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A sting in the tail

According to a report from the BBC, the Environment Agency looks set to give its blessing to shale fracking in the UK.

However there is also what looks like a sting in the tail.

[Environment Agency boss] Lord Smith is expected to insist, however, that power firms should be required to capture the carbon emissions from burning gas and store them in underground rocks to prevent them contributing to climate change - something power firms are not currently obliged to do.

Given that millions (billions?) have been spent trying to make CCS work without any success, it does rather look to me as if this could be an attempt to kill off shale gas completely.

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Reader Comments (63)

"The BBC understands...". I've heard that one before.
"Lord Smith is expected to insist....". Expected by whom, I wonder.

May 8, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Devious Labour quangocrat plotting with his old mates at the impartial (ho ho) BBC to sabotage the economy.

Doubt if anyone will listen - greens will squeak - govt will ignore him.

May 8, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

He can insist as much as he wants, as long as no one in power pays him any attention he will be no better than a puppy dig barking at the moon.


May 8, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

He did indeed say that in the broadcast interview (which may very well have been recorded rather than live). It is amazing (well probably should be used to it) that politicians and pundits continue to babble on about CCS as if this was an actual technology. "It must be installed ....." CCS is as further away from being an "actual" technology than fusion power, where there at least is a working pilot scale reactor.

o/t I know that Ken Livingstone was the BBC choice for London Mayor but it beggars belief that now he has lost, he is still brought out on the Today programme to pontificate, I've heard long interviews with him twice now sice last Thursdays election.

May 8, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Who the hell is Lord Smith? If I remember correctly, he was pretty useless as a minister and now he's in charge of deciding the economic future of our country? Isn't it enough that the current Labour leader committed us to spending a trillion dollars on emissions reduction and building 100,000 windmills? Why do these idiots keep popping up in positions of authority?

May 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

I heard the interview and was getting really annoyed with the Beeboid interviewer who kept stressing "if" it was safe. He acknowledged right at the start that it had helped the US economy massively but skimmed straight over without any discussion about this, instead focusing on saftey, industry regulation, CCS etc.

Incidentally did anyone listen on to 'A life Scientific' with James Lovelock ? An interesting piece which touched on climate change. Lovelock still used the term deniers, but acknowledge that deniers were not big oil funded PR people, but actual scientists who disagreed !! He acknowledged that Fukishima nuclear incident was not nearly as bad as the media has claimed and that our own Wind Turbines would topple over and probably kill someone should we be struck by a force 9 earthquake. The main point though was that he acknowledged that we didn't really yet know what would happen and when - assuming that climate change was happening and furthermore he thought rushing to invest in renewables was a mistake. His bottom line is that the earth has shown repeatedly that it corrects its own environment in reaction to various inputs i.e. self regulating.

He was far more balanced than I had previously given him credit for.

May 8, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterMactheknife

May 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Robinson

Who the hell is Lord Smith? [ ... ] Why do these idiots keep popping up in positions of authority?

Member of the Entitlement Class ?

May 8, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

Who the hell is Lord Smith?

Politician elevated to the peerage and given a handsomely paying job with no expertise or experience required, and a couple of nice tax-payer-funded inflation-proof pensions. Nothing changes when it comes to political patronage.

May 8, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It might be politically wise to give fracking a green light with the proviso of carbon capture....such proviso to be quietly dropped in the near future.
It is quite amusing to see the green "ratcheting up" tactics employed in reverse!

The interview with James Lovelock was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea the famous Gaia theory started with his contemplation of how remarkably stable the concentrations of various gases remained in the atmosphere, despite considerable occasional perturbations, implying self-regulating negative feedbacks to do so. It is a pity it could not have stayed firmly rooted in Science , rather than veering off into mysticism.

It also had the effect of reminding me how plausible the CO2 driven AGW theory is, as a theory, even though there is little evidence, or even no evidence, to show it is happening. I believed in it for years. The idea made sense and the media I relied on, the BBC and the Guardian, presented it as a done deal. It makes you wonder how many other "done deal" opinions we might be being brain-washed ( if that is not too strong a term) into holding! All praise to the blogosphere, is what I say!

I think we are still a long way from unravelling how the whole weather/climate/ecosystem all interacts. To paraphrase a clever writer whose name I forget : "The climate is not only more complicated than we imagine, it may be more complicated than we CAN imagine."

May 8, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Arthurdent/Mactheknife: I too listened to both the Smith interview and the Lovelock programme.

Smith came across as an ignorant establishment figure, there to put as many obstacles in the way of progress as possible if they could keep alive his prospects for employment. On the other hand, Lovelock came across as an eminently sensible man who had discovered that he may have been wrong on something and was prepared to talk about it. I was fascinated in his early life in labs and the way he felt Nuclear was safe (hear hear) and windmills were dangerous.

But it was the fact that, having said that Gaia was, in his opinion, self-regulating, it would only be able to regulate our emissions of GHG over eons of time, and would therefore only save the planet, but not humankind - unless we do something about it. hmmm. Pity that certain members of the 'warmist' tribe are not as pleasant as he came across. But that's just my opinion...

And Arthur: did you think it significant that BBC managed to schedule a spot about fracking at 8:45 with one on AGW at 9:00?

May 8, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Yes, I noticed the sting in the tail - an apparent attempt to hamper with bureaucratic regulation that which has been permitted.

Same as Obama's recent executive order, taking away with one hand what was offered with the other.

No-one objects to the regulation of this industry, but officious, over zealous regulation is something else. The requirement that gas generated electricity production should be subject to carbon capture is something new, isn't it? Maybe it was a "mistake" by Lord Smith?

May 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Jack Savage: "I believed in it (AGW) for years."
     But had the foresight to duck out...

May 8, 2012 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr


"Who the hell is Lord Smith?"

"Christopher "Chris" Robert Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury PC (born 24 July 1951) is a British Labour Party politician, and a former Member of Parliament (MP) and Cabinet Minister. He was one of the first openly gay British MPs, coming out in 1984 and, in 2005, the first MP to acknowledge that he is HIV positive." - Wikipaedia

To me, he looks like a clone of dear Ronnie Oxburgh.

May 8, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

Yet another pronouncement by one of those overpaid, venal, mendacious, useless politicians with no sense, no knowledge, no courage, seriously why do we tolerate them? I recall reading some years ago now of a carbon capture & storage effort on line. It all seemd very interesting of how it was to be buried large concrete & stainless steel containers in huge underground caverns artificially constructed for the purpose. After about half-way through, I stopped reading & sorted through a bunch of New Civil Engineer journals, (when I belonged to that Institution), eventually I came across a Nuclear Special insert, in which it described in detail how the nuclear waste could be stored. It would appear that the writer of the CCS article had merely struck through the words nuclear waste, & inserted the words carbon dioxide!

May 8, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

I think that this is no more than Chris Smith covering his arse with the greenies.

I guess actually getting shale gas out of the ground in useful quantities is 2-3 years away, while CCS is a long time further than that (if ever).

So around about 2015 some poor successor of Smith will face the unhappy task of explaining to the hard-pressed UK energy consumer why they can't have cheaper lekky - like they have in the USA and Poland and all those other places - until we have perfected a 'technology' that has never been demonstrated to work anywhere in the world and would be prohibitively expensive even then.

This decision could never be enforced in practical isn't worth the paper it hasn't yet been written on. Chris Smith was always a dreamy sort of minister, and this is no more than another of his fantasies.

May 8, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder


JBS Haldane made this remark in 1927: "my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose", but versions of it have been attributed to others. Just as perceptive, though, and wholly appropriate for climate, as you suggest!

May 8, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

May 4, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Brownedoff had the following interesting insight into Carbon storage:

On BBC Scotland News at 18:30 > 19:00 yesterday, 3 May 2012, I caught a glimpse of a geologist drilling a hole in Auchtersomething Bay doing an experiment to see if CO2 will stay in the ground and if it didn't how would we know, or words to that effect.

This is only available for another 5 or 6 hours now today but my iPlayer is on the blink.

Here is the link:

Could somebody have a look as soon as possible and then let me know:

the location of the experiment,

can you see the wry face when he said "how would we know?"

was the guy in the yellow hard hat from British Geological Survey?

Thank you in advance.

Unfortunately I didn't see the news item in question, but I think the reference to the wry face speaks volumes!

May 8, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Registered Commentermatthu


"isn't worth the paper it hasn't yet been written on"


I once made a similar remark on another subject to our local paper, whose letters editor couldn't cope with a double-negative, and so removed the small semblance of wit therein. I still haven't forgiven them.

May 8, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

This possible CCS millstone follows on from the restrictions they have applied in allowing Cuadrilla to re-start drilling, in particular the 0.5 Richter limit for any seismic disturbance. As much larger tremors are routine, especially near coal mines, etc., it just shows an appalling lack of technical understanding and/or a wilful intent to block.
BTW - Macktheknife - the Fukushima incident was very serious although the media reports have been pretty dire. It was a close-run thing, especially with the spent fuel pools.

May 8, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

How about using high-pressure CO2 to do the fracking? 8-)

May 8, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Most curious. Fracture stimulation in conventional tight oil and gas reservoirs has been going on for years in the North Sea, and that in the UK sector all under the aegis of DECC regulation.

May 8, 2012 at 12:12 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

No one in politics wants to give up--witness Newt Gingrich, most recently in the U.S. (or Obama, the ongoing embarrassment, for that matter)-- especially when almost everyone, on both sides, still sees the final judgment of science up in the air (these include anyone who believes at all in the "greenhouse effect", whether alarmist or lukewarm), so you will have to forcefully remove from power those who believe in the climate "consensus", or who insist upon governing in accordance with such patent nonsense. By politicizing it, via the IPCC, for a generation, they have set in motion a clear morality play, whose theme is the imminent crash of western culture and influence--they are betting the farm on AGW, though they think they are being clever, and virtuous, about extracting money from the money-makers. They are most deluded in thinking themselves virtuous, when they are merely incompetent, in following incompetent "scientific" authority. The incompetence of the public debate, which never settles on anything, only encourages them.

May 8, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Lord Smith also said that renewables plus nuclear would not be enough to prevent the lights going out and that gas with CCS would be needed to plug the gap (or words to that effect, will have to listen to it again on iPlayer). Which will lead to an interesting quandary for the next Parliament, or the one after that, if they find themselves unable to get around the requirement for CCS. I'll get a transcript of this up at some point, ditto the James Lovelock programme if I get a chance.

May 8, 2012 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

I'm not sure this is anything more that a man caught between a rock and a hard place trying to placate the green lobby with vague promises. 40% of UK generation is already from gas, I cannot believe anyone would impose such a prohibitive cost on home sourced gas but give Russian and Norwegian gas a free pass.

May 8, 2012 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarnwennan

Any Govt that attempts to legislate against Shale is going to be crucified.

The evidence will become unavoidable from other countries experiencing economic booms off the back of their own burgeoning Fracking industries. But the straw that will break the camel's back will be when socialist 'utopias' dive in and start Fracking (gotta love that money!). Then the BBC/Green lobby will be stuffed.

At that point any Govt/party who opposed it will be out of power for a generation.

You can fool...etc.

May 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

@Jack Savage

'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine." - Arthur C Clarke

May 8, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

"Russian and Norwegian gas"

The Russians are about to drill for gas (and upset the local ecology) on the Yamal peninsular, so our finding/using alternatives would be a good move, if you are the of the Green persuasion. Tricky, huh?

May 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"are the of the" = are of the. Sorry.

May 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I cannot believe anyone would impose such a prohibitive cost on home sourced gas but give Russian and Norwegian gas a free pass.

Well, frankly that is exactly what the position seems to be with the environmentalists. It makes me wonder if they're funded by Putin. They always were in the past (the Communists in the UK I mean).

May 8, 2012 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

'The Russians are about to drill for gas (and upset the local ecology) on the Yamal peninsular...'
A hint of irony there: wasn't the Yamal the site for the most controversial tree-ring research by the Hockey Team?

May 8, 2012 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie F.

I cannot believe anyone would impose such a prohibitive cost on home sourced gas but give Russian and Norwegian gas a free pass.
In which case, Carnwennan, I don't think you've been paying attention to UK politics for the last half-century! (|;-)
Shooting oneself in the foot is a collective political disease.

May 8, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A hint of irony there: wasn't the Yamal the site for the most controversial tree-ring research by the Hockey Team?

It's OK as long as they leave this one tree standing...

May 8, 2012 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Nah. Just a dumb politician. Power firms should just tell him they will convert the CO2 to plant fertilizer, then do nothing.

May 8, 2012 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGDixon

Hey, everyone - I've just peeled yesterday's date off my desk calendar, and for 8th May is this cracking quotation by someone called Andre Gide - SO appropriate for the whole AGW-versus-us-sceptics thing:
'Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those that find it..'
Its good, innit..?

May 8, 2012 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Err David, that was Mark Twain. I think...

May 8, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Brits with just have to survive on each others body heat to survive cold winters. The UK seems to want to follow the EU into energy poverty.

May 8, 2012 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterWindy

No, it was André Gide, not Mark Twain.

May 8, 2012 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Mark Twain speaking French?
« Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent. »

May 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul_K

And while you're at it, give us back the light bulb and the Enigma machine crack :)

May 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I worked on two international CCS programmes. Smith does not appear to know of the engineering issues. How on Earth do you pump large volumes at 105 Bar [the pressure needed to liquefy CO2 at ambient temperature plus the pressure drop needed to cause the fluid to pass into the rock at the desired flow rate?

We may well need to frack the rock before this can happen because it increases the area over which the permeation can start.

These issue have to be solved by real experimental data and anyway, the drive for such technologies is driven by the unknown effect of ocean acidification, AGW having been exaggerated by at least an order of magnitude mainly because of a big mistake by Houghton in 'The Physics of Atmospheres'.

May 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

There are already well known gas fields in the Yamal, and these, along with adjacent oil fields in the Timan-Pechora region , are now being developed , rather than still be looked for. Perhaps there should be more interest in how much of this is being flared at the moment.

May 8, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeading Out

I've always thought that M Twain said:

"Respect those who seek the truth, be wary of those who claim to have found it." - Mark Twain

May 8, 2012 at 4:02 PM | Registered Commenterpeterwalsh

Costing the Earth - while driving home I have just heard a bit of this programme, about coal and its use or replacement. A person whose name I didn't hear said we have to do CCS or we are all toast because of GW.

Presumably this is also the view of Lord Smith who apparently has not read the report from UKER which states among other things:

"A regulatory approach that makes CCS compulsory for all fossil plants will only work if the technology is more advanced, and the additional costs can be passed onto consumers."

May 8, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

The results of the elections in France and Greece suggest that the public is fed up with the deception quietly promoted jointly by world leaders and leaders of the scientific community since Hiroshima was destroyed on 6 Aug 1945 and they:

a.) United Nations
b.) Controlled Humans as domesticated animals
c.) Hid Information on the source of energy that creates elements, sustains and destroys life.

The rest of this 67-year tale of deception is documented in an open letter to world leaders:

Markets will ultimately restore sanity if leaders of nations and the scientific community refuse to replace post-modern consensus models of reality with experimentally verified reality.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

May 8, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

Am I missing something or has the piece on BBC been changed? The link doesn't contain the quote in the Bishop's piece. Which could be because it was incorrect, or because this particular cat shouldn't have been allowed out of the bag at this stage.

May 8, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

@ David C, the BBC article appears to have been revised and expanded, following the Today programme interview this morning - and you can actually still see the earlier version(s) elsewhere on the net, if you type the quotes into a search box. The excerpt the Bishop quoted is no longer there, and the following sentence has also been removed from the current version:

"The BBC’s environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, says Lord Smith is also likely to anger environmentalists by calling for more nuclear power stations in the UK."

May 8, 2012 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

"I cannot believe anyone would impose such a prohibitive cost on home sourced gas but give Russian and Norwegian gas a free pass." --Carnwennan

See the Haldane quote, above, replacing 'Universe' with "UK Politics."

May 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

May 8, 2012 at 11:32 AM James P

How nice to see the word 'perceptive' used instead of the egregious upstart 'insightful'. Ugh.

May 8, 2012 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterA Lovell

I realise many of our politician might wish to restrict the use of shale gas in this way, but how?
Would they prevent it from being exported to countries which do not mandate CCS?
Would foreign shale gas ever be mixed with conventional gas in our imported supply?
Will all shale gas be barred from the existing pipeline network?
From a legislation perspective, specifying extraction method is highly anti-competitive and thus would struggle if legally challenged.
Politically, the idea seems to offend against 'the art of the possible' maxim on too many levels.

May 8, 2012 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarnwennan

I wonder if Lord Smith realizes that separating CO2 from the exhaust of a gas turbine is even more difficult than from coal boiler flue gas. The CO2 content is 3.5 to 4% in gas turbine exhaust and approx. 12% from a coal boiler. That means you have to handle 3 times more exhaust gas in a gas turbine than from a coal boiler per tonne of CO2 captured. And only the Norwegians are working on capture from gas exhaust because everyone else thinks we should tackle coal first.

You can't just snap your fingers and expect CCS technology to emerge fully developed.

May 8, 2012 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commenteroeman50

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