transportation, practically impossible to use to propel long range ships and definitely impossible to use for powering aircraft.<br /><br />Uranium and thorium are the fuels that get little to no mention in certain circles of people who claim to be terribly concerned about the climate. Both of these abundant, energy dense fuels can actually SOLVE the problem, one power plant at a time. They produce power from a process that is clean enough to use inside sealed submarines. <br /><br />Think about that statement. It means there are no emissions at all unless you get really creative and start talking about the emission from the small number of mining vehicles or transportation vehicles used to move fuel that is naturally so concentrated that a single pellet contains as much useful energy as a ton of coal - with room to improve by a factor of 20 or more.<br /><br />When supposedly concerned people start talking about nuclear energy as a tool that is useful in their fight to CURE catastrophic climate change, I will believe they are serious minded and seeking solutions. Otherwise, I will keep suspecting they (you) are simply marketing their favorite "treatment" and stoking fears as a forcing function to increase sales of natural gas, wind turbines, solar panels, biofuels, or some other crazy, unreliable scheme to produce power.<br /><br />Rod Adams<br />Publisher, Atomic Insights

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