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« Standing up for misconduct | Main | Balderdash, dishonesty and woo »

Fracking get a move on

Matt Ridley issues a clarion call for the UK to start fracking:

As part of today’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne is expected to approve the building of 30 gas-fired power stations, simplify the regulatory process for fracking and provide tax breaks for shale gas production in Lancashire as early as next year. This is good news for Lancashire, for the British economy, for manufacturing firms and for the global environment. To do anything else would risk economic self-harm.

Amen to that.

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Reader Comments (82)

Matt Ridley talks sense.

'Cheap energy is the surest way to encourage economic growth'

Any chance Ed Davey could understand something so basic?

Lets hope Ridley is well-informed and Osborne produces the goods.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Quote of the week on Radio 4 today programme this morning.
Roger Harrabin on the £1.8 billion handout at Dohar

..'The developed nations, who caused climate change...'

Just wow

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Third comment under Ridley's article:

I live in Lancashire.

Let's not.

Fracking is not safe.

To quote the old Yorkshire saying:
There's none so blind as them as cannot see;
And none so thick as them as wants to be.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

confused. We all know the climate never changed before humans walked out of the African planes and discovered fire and things.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

African what, Phillip?!!

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Stand by for the BBC's mini earthquake stories.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Oops. We didn't invent planes in Africa.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby


I'm not altogether convinced by widespread fracking, but I agree it should be exploited as a resource, just not to the detriment of other things like tourism, local health, etc. All the same arguments against windfarms, in fact.

Also, all hoo-ha aside, we do need to wean ourselves off fossils in the longer term, so let's make sure we use a new abundance of them we may have now in the form of shale gas to help develop proper clean tech, instead of this rush to wind, which while idealogically in the right direction (who wouldn't want free-ish clean energy?) the execution of the current crop has been abysmal, technically and financially.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Never mind,Phillip
I understand irony, even if it's too obscure for some people.

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Quote of the week on Radio 4 today programme this morning.
Roger Harrabin on the £1.8 billion handout at Dohar

..'The developed nations, who caused climate change...'

Just wow

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM | confused

He is part of the slime that represents/simulates/portrayes modern journalism! Like all other revolutionaries from Lenin to Guevara, they are wealthy, privillaged, well educated, often privately, bizarrely enough!

Mr Bratby, I think Humans discovered fire to manipulate their landscape in Africa, then walked away northwards! They had to walk away from the plains because planes hadn't been invented, & would never ever be, because as authoritarian figures like Presidents of Royal Societies kept saying things like "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible", Lord Kelvin, RS, 1895! Then some wise cracking Sherman goes & proves him wrong less than a decade later! Anyway another jumper has to go on to prevent me suffering from the effects of Climate Change/Global Warming, yet again! ;-))

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Don't worry the AGW mob have an app to counter Fracking:
"Smartphones to be pocket seismometers"

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJace

Oh great, another tiny signal to noise ratio distributed uncontrolled uncalibrated measurement system with no history going back to before the thing you are trying to measure was an issue, from which amazing claims of acceleration will be made. Sound familiar?

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Harrabin - wow

then there is Bob Ward:

E2B- The UK Carbon Reduction Network
The government’s financial support for fossil fuel companies is being overlooked

Ward: - "the largest part of the UK government’s hand-out to the fossil fuel industries is the reduced rate of VAT on the consumption of electricity and heating, most of which is supplied by burning fossil fuels. "

oh wait, it is just the reduced rate of VAT on ALL Fuels- Bob wants to poor to pay 15% more to keep warm...

Dec 5, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Have look at the current posting at WUWT blog concerning fracking and geothermal energy. These are very relevant developments, as cheap and clean energy is driving the economy, which when managed well is able to more things with less.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenteroebele bruinsma
Dec 5, 2012 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Two controversial views:

Both equally laughable.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:18 AM | Registered Commentersteve ta

Roger beat me to it. I like the idea of geothermal. I would like to hear whether the new claims are true, and under what circumstances it is economic. I see that the earthquake alarmists have already staked out a position just in case geo is the panacea that allows us to get cheap renewable energy.

Imagine a hole in the ground where we get gas, heat water for power and bury 'unwanted' CO2*. Isn't that worth the odd earthquake?

*I know it's not really the same hole.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda

As promising and beneficial as a bountiful supply of gas might be I don't see cheap energy on the horizon due to the taxes, duties, levies, obligations and certificates that will need adding to the cost of the gas itself.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Alan the Brit: "He is part of the slime that represents/simulates/portrayes modern journalism! Like all other revolutionaries from Lenin to Guevara, they are wealthy, privillaged, well educated, often privately, bizarrely enough!"

Not to mention Marx.

There is an honourable tradition to that; 'the traitors against their own class', that is, that stretches back to Gracchi Brothers. Roger Harrabin does not belong to this tradition. If he indeed does come from a wealthy, privileged and privately educated background then he does not belong to that honourable tradition for he has not committed a treason against his own class.

Whatever concern 'Horrobin' has about "climate justice" ought to readily be dismissed as "bourgeois concern", for he does not identify himself with the concerns of the poorer masses who have to shiver through every winter now because of fuel poverty.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Harrabin is obviously a fan of the IPCC's Ottmar Edenhofer (apologies for repetition, but seems apposite):

"(EDENHOFER): First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world's wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore."

Read more:

who have enabled imo the likes of climate minister Greg Barker, described as having 'strong links' to Russian oil companies (Head of Communications for Anglo-Siberian Oil and also worked for Sibneft, owned by Roman Abramovitch), to state today that the UK borrowing to give away £2 billion for building African wind turbines was 'necessary to save UK lives.' Even he can't be stupid enough to believe that: it has to be, simply, an attempt to cut us down to size for his own reasons. Hmm, I wonder why he wouldn't be a fan of fracking?

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Time to install NoTroll on this new work machine I think.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


Please point out what impacts on tourism and health you are talking about?

Unless of course you are talking about the impact on tourism bankruptcy has abd the imoxicillin on health poverty has because no one can afford to turn their heating on?

Right, so the boy Osborne is set to announce 30 new gas powered power stations. Well, I'll not start jumping for joy until its clear exactly what deal has been struck to shut the green Eco loons up in parliament that opposed fossil fuel power generation!


Dec 5, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Perhaps I should have given this link to where I stole the 'traitor to his class' phrase. Actually, I first heard of the phrase in Mike Duncan's History of Rome podcasts.

I have been a keen student of the Roman history lately, and I can attest that the period covering the Gracchi Brothers has had profound influence on me. The immortal words of Marx and Engels, "the history of the hitherto world is the history of class struggles", never made as much impact on me as when I discovered the history of the beginnings of the Roman Revolution.

As a further aside, I was planning to keep Cato the Elder's 'Carthago delenda est' line for a special occasion to introduce and then repeat it ad nauseam, but it seems Dolphinhead stole my thunder from me.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I don't know if there are any Mailman, I am not sure how much of an overground footprint fracking operations have, but attempts should be made to mitigate any scars left.

Let's not discard all our arguments about why windfarms are bad to go hell for leather tearing up the countryside and ruining people's lives for fracking - or at least let's make sure they do it properly, with minimal impact.

Dec 5, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Maybe the Brits won't freeze to death after all. Still, it's a bit of a leap to think the gauntlet will be traversed before the ice forms in their chamber pots.

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

If the Lancashire fracking "earthquakes" had occurred a couple of miles off-shore would they have produced measurable ripples? Could the tsunamis have damaged any sand-castles on the beach?

If the answer to those two questions is "yes" then obviously fracking is far too risky to be allowed in this country!

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Also, all hoo-ha aside, we do need to wean ourselves off fossils in the longer term,

I would you ask you to consider the following: why is a there a popular, widespread conception of 'wanting to get away from fossil fuels' 'in the long run'? Where does this notion come from? What values and images help sustain it?

Is it that oil and coal are considered unnatural, and their exploitation evokes an image of spoliation for temporary pleasure and profit?

Is it that oil and coal - 'black gold' - give the appearance of sliminess and dirtiness and therefore, appear to be pollution?

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Registered Commentershub

Never mind the fracking tremors...
I saw a figure in (I think) The Sunday Times which compared the 'alleged' reserves of shale gas under the UK with North Sea Gas..
North Sea Gas - 4 trillion cu ft
Shale gas - 161 trillion cu ft (of which at least 20% is recoverable using existing technology).
Seems like a no-brainer to me...

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid


The reasons we should wean ourselves off are because they are a limited resource[1], dirty when burned[2], and reserves are unfortunately in horrible war-riven parts of the world where we have to have messy and costly interventions to maintain a supply. These aren't really 'values' or 'images' or 'notions' - just realistic. Were you intending to imply that they are not facts by referring to them as such?

I could equally ask you where the widespread notion that fossil fuels aren't limited comes from?

[1] I don't think we've reached peak oil yet, but it's obvious that there is a limited supply. Long term could be measured in centuries, so it's not a peak-oil argument I'm putting forward, just a realisation that in time we need to find something else.

[2] Technology is improving this all the time, but it's never going to be totally clean, even if that just means having loads of air filters to bury somewhere.

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

"reserves are unfortunately in horrible war-riven parts of the world" - like Wales and Lancashire?

Dec 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Just watch the Welsh Assembly ask for independence as soon as those reserves are confirmed ;) There will be Welshmen armed with leeks at the border.

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Here is what Harrabin is tweeting this morning

roger harrabin ‏@RogerHarrabin
Analysis from @GreenAllianceUK suggests that gas dash will drive UP consumer bills. ….

I can't see that the GreenAlliance report does say that, so I've asked him if somebody is making things up.

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It may well be that much of the Bowland field shale basin is right underneath Blackpool and other densely populated areas and stretches into the sea.

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi

Firstly no, I wasn't referring to some of the points you list. A popular impression is created and propagated by referring to oil as black evil fluid that coats the feathers and scales of seagulls, penguins and fish during a spill. It is then easy to paint other energy sources as 'clean'. Coal is certainly dirty. But no more dirtier than the prosperity that allows us to perceive it as such.

Oil and coal are not a limited resource. When the oil industry developed in the United States, coexistent with an open economy, the industry learned through painful cycles that growth of oil production is linked to prosperity levels of the society that consumes it. To hold prices and profits in rein, the ideal situation the oil/fossil fuel industry can desire is establishment of high enough a price to provide access to the largest possible market while allowing its own pockets to get the fattest. Consequently the picture of available reserves and to-be prospected sources can never be fully clear, and it can never be freely available information. The industry needs/would like to keep this picture fixed in different poses at different life-cycles of its evolution - that of abundant reserves when seeking governmental approval and concessions, that of imminent scarcity when faced with a bit of a crunch. The worst thing that could happen would be to prospect for and strike enormous reserves, only to crash the prices and have to throw the resource away. It has happened in the past. That is highly, highly unlikely in today's professionally-run, controlled industry.

Even if the times come for us to find 'something else', we wouldn't. No fuel brings the advantages fossil fuels bring. Can you imagine slowing weaning off oil and coal to an inferior form of energy?

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Registered Commentershub


The weakness of this line of reasoning is the belief that "clean energy" or "renewables" do not have negative consequences. In reality, any process of sufficient scale to support worldwide energy needs will create significant impacts. For example:

Solar - scale manufacturing of panels have consequences, land use and land shading for scale energy production is an issue, etc

Wind - again manufacturing + landscape pollution, noise pollution, and wildlife destruction.

Nuclear -- perhaps this is the exception eventually?

Anyway, if you accept all scale energy production has serious consequences, it is not at all clear existing scale production of fossil fuel based sources are suboptimal.


Dec 5, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames


you're missing the point, and I hope not deliberately. Yes, reserves have probably been underestimated and underplayed.. but there has only ever been a certain amount of organic life to lay down seams of coal and ponds of gas and oil. It's limited. Now these may be huge, but still limited by the simple physics of a finite amount of them that no amount of market jiggery-pokery can change.

When you say things like "oil and gas are not a limited resource" you sound silly, and I know you're not silly. Let's try to be precise here. Fossil fuels are limited because they are a finite resource. "Effectively unlimited over a short or medium timescale because of remaining massive reserves" is a different argument and shouldn't be stated as "unlimited" in such a bald way.

(other James)

I wasn't arguing that the current crop of renewables are ultra clean, they have their problems, which we have all discussed ad nauseam here. Just that technological improvement can make them eventually cleaner than fossils can ever be because combustion is just a dirty process. It's unfair to write off every wind generation system for all time just because the crap ones we have now are ... crap. They were built with unsuitable technology to fulfil an artificially hiked business model.

Which brings me to another point. Why does everybody here poo-poo the idea of CCS here? Yes, I know we can't actually do it yet, and are nowhere near doing it, so it shouldn't be factored into policy decisions... but surely the idea of it isn't a bad one? What's wrong with capturing emissions, even benign ones?

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

"What's wrong with capturing emissions, even benign ones?"

Because it is expensive to develop and deploy that technology. That money could be put to productive use instead of dealing with the, by assumption, non-problem of "benign" emissions.

Shorter answer: opportunity costs.


Dec 5, 2012 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames

If CO2 is found to be wholly benign, I agree. But what's the chances of climate sensitivity being zero?

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

CCS? Pump it into the air, the trees will store it for you. Oh, and it may not be doing any harm, that is still to be proven, IMHO.

Dec 5, 2012 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Which sort of distracts from my very original point, fracking, great. Just be careful we don't turn the countryside into a mess. Surely nobody can disagree with that?

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

James: "Shorter answer: opportunity costs."

Is the opportunity cost so clear? I mean if I quit my job to start a business then there is a clear opportunity cost (my lost wages from the old job) that counts against any money made from the new. But if the UK taxes its citizens and invests those billions developing CCS (which creates work for scientists, engineers, construction workers etc) instead of leaving the money with the people to buy imported iPhones or foreign holidays, is the opportunity cost so clear?

I'm not trying to justify all government spending, just to question your assumption that there is an opportunity cost.

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

"But what's the chances of climate sensitivity being zero?"

roughly the same as the chances of it being positive, I would guess.

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Seems like a no-brainer to me...
Yes, David, you're absolutely right and the ones opposing it are indeed the ones with no brains!

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:47 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

BB: "I mean if I quit my job to start a business..." posted 2:30 PM on a Wednesday.

Naughty-naughty :D

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

"Just be careful we don't turn the countryside into a mess. Surely nobody can disagree with that?"

Is that why we get the materials for the windfarm magnets fom abroad where we don't see the countryside?

Dec 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

You're making the assumption that creating jobs is a form of investment. Where is your justification for that theory?
You're also making the assumption that if the government left this "investment" money in the pockets of its rightful owners then they would spend it unwisely. And where is your justification for that theory?
And just to complete the hat-trick. You are making the assumption that imported goods and services are an unwise use of money. Since trade between countries is what makes the world go round that argument is a little tendentious, surely.
The logical extensionof your argument is that if government genuinely wants productive investment it would direct tax revenue to something that would encourage exports and other productive industry, not paying people to bury a harmless trace gas.
Shades of Napoleon who had his veterans dig holes in the Champs de Mars and then fill them in again as an early form of workfare.

Dec 5, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


How do you know that I won't choose to give up charity instead of my iPhone in the face of higher taxes? How can you be sure that higher marginal tax rates won't cause many 2 earner families to become one earner families, depressing the overall economy (except for CCS scientists of course). And on and on.

IMHO, when you start with the premise that citizens are not to be trusted to properly spend their money, you almost always end up in a dark place...


Dec 5, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames

It's the broken window fallacy. The Government seems determined to produce energy that employs rthe greatest number of people. The idea of increased productivity by producing cheap energy employing few people has gone out of the window. They'll next be pouring subsidies into human hamster-wheels to increase employment and generate even less electricity.

Dec 5, 2012 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Limited resources:

There is no point in man trying to safeguard any resources, fossil fuel or other because man can not predict the future.
In just 100 years new technology will have completely changed the face of transport, energy production, manufacturing, automation and computer tech, it will be a whole new world and we have no idea what resources will then be valuable and which will be redundant. I would gladly bet that reserves of oil will be bigger in 100 years than they are today :) if we still need them.

The WUWT article on geothermal fracking is/seems to be the biggest energy game changer in history.
If it proves to be viable then for the first time the undeveloped world has an opportunity to catch up and fast. Starvation should end along with much disease and suffering since those things follow wealth creation.
The anti capitalists will be furious since the process is carbon neutral so they will have to find a new scare story that will reveal their true motives.
Three cheers for frackling ^.^

Dec 5, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung


If you want to know how an oilfield can be operated responsibly on a sensitive site, you should check out Wytch Farm on the Jurassic coast in Dorset.

An image here:

I could go on at length, from personal experience, about drilling (mining industry) in Australia, and the regulations (enforced) covering impacts of drilling activity, but I won't. Some people will accept that in the 21st century, drilling and production are well established from both engineering and environmental standpoints. Other people consider it impossible that over the past 100 years, drilling technology and environmental protection have moved on from the hell that was (e.g.) Oklahoma.

There is no point trying to convince the latter that the calendar is showing 2012 rather than 1912.

Dec 5, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

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