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The potential of shale – in the fight against climate change…

14 April 2014

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report earlier this morning which contains a remarkable insight. Ottmar Edenhofer, head of the IPCC working group, told a press conference that shale gas might work as a bridge between fossil fuel dependence and renewable energy. (The report also mentions carbon capture and storage, nuclear and biofuels alongside shale as alternative energy sources.)

The IPCC is not endorsing shale or rejecting renewable energy, far from it; but it is saying that shale could be a short term measure in the long-term battle against climate change. Edenhofer’s statement effectively concedes that renewables are not yet sufficiently developed or cheap to meet our energy needs, and recognises that shale is a comparatively clean form of energy – at least next to coal. The concession exemplifies the change in the IPCC’s thinking of late – as described in these pages by Matt Ridley and Bjorn Lomberg.

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The shale industry, however, has been slow to take note of this development. The statement could help them to convince the public that their business is, broadly, worthwhile. Yet, at the time of writing, Caudrilla, one of the exploration companies with an interest in shale deposits in the Bowland Basin and the South Downs, has said nothing about it. Neither has Total, the French multinational giant which recently invested in shale fields in Lincolnshire.

One of the defining features of the Battle of Balcombe was the pro-shale faction’s uniformly dreadful PR campaign. It wasn’t clear what ‘fracking’ was, how it would affect the community and whether the country as a whole would benefit both now and in the future. Instead, the exploration company was drawn into confrontation with environmental activists. Nightly TV bulletins showed children and bare-breasted hippies being dragged away by police.

The IPCC has provided the supporters of shale with a readymade argument – and not just any argument, but, potentially, a compelling one: ‘Shale is part of the solution’. It would be strange if they missed this opportunity.

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Show comments
  • Lucy Woods

    Nice use of “effectively concedes” in place of “my opinion of this statement is” for the sentence: “Edenhofer’s statement effectively concedes that renewables are not yet
    sufficiently developed or cheap to meet our energy needs”. If you had read the IPCC report instead of picking and spinning a quote from the summary, you would find the report very, very clearly and concisely concludes that renewables are, 100% sufficiently developed and cheap enough – and I quote: renewables have the potential to meet all of the world’s energy demands. All that is needed is deployment and investment, not technology advancement or subsidies as you have incorrectly written.

  • Rossspeak

    I don’t know whether fracking will assist the “climate change issue” – but it is a fuel strategy no brainer – even if we don’t get the huge price benefits enjoyed by US businesses and consumers because of our penal fuel tax regime – it would ( hopefully WILL) make a considerable difference to both our energy supply independence – and as importantly – our balance of payments.
    Frack at full speed!

  • Radford_NG

    Shale is yesterdays stuff.

    There is good report that steam can be pumped down into a coal seam to produce coal-gas to be pumped out.This is much the same as occurred at the Gas Works in all our towns pre-north-sea-gas c.1974,except the coal doesn’t have to be dug out.

    It produces far more energy then shale;doesn’t use`fracking`,or chemicals[steam is pure H20],and it is off shore.

    There are vast amounts of coal under Doggerland-the lands flooded by the North Sea 6,000(?) years ago:far more energy there then from the oil and gas fields.

    Explorations are now begining in the North East.This is the likely future.

    • Baron

      Spot on, Radford, seconded.

  • artemis in france

    Shame on you, Mr. Blackburn. Any décent journalist would pour scorn on pronouncements from the IPCC. How long before everyone gets it – they are a bunch of charlatans, only interested in continuing their lucrative employment. They have to come out with thèse exaggerated reports to justify their existence.

  • Beki Adam

    “renewables are not yet sufficiently developed” – as if shale oil and gas extraction is! It would be quicker, more efficient, sustainable and economically sound to work on developing the infrastructure for renewables – which is somewhat more developed than the infrastructure – (think pipelines, road, rigs and waste water treatment) for unconventional oil and gas. Common sense needed here.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      No, that’s not common sense. And there is zero chance the investments for the greenie madness will cost less than fossil fuels of any type. Smarter people than you have tried to make that case, and they haven’t.

      • Lucy Woods

        Please actually read the IPCC report.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Have you?

          • Lucy Woods
            • the viceroy’s gin

              No, you haven’t, as is obvious.

              In fact, you’re obviously just another technically illiterate global warmingist.

              • Lucy Woods

                Well the entire day reading through it all must of been a dream then? As is all my previous experience criticizing the environment and (renewable) energy fields? Thank you internet troll for telling me what I did with my time or the mystery would never have been solved.

                And whoops, what am I thinking? Acknowledging the scientific findings of the largest panel of scientific information known in the history of mankind, yep, silly me for regarding the thousands of contributions from those with lifelong expertise in climate science and energy technology!

                As you don’t agree I, and everyone else must just be an alarmist with some hidden agenda (please inform me what this is so I can continue to hide it from you, make up science and hoax you and everyone else that believes in those silly things like gravity or paracetamol or air travel or electricity *evil laughter* – science has you believing all kinds of magic all for a mass political conspiracy! Quick ring the alarms!…oh no wait, then, then that would make you a dirty alarmist too…)

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Thanks for confirming your technical illiteracy. It was obvious, but now it’s acknowledged fact.

                  It’s amusing, you, an envirowhacko troll, calling someone else a “troll”.

                  You’re an envirowhacko global warmingist, and not a very smart one, at that.

                • Lucy Woods

                  I’m sorry, I’m trying my best to grasp your intelligent, well balanced, thoughtful, knowledgeable and cited argument, but, oh no wait, you didn’t give one.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Quite amusing, a technically illiterate envirowhacko asking for knowledge and cites.

                • Lucy Woods

                  “technically illiterate” “envirowhacko” – I’ve provided a link to my professional work for peer review and criticism (for which you have replied in base level name calling). Maybe instead of spending all your time questioning mine, you should prove your own tech literacy and environmental sanity then? Go on, I dare you.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Sorry, but I don’t click on links provided by technically illiterate global warmingist envirowhackos, and you above confirmed that you are precisely that.

                • Lucy Woods

                  Refusing information that doesn’t compute with your narrow mindset, that might challenge your self coined personal ideals or pose a differing view to your own? Most progressive.

                  When a fire alarm is going off and you put headphones on because you don’t like what you hear, well, good luck in the flames and don’t say the information to make an informed decision was not presented to you.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Sorry, but you’re still a technically illiterate global warmingist envirowhacko. Most sensible don’t bother with you types much anymore.

                • Lucy Woods

                  “Most sensible” do not put people into types, but weigh the arguments of individuals, respecting each unique view point, regardless of how it differs from their own. They use logic, debate and evidence, and renounce name calling. I’ve learnt plenty from this discussion – have you granted yourself the privilege to learn anything? You can clearly read and write and have internet access, this in itself concludes you are an intelligent enough being to challenge ideas with more than animalistic name calling.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Sorry, but I had to stop reading after your first phrase, as it’s patently false. And yes, you are a technically illiterate global warmingist envirowhacko.

                • Lucy Woods
                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Did you think I’d somehow changed my mind and would be clicking on your link, wasting my time?

                • Lucy Woods

                  So you have no proof of personal experience or expertise then? Tell me, do you listen to your doctor or accountant or lawyer, or do you also declare them wackos and illiterates in the profession they have devoted their time too, while you point ignorant self-entitled fingers from a distant observation deck?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I’m not a technically illiterate global warmingist envirowhacko. You are.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Stuff climate change, it’s the in fight against Putin we need shale gas for.

  • dado_trunking

    Are we missing the opportunity? Who are ‘we’? Who is it that would be missing the opportunity in the current circumstances – and to through in another piece of eco-mathematical insight: how would USC with carbon capture be any more carbon negative?
    (and this one is for that goaty stalker: why would it matter, weirdo?)

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …can anybody decipher this impenetrable gibberish?

  • Baron

    The Germans shut down their nuclear generating capacity, are now burning lignite, the biggest polluter of them all, as if there was no tomorrow. The Chinese have been doing something similar for decades. We have both beneath the landmass, and even more so under the North Sea enough quality coal to last us for centuries, at a potential cost immeasurably lower, conversion coefficient vastly higher than anything the renewables can ever achieve, do BA to develop these fossil sediments. We must be truly mad, and will be punished for it.

    • Tom Tom

      Germany is shutting down generating sets and heading for energy shortages and blackouts……..

    • Radford_NG

      See mine above on converting coal seams into coal gas.

      • Baron

        Done, Radford, and seconded. That’s the future indeed.

        The remarkable, phenomenal economic growth after WW2, growth that has brought about wealth creation unimaginable by anyone before, had two legs to stand on, run with: cheap energy and credit creation. The former has been mostly fugged up by the greeny fruitcakes, the latter overdone abit, the mechanism for it damaged (here anyway) by another bunch of bank bashers. Unless we revive both we’ll be just wobbling, zigzagging along into oblivion.

  • volcanopete

    All parties should listen to evidence-based policy.The evidence from the states is very worrysome.I’m concerned what the Druids might think on the impact of leylines,key to underground sources of energy.They will be able to detect future earthquakes as in Ohio.Van The Man advices us to go into the mystic.He could have been a Druid.

  • David davis

    The trouble with the phrase “part of the solution” is that the leftoid Management-ConsultanciNazi cabal has hijacked phrases about being “parts of” “problems” and “solutions” for at least three decades now.

    In the late-80s, I was Research Director of two outfits in London that did “Corporate PR”. I admit to having used phrases like “Movers and Shakers”, and “the only thing of which we can be certain will be more and faster change”. Oh and “influencing the debate” (which was a mildish one.) And “We need News-Pegs, on which to hang this story” (that was even before I designed and commissioned the research, the results of which displeased my boss….)

    If the shale-gas firms use phrases involving the specific word “solutions”, then as a recipe for PR and political disaster I would recommend that as the pathway to corporate death.

    The internet now contains no image of the jolly little sun-faced smiling little gollywoggy-fella that was the logo of SEGAS (the South Eastern Gas Board) when I was a littl-nipper. But that’s what they really want. There might be one on a press ad in some local Home Counties newspaper, used for old wrapping in a dead-person’s attic that’s being cleared by his/her angry irriated yuppie middle-aged children.

    But sadly I doubt it.

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      If you had put the term Mister Therm into google images you would have found quite a few pictures of the gollywoggy fella, who was actually a flame.

      You’ve heard of google, surely?

  • HookesLaw

    And anywhere in the IPCC load of regurgitated garbage did it mention that there had in fact been no global warming for 17 years 8 months.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …it’s too bad you and Call Me Dave are pure socialists, and believe all that garbage, eh laddie?

  • Curnonsky

    Shale gas is the stake through the heart of both the Global Warming fraudsters and the little KGB colonel’s imperial ambitions. What’s not to like, Dave?

    • Tom Tom

      Keep on believing that twaddle……I recall how North Sea Oil and Gas was hyped as making Britain like Saudi Arabia. Imperial Ambitions ? How many times has Britain fought in Afghanistan ? When was the last time ? How many times in Iraq ? How many times in Libya ? Why don’t you focus on the Joint Naval exercises by Iran and Pakistan in the Straits of Hormuz ?

  • Bluesman_1

    “Cuadrilla was granted planning permission by West Sussex County Council
    to undertake further exploration work at the Balcombe well location in 2010.
    Geological studies and geophysical data indicate that there may be significant
    untapped reserves of hydrocarbons, most likely oil, in this area. The results
    of test drilling will help us to assess how much oil might be present and
    whether or not it would be viable to extract on a commercial scale.”


    Not much shale gas there then – it may explain why no-one was defending fracking at Balcombe.

    • David davis

      So the Balcombe-pretosters don’t want the oil either then?

      • Bluesman_1

        No, only the products it provides.

    • El_Sid

      Most “shale gas” companies are in fact shale hydrocarbon companies with a bias towards shale oil. In the US pure shale gas is generally uneconomic, the investment and production is all in the oily shales like the Eagle Ford.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Really David, you ought to check the credibility of the IPCC before you believe their message of doom. Especially look at the lack of transparency of their process and the fact that politicians edit the science for the use of policy-makers. Our policy therefore is to undermine our own economies to no useful purpose save the support of transnationalist central planning.

  • Peter Stroud

    The IPCC continues to spout nonvalidated scientific statements, and wave its collective arms, trying to answer why, against all predictions, global temperatures have remainder unchanged for seventeen years. The latest fashion is that the ‘lost’ heat has sunk to the depths of the oceans. Difficult to explain bearing in mind that sea surface temperatures have hardly increased. Furthermore, it is impossible to measure the temperatures at such depths. But anything is possible in the parallel universe of IPCC climatology.

    Frankly it does not mater what the IPCC says about fracking. We need to go ahead with it, at the highest possible speed. Also, this country should take a leaf out of Germany’s book: start building some more coal fired units, now.

    • Tom Tom

      Germany has ORDERED the construction of a coal-fired power station: none of the Utilities want to build. The Utilities are in financial difficulties because of Merkel’s Green Voter Snare of abandoning nuclear power – Japan has just committed itself to more nuclear. Merkel has bankrupted German utilities and they are now dependent on a French nuclear station that France wanted to close as it sits on an earthquake fault. Yet Germany needs the energy to avoid power cuts in southern Germany next winter.

      Germany is facing a crisis and if you look at industrial energy bills it is clear Germany is not the place to run energy-intensive operations now – they have made a pig’s ear of things

      • the viceroy’s gin

        They can fling up a coal or nat gas fired power plant in short order, and spot them everywhere. You may be a bit hyperbolic here.

        Now, they have to pay the freight for the useless windmill stupidity, but that was foreordained when they went down that stupid path. But they’re Germans. They’ll work it out economically.

      • dado_trunking

        Oh yeah, and in the meantime RWE sign a supply deal with Ukraine. This is not about shortages, this is about lifting the price.

  • an ex-tory voter

    “remarkable insight” !!

    Nonsense, the IPCC have been shown to have exaggerated, lied and attempted to use non existent man-made global warming for political ends. The world,s democratic governments are now facing the “inconvenient truth” of the political consequences which inevitably follow from their naivety in following the lead of this pseudo scientific global political pressure group.

    The IPCC’s volte-face on shale has everything to do with self-preservation and nothing to do with “insight”.

  • telemachus

    I canno think for the life of me why with the current Ukraine crisis Cameron is not going hook line and sinker for Fracking the country over
    Fact is he got scared of the Home Counties Brigade after the Sussex protests
    Weak weak weak

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      First time I’ve ever voted Tele up.

      • Bluesman_1

        Me too, it will pass, I expect.

        • wobble

          Nurse ..NURSE !

      • The Laughing Cavalier

        It goes against the grain, doesn’t it?

    • Kitty MLB

      You strangely have a wee point- Oh one with the dark soul!
      Ah, those protests, I believe are those that landed Caroline
      Lucas in court….

    • dado_trunking

      You believe that and a single Brighton MP could do that?

      • telemachus

        It is the prospect of media images of swampy vs Cameron in the Sussex Downs driving away Home Counties Luvvies from his beloved comfortable Coalition project that terrified
        Weak weak weak

        • Colonel Mustard

          New script from Borg HQ?

          “Weak, weak, weak” replacing “Cotht of Living Crithith”?

          Lies, lies, lies.


    • Tom Tom

      You have swallowed the same guff put out by every scam – this is going to be another joke but at least someone will get very rich, I must find how to fleece you suckers

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Dave is a full blown socialist just like you, lad. He’s four square for the global warmingist kookiness, just like the rest of you nutters.

      Well, that and he wants all the cash from the fracking to go to the Londonistan bubble, not to the People. He’s in full alignment with the rest of you socialist nutters on that score, too.

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