We don’t hear much about Josh Fox, the auteur of Gasland these days, and after a debate with The Breakthrough Institute yesterday, we may not be hearing many more debates any time soon.

Fox, along with UK cowards like Greenpeace’s Lawrence Carter, has had a history of ignoring anyone who doesn’t agree with them. That makes things nice and simple. Carter can then paint anyone who wants to have a rational discussion about shale as right wing climate change denier or JR Ewing. He consistently has the support of the Guardian although even they described his choice for debate as a “stunt” in Tatton, but Greenpeace’s publicity machine is so powerful that the BBC NorthWest and even the Daily Mail give his side of the story - and his alone.

I’ve been trying to engage Fox for years, but he’s turned down chances to debate on TV  from London to Beijing to Cape Town. He once promised to show up for an online debate at the FT, but allegedly his submission was so rambling and libelous as to be unprintable. My favourite would be with the clinically barking, if mostly factually correct and always entertaining left answer to Rush Limbaugh, Max Keiser on RT. This would have been the WWF of the shale debate, but I’m not referring to what was formerly called the World Wildlife Fund, but the World Wrestling Foundation. With Fox, Keiser and me involved, we could all retire on the DVD royalties, assuming men in white coats had not come to lock us all up.

The Breakthrough Institute defines their mission as being “ to accelerate the transition to a future where all the world's inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet.” 

In short, the Institute is just the kind of left wing think tank that should support No Hot Air in the UK. Unfortunately in the UK, Greenpeace/WWF and FoE have the purse strings to foundation gravy trains wrapped around their fingers far tighter than they control access to journalists.   

The BI and Josh Fox debated on line yesterday,  at Salon.com and it may be a long time before we see Josh Fox venture outside his self-reinforcing echo chamber created by the Plastic Ono Lennon Band, where renewables have already happened if you want it. Read the whole thing but here are some highlights, starting with the BI case:

Pretty straightforward. Gas is killing coal in the United States. US emissions down faster than any nation in the world over last five years thanks to gas. Trade offs? Yes. But overall climate benefits significant. Gas has much less impact on landscape than coal and is much cleaner.


Let me begin by saying that my experience with this issue is not theoretical...it begins with the Natural Gas industry knocking on my door at my home, in the Delaware River basin, the watershed for roughly 16 million people. The Nat Gas industry came knocking to lease our land...they have now leased 80,000 acres in my county and I am completely surrounded by leased properties.
I have visited hundreds of well sites and gas fields and have reported on the crisis it creates all across the US and in Europe Australia and Africa.

To your point, it is simply untrue that there is any benefit to switching to Nat Gas from Coal. As NOAA has pointed out, methane leakage in gas fields is rampant which cancels out any reduction on CO2.

I could start off with a reality check  about his home in Milanville PA, which actually is nowhere near the gas fields  but we’ll just let him ramble

BI: The plural of anecdote isn't data and ugly pictures don't prove your point. Energy production is an ugly business, no matter what the technology. Solar = incredibly toxic. Promised Land was originally going to be about industrial wind farms.

Josh, please tell me how your going to fix the intermittence problem with renewables. Or tell me you are pro-nuclear. If not then anti-gas = pro-coal.

Fox: Well, it is true that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. But based on physical laws of nature, the wind is blowing harder when the sun isn't shining. By bundling renewable resources we can solve the problem. Here's Mark Jacobson's landmark front page scientific American plan for renewables. scientificamerican.com

Simple enough. What could possibly stop us? The SciAm plan calls for

3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

Don't forget to click your heels Josh, although he trips up over those pesky little laws of physics the oil companies come up with:

There are also great emerging solutions for harnessing wind power. Compressed air, is one solution which I am really fond of. India just built a compressed air car. The air fills a tank, which is released to fire the pistons of the engine. The same can be done with wind projects, the wind turbines compress air to store energy for when you want to run your turbines to produce electricity.

The BTI:

Jacobson calls for covering basically the entirety of New Mexico and Arizona with industrial solar farms. That's my backyard. So again Josh, why my backyard and not yours. And sorry Josh, there is no law of nature that says the wind has to blow when the sun doesn't shine. The irony of your position is that the only way renewables can scale at is with, wait for it... lots of natural gas back up!!!

And on and on.

For those interested in some debate at least, I’m going to be at the Building Centre in London next week and another event in Cardiff on April 3 run by the Tyndall Centre, who are at least open to debate

Perhaps Lawrence Carter or James Murray of Business Green or the Guardian or Roger Harrabin of the BBC will show up. WWF, Greenpeace and the FoE recently refused to attend a Council for the Protection of Rural England shale gas event because Cuadrilla Resources were invited. Why let facts get in the way when your mind is already made up.

Recently,  TNO the Dutch Scientific Research Centre produced this argument map on shale gas in Europe.  Science is a good place to start. Click on the image to see more:

 argument map


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  • Tony Bosworth

    Nick ,<br /><br />You write [I]“WWF, Greenpeace and the FoE recently refused to attend a Council for the Protection of Rural England shale gas event because Cuadrilla Resources were invited”.[/I]<br /><br />The event was a campaign planning session, and we felt it was not appropriate for Cuadrilla to be present. Would Cuadrilla be happy for Friends of the Earth to sit in on their internal discussions about Government liaison and how they are going to win over politicians? I think not.<br /><br />As you write Nick – [I]“why let the facts get in the way when your mind is already made up”.[/I] <br /><br />Tony Bosworth<br />Climate & Energy Campaigner<br />Friends of the Earth

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  • Sorry about the late reply.<br />My understanding is that this was not a campaign session but one where the CPRE wanted to gather facts - from all sides.

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