|Bursting the Nuclear Bubble
The UK Government appear to have seen the light about their, frankly, rubbish plan to covertly invest in (by hidden subsidies) a spanking new fleet of nuclear power reactors.
Dogged by Electricite de France (EdF) as they have been, with Vincent de Rivaz continuing to proffer his begging bowl with outstretched pleading arms, it just might be that before the Energy Bill is finally announced –
|when the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) dust has settled – that this new thinking will have become core solidity.
After all, there are plenty of reasons not to support new nuclear power – apart from the immense costs, the unclear costs, the lack of immediate power generation until at least a decade of concrete has been poured, and so on (and so forth).
Gas is Laughing
It appears that reality has bitten – and that the UK Government are pursuing gas. And they have decided not to hatch their eggs all in one basket. First of all, there’s a love-in with Statoil of Norway :-
Then, there’s the new “South Stream” commitment – the new Azerbaijan-European Union agreement, spelled out in a meeting of the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) on 12th June at King’s College, London :-
Meanwhile, the “North Stream” gas pipeline is going to feed new Russian gas to Europe, too (since the old Siberian gas fields have become exhausted) :-
And then there’s the amazing new truth – Natural Gas is a “green” energy, according to the European Union :-
The UK will still be importing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from our good old friends in Qatar. Never mind the political interference in the nearby region and the human rights abuses, although NATO could be asked to put a stop to that if Europe needed to bust the regime in order for their energy companies to take ownership of the lovely, lovely gas. I mean, that’s what happened in Iraq and Libya, didn’t it ?
A Fossilised Future
So, despite all the green noises from the UK Government, the underlying strategy for the future (having batted away the nuclear buzzing insects around the corpse of British energy policy), is as Steve Browning, formerly of National Grid says – “gas and air” – with Big Wind power being the commercialisable renewable technology of choice. But not too much wind power – after all, the grid could become unstable, couldn’t it, with too much wind ?
There are several problems with this. First, the commitment to fossil fuels – even Natural Gas with its half the emissions profile of coal – is a risky strategy, despite making sure that supplies are secure in the near term. The reasons for this are geological as well as geopolitical. Natural Gas will peak, and even the UK Government accepts that unconventional gas will not keep fossil gas going forever – even with the “18 years” ultimate recoverable from under Lancashire of shale gas (that’s “18 years” of current gas annual demand – but not all drilled at once – perhaps amounting to about 1.5% of current UK gas supply needs per year, stretched out over 40 years) , and the billion tonnes of coal that can be gasified from under the sea off the east coast of England. As long as Carbon Capture and Storage can work.
Not only will Natural Gas peak and start to decline in the UK, it will also peak and decline in the various other foreign resources the UK is promising to buy. By simple logic – if the North Sea gas began depletion after only 30 years – and this was a top quality concentrated resource – how soon will poorer quality gas fields start depleting ?
Whilst I recognise the sense in making Natural Gas the core strategy of UK energy provision over the next few decades, it can never be a final policy. First off, we need rather more in terms of realistic support for the deployment of renewable electricity. People complained about onshore wind turbines, so the UK Government got into offshore wind turbines, and now they’re complaining at how expensive they are. Then they botched solar photovoltaics policy. What a palaver !
Besides a much stronger direction for increasing renewable electricity, we need to recognise that renewable resources of gas need to be developed, starting now. We need to be ready to displace fossil gas as the fossil gas fields show signs of depletion and yet global demand and growth still show strength. We need to recognise that renewable gas development initiatives need consistent central government financial and enabling policy support. We need to recognise that even with the development of renewable gas, supplies of gas as a whole may yet peak – and so we need to acknowledge that we can never fully decarbonise the energy networks unless we find ways to apply energy conservation and energy efficiency into all energy use – and that this currently conflicts with the business model for most energy companies – to sell as much energy as possible. We need mandates for insulation, efficient fossil fuel use – such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and efficient grids, appliances and energy distribution. Since energy is mostly privately owned and privately administered, energy conservation is the hardest task of all, and this will take heroic efforts at all levels of society to implement.
…Continued from http://www.joabbess.com/2012/06/12/gas-in-the-uk/
Questions from the floor
…increasing electricification of heat and transport. I was interested in what Doug said about heat. [If energy conservation measures are significant and there is] a significant reduction in gas use for heat…interested in the Minister’s response.
[Terry ? (Member of PRASEG)]
I’m interested in gas that would need CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] [in future] …[since there would be no restriction there would be an] incentive to build new gas in next few years away from CCS-usable infrastructure. Maybe encouraging gas stations over next few years to be built in view of CCS.
[ ? ]
[There have been mentions of the] Gas [generation] Strategy and gas storage. Is it your intention to have both in the Energy Bill ? [Need to improve investor confidence.]
[Charles Hendry MP] I’m more confident than Doug on CHP…[in respect of energy conservation we will begin to increase our use of] CHP [Combined Heat and Power], geothermal energy, don’t need District Heating. I think we’ll see more people switch to electric heating. The likely pricing on gas will mean people have to look at other sources – such as localised heat storage, intelligent ways to produce hot water and heat in their homes […for example, a technology to store heat for several days…] The first [new gas power] plants will be where they are already consented – where originally coal plants – need to have identified in advance – no new plant is consented unless…We’ve asked Ofgem to ask re securing gas supplies. If we can stretch out the tail of North Sea gas – can stretch it out 30 – 40 years […] technology […] Centrica / Norway […] develop contracts […] Is there a role for strategic storage [Centrica asking] […] Buying and selling at the wrong price (like the gold) [widespread chuckling in the room]. Some of it may not need legislation. Gas Strategy will be published before the Energy Bill.
[David Cox] Get very nervous about gas storage. Don’t think there’s a need to put financial incentives in place to increase gas storage. We think the hybrid gas market is successful – a market and regulatory framework – [gas storage incentives] could damage.
[Doug Parr] I’m not downbeat because I want to be downbeat on heat. [Of all the solutions proposed none of them show] scaleability, deliverability. I’d love that to come true – but will it ? […] Heat pumps ? Biogas is great but is it really going to replace all that gas ? If we’re going to be using gas we need to make the best use of it […] Issues around new plant / replacement – all about reducing risks no exposing ourselves to [it] – security of supply, climate risks, issues about placement [siting of new plant]. If CCS can really be made to work – it’s a no-brainer – do we want all that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or … ? Our entire policy becomes dependent on a technology that hasn’t even been demonstrated. Other technologies that people thought were great – years later they still haven’t arrived [for example, rooftop wind turbines]. If we say CCS is the only way it’s going to work – what’s Plan B ? We are going to use [fossil fuels] – should not become wholly dependent on technology not yet demonstrated.
[Alan Whitehead] Perhaps people should be asked – which would you prefer – a CHP / DH [Combined Heat and Power / District Heating] plant in the valley here, or a couple of wind turbines on that hill ? That would [shake things up].
Questions from the floor
[ X ? ] See […] as the ultimate destination. Most important – gas can be made zero carbon – not pie in the sky. 1. Start contributions of carbon-neutral gas and 2. will need far less if [we act] like Japan – force installation of microCHP. Their aim is to do same as for washing machines [bring prices down – make widely available for the home]. MicroCHP [with] heat pumps – reduction as good as decarbonising gas or electricity. But can also decarbonise gas.
[ X ? ] The Minister mentioned the importance of CHP but recently dropped […] mandate. If CHP so important what measures is the Government taking to ensure its installation ?
[ X ? ] Electricity is a rubbish fuel for heating buildings – very peaky load – need something cheap to store, cheap to […]. Fits very well with forcing down demand. Where we’re getting our gas from. At the moment our waste is being incinerated. For a cheap additional cost, where currently incinerating we can do anaerobic digestion [AD], producing a fungible asset – the gas – can gradually decarbonise our grid.
[ Thomas Grier ? ] …a decision [?] of London – CHP in London over the next few years. If we want to use electricity for heat, we need to reinforce the electricity grid [by 60% to 90% ?] In rural situations – use electrical heating. In urban, use decarbonised energy. [This model projection] shows the gas grid disappearing – it will collapse at some point if all we have on the gas grid is cooking.
[ X ? ] …[encouraged CHP then a few days later] stood up then said all support [removed ?] for CHP next year. A Heat Strategy that said there is enormous [scope / potential] for CHP. We want to see gas, we want to see efficiency. Are we moving towards […] without it they won’t build it.
[David Cox] Microgeneration – couldn’t get it down economically. Reliability [issues]. Full supporter of biogas – AD got a contribution to make – but never more than 5% – no matter how much [we crack it]. Electricity is not very good for heating – but how to we decarbonise the heat sector ? Always been an advocate of CHP. Government need to do more incentivising of that.
[Charles Hendry MP] Innovation and invention […] Government can’t support all emerging technologies. Best brains around the world [are working on] how we move fundamentally in a low carbon direction. On the waste hierarchy – burning of waste should be the final stage – finding a better use for it. [I visited] the biggest AD plant in Europe in Manchester – biogas and electricity generation. We are seeing Local Authorities taking a more constructive long-term view on how to manage waste. CHP – we all want to see more of it – to what extent does it need support ? That depends on whether new build – building a community around it. [By comparison, urban retrofitting is probably too expensive] Iceland [took the decision and] retrofitted almost every home – I’m now more convinced than before. What is the right level of subsidy and what makes good economic case ?
[Doug] We do keep missing opportunities. [For example in Wales, Milford Haven, the new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine at the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) refinery to process the gas] should have been CHP. I am enthusiastic about lots of heat technologies [but the same questions/issues apply] scaleability and deliverability. District heating [DH] – an infrastructure asset ! [Can change priorities about what gets built – for example in Denmark (?)] they’re building large-scale solar farms to top up the DH. In the Treasury’s infrastructure plan [see DH could be…] Heat is the poor relation in energy debate. Other networks have been identified in the National Policy Statements (NPS) – but not heat.
[ Leonie Green, Renewable Energy Association ] [I must] defend heat pumps. In Sweden 90% of new builds [hav e heat pumps ?] – heat pump efficiency is a function of the energy-efficiency of the building […] Just on AD – National Grid report said it could provide 50% [of the nation’s supply. Our members think] that’s a bit too high – we think 25%. My question is really about the benefits. We are hearing anxiety about costs, but it’s piecemeal on benefits. We’ve been strong on jobs, balance of trade, exports [all benefits of renewable energy investment and deployment]. Pleased to see DECC put out [report from] Oxford Economics [on the] wider economic benefits. How can we get more and more balance in reports. [An example] Deutsche Bank renewable generation opportunities.
[ ? ] We would also support more than 5% from renewable gas – also about hydrogen – we used to do it when it was town gas – why not again ? As regards injecting biomethane/biogas from AD into the National Grid [last year ? to this year ?] 130 enquiries to connect AD to our network – none have progressed. Please sort these [registrations] out.
[ ? ] Minister, we’re not expecting you to fund all technologies – we need some logic – especially with transport. The Government doesn’t recognise the difference between Renewable Natural Gas if used in transport and fossil fuels. Would be simple – a tax on gas if used in a vehicle. What’s the problem over […] ?
[Colin Snape, University of Nottingham] We are looking at reducing the costs of carbon capture – we have a section of PhDs… One other gas source not mentioned – gas from underground gasification of coal [UCG]. In UK […] 2 billion tonners of coal – slightly offshore – on the energy coast of the UK – where all the action is on CCS – obviously UCG needs to be coupled with CCS to be carbon neutral. Would [be operational] in a very short time period […incentives…]. Significant proportion of UK needs.
[ ? ] What is the purpose of the Gas Strategy ? Shale gas isn’t a miracle. The “Golden Age of Gas” [report by the International Energy Agency (IEA)] doesn’t mean cheap gas, because [it will be put to] lots of uses. Renewable electricity and nuclear are not going to come until the 2020s. How do we avoid building loads of gas generation that is not necessary after that time ? What’s the role of mothballing (relatively cheap to bring CCGT out of mothballs comparing to build new). No sign of reduction in electricity demand reduction – therefore there will be high gas use.
[ Doug Parr ] On UCG, the IEA had two scenarios in the “Golden Age of Gas” – both took us over 3.5 degrees Celsius [in additional global warming]. Even if there is unconventional gas sources, still a huge danger of going down the road of unrestrained gas use. What is the alternative ? We should not end up becoming dependent on gas. Should not build gas to fill a short-term hole – they will lobby for their own interests – to keep open.
[ David Cox ] CCGTs won’t be built without guarantees greater than 20 years. Also renewable energy might not provide in the way that we hope. The CCC report – what caused the rise in energy prices ? The wholesale gas price – not renewable energy, green policies. However, that was slightly dishonest – the counter-factual was […] renewable energy significantly still more expensive than fossil fuel there. Until we can get costs of renewable energy down to the prices of fossil fuels… [The industry] don’t give the impression [they will build] on the basis of short-term need. Gas isn’t clean, I admit that […] CCS – that will work.
[Charles Hendry MP] A lot comes back to a need for a balanced approach – carbon targets and security of supply. If you haven’t sorted out security of supply, the electorate will not give permission to go low carbon. Gas is a hedging fuel currently but don’t know where costs going over time. As a politician, I like pipelines – know where it’s going (not like LNG, where there was limited use of new LNG import plant). If we want Scandinavian gas, we need security of demand to build the new pipeline. How we deal with issues of biomethane – in 2 years – need to make more progress. Some of these [techologies] will be gamechangers – some, look back in a couple of years… [Need a] permissive framework to allow a lot of ideas and technologies. There is no source of energy that hasn’t required subsidy in early days. Fanciful to suggest new forms of energy can come through without support. The letters we get [from the public, from constituents] are on vehicle fuel costs, not how much their gas bill went up last winter…
Official end of meeting
A gaggle of people gathered in the hallway to discuss some items further.
The Electricity Market Reform (EMR) was generally criticised – as it contains measures likely to specifically benefit nuclear power. Electricite de France was identified as very involved. The Government had said “no nuclear subsidy”, but the EMR measures are equivalent to hidden subsidies.
The Levy Cap was criticised as it would disturb investor confidence – if several nuclear reactors came on-stream in 10 years time, in the same year, they would eat up the whole subsidy budget for that year – and other technologies would lose out. If was felt that a number of the EMR proposals were “blunt instruments”, not overcoming shortcomings of former levies and subsidies.
Although the EMR was designed to addressed economic fears, it wasn’t assisting with financing risks – if anything it was adding to them. Rates of return have to be guaranteed for loans to be made – chopping and changing subsidies doesn’t allow for that.
Leonie Green said that the REA members don’t like the Premium Feed-in-Tariff (FiT). She also said later that they were not pleased about the cuts in support for AD.
Since my personal interest is in using Renewable Gas of various sources (including Biomethane / Biogas) to displace Natural Gas from the gas grid, I spoke with various people about this informally (including a woman I met on the train on my way home – who really got the argument about decarbonising gas by developing Renewable Gas, and using that to store excess renewable electricity, and use it as backup for renewable electricity. Although she did say “it won’t be done if it won’t confer benefits”.). One of the key elements for developing Renewable Gas is to create a stream of Renewable Hydrogen, produced in a range of ways. Somebody asked me what the driver would be for progress in Renewable Hydrogen production ? I said the “pull” was supposed to be the fabled “Hydrogen Economy” for transport, but that this isn’t really happening. I said the need for increased sources of renewably-sourced gas will become progressively clear – perhaps within a decade.
One of the persons present talked about how they think the Government is now coming out of the nuclear dream world – how only a few of the proposed new reactors will get built in the next decade – and how the Government now need to come up with a more realistic scenario.
It was mentioned that is appears that the Biogas technologies are going to have the same treatment as solar photovoltaics – some sort of subsidies at the start – which get cut away far too early – before it can stand on its own two feet. This was said to be the result of an underlying theory that only a fixed amount of money should be used on launching each new technology – with no thought to continuity problems – especially as regards investment and loan structures.
This article was written by M. A. Rodger and was originally posted at DeSmogBlog and is syndicated by an informal agreement and with the express permission of both the author and DeSmogBlog, without payment or charge.
|This is the sixth post in a series examining the UK-registered educational charity and climate denial 'think-tank' Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) have identified very serious shortcomings and it is now make-or-break time for the GWPF's reputation.
GWPF Briefing Paper No1 – The Really Inconvenient Truth' will be a good test for this because “the GWPF is proud to publish this dispassionate but devastating critique of UK climate change policies, and of the alleged basis on which those policies rest.”
So says the foreword written by Lord Lawson of Blaby, the founder of the GWPF. Such a statement pretty much overrules the disclaimer that appears on the cover of these Briefing Papers (that views expressed are those of the author not the GWPF).
So will GWPF pride come before a fall?
REALLY INCONVENIENT AND REALLY TRUE?
The author of Briefing Paper No1 is Lord Andrew Turnbull, a retired senior civil servant and a GWPF Trustee. Turnbull has a “unique authority” for the task according to Lord Lawson. But a “unique authority” may not be adequate because the subject of Briefing Paper No1 encompasses not just UK climate change policy, but also the entirety of the work of the UN IPCC. Now that is a whole lot of subject-matter!
The Really Inconvenient Truth which Turnbull attempts to convey is that the basis for UK climate policy is shaky because it rests solely on the IPCC's findings. “The propositions of the IPCC do not bear the weight of certainty with which they are expressed,” he says.
However Turnbull is at pains to describe what he is attempting in Briefing Paper No1. He wishes only to point out the doubts and flawed procedures that exist. He does not seek to “replace“ the IPCC “propositions” with alternative propositions.
That is what he says. But what does he then do?
The gargantuan task Turnbull tackles in Briefing Paper No1 requires a seriously focused analysis but there is none of that here. Briefing Paper No1 is a sweeping account of the subject that strongly advances alternative “propositions.”
In essence, Turnbull's message is that “the IPCC view is a narrowly-based and over-simplified one … downplaying the role of natural forces.” The alternative view he advances sees a less dramatic climate change that would allow the world to adapt without reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Turnbull concludes (quoting the GWPF's inaugural lecture) that the IPCC view “is impossible to accept.”
As already mentioned, Briefing Paper No1 analyses IPCC work in its entirety. It thus covers the science, the climatic impacts and the policy responses.
These will be examined here in reverse order – kind of upside-down.
1 POLICY RESPONSES
Turnbull argues at some length for what he calls “no regret” mitigation policies to reduce CO2 emissions, policies which would not impact greatly on the UK economy. Yet Turnbull is entirely disinterested in the CO2 reductions that such minimal policies would achieve. It really does beg the question why he argues for any mitigation policies at all.
Indeed he talks briefly of preferring “adaptation” policies, pointing to the Institute of Civil Engineers who allegedly think that too little attention is paid to “adaptation.” Confusingly, Turnbull gives no source for this allegation. So is he referring to the UK's Institute of Civil Engineers? It is strange if he is. Their policy statements on climate change are unequivocal and wholly opposite to Turnbull's allegation. This is true even in their 2008 statement Adapting the UK to Climate Change (whose title may have given rise to Turnbull's confusion, perhaps a new take on 'judging a book by its cover.').
2 CLIMATIC IMPACTS
Turnbull deals quickly with the IPCC work on climatic impacts. He calls it shabby and quotes twice the Inter Academy Council (IAC) Report 2010 on the IPCC. This time Turnbull's source is referenced so there is no mistaking Turnbull's misinterpretations.
Turnbull makes here two accusations.
Firstly he says the IAC strongly criticise the IPCC WG2 for using non-peer-reviewed material. On this Turnbull is wrong. The IAC say using such “gray” literature is “relevant and appropriate” and is only criticising particulars of how it is used!
Turnbull's second quote (from the IAC Executive Summary) is about the IPCC's use of unsupported or unclear probability assessments within the WG2 Summary for Policy Makers. Any reader of this WG2 Summary will see it is only a summary. It's probability statements are shoddy work but not the shabby underhand work of deception that Turnbull describes.
This second IAC quote is used to back up Turnbull's otherwise unsupported accusations of “a consistent pattern of cherry-picking, exaggeration, highlighting extremes and failure to acknowledge beneficial effects.” Here Turnbull is entirely at odds with the IAC report which never makes any such comment or anything remotely in this vein.
Indeed the IAC begins its conclusions “The Committee concludes that the IPCC assessment process has been successful overall and has served society well” showing Turbull's intemperate tirade against the IPCC WG2 is entirely preposterous!
3 THE SCIENCE
On the science, Turnbull concludes that the IPCC “sees calamity just around the corner, producing calls for dramatic and early CO2 reduction.” This is a blunt but fair assessment.
Yet Turnbull goes on to make many strong but largely unsupported accusations against the IPCC science. He says it ignores 'huge controversy', relies on 'unproven assumptions' since it ' ignored' certain possibilities. He says its findings have been 'strongly challenged' and cites “some scientists … many scientists” who hold alternative views. And for good measure Turnbull also rounds on the Hockey Stick curve, as did GWPF Briefing Paper No3.
None of this has any substance to it. The “many scientists” (in fact one misguided scientist working outside his specialism) was debunked in Part 5 of this series.
As for the “some scientists,” again only one of these is named – climate 'skeptic' Professor Richard Lindzen (who is a member of the GWPF's Academic Advisory Council). It is difficult to support the idea that Lindzen's work has been ignored by the IPCC. Lindzen's work contributed to the 2007 IPCC report within two different chapters and he was even a Lead Author in the 2001 IPCC report on the very chapter relevant to Turnbull's comments.
While Turnbull makes no reference to any particular piece of work by Lindzen (and there continues to be a lot of that), it is safe to say that the available work relevant to Turnbull's discussion had been already shown as entirely flawed scientifically well before Briefing paper No1 was published.
THE REALY INCONVENIENT TRUTH FOR TURNBULL & THE G.W.P.F.
Be it in the science, the climate impacts or the policy responses, there is but one good word that can be said about GWPF Briefing Paper No1 – it is consistent.
It is consistent in being always wrong!
The same appears to be the case generally with GWPF Briefing Papers which have all now been reviewed by this series – consistently wrong and entirely flawed.
The 'debunking' process could be continued to other GWPF publications, searching for the merest hint of some improvement in its reporting, some publications that might show at least some merit. But enough is enough.
GWPF is a UK-registered charity. If a UK charity uses controversial material “such material must be factually accurate and have a well-founded evidence base” (emphasis added). Yet all GWPF Briefing Papers have been shown to be riven with controversial material that is in no way factual or well-founded in evidence.
This is made worse because the charitable “purpose” of the GWPF is to “advance the public understanding of global warming and of its possible consequences, and also of the measures taken or proposed to be taken in response to such warming” (emphasis added).
For an educational charity to be spreading so much untruth and error is surely unacceptable, even scandalous. It is evidently a significant non-compliance that impacts on the public trust in UK charities generally. On this basis, a formal complaint will now be made and pursued with the UK Charity Commission.
There does also remain one as-yet unasked question.
Why would a bunch of respected and otherwise sensible people make such fools of themselves in this manner?
When do micro-seismic events add up to earthquakes ? Landslips ? Tsunamis ? Who really knows ? These are just a few questions amongst many about underground mining techniques that will probably never be properly answered. Several mini-quakes were suggested to be responsible for the shutdown of Cuadrilla’s activities in Blackpool, north west England early in 2011, and there have been unconfirmed links between tremors and fracking in the United States of America, where unconventional gas is heavily mined.
It is perhaps too easy to sow doubt about the disbenefits of exploding rock formations by pressure injection to release valuable energy gases – many legislative and public consultation hurdles have been knocked down by the merest flick of the public relations wrist of the unconventional fossil gas industry (and its academic and consultancy friends).
The potential to damage the structure of the Earth’s crust may be the least attributable and least accountable of hydraulic fracturing’s suspected disadvantages, but it could be the most significant in the long run. Science being conducted into the impact on crust stability from fracking and other well injection techniques could rule out a wide range of geoengineering on safety grounds, such as Carbon Capture and Storage proposals. If we can’t safely pump carbon dioxide underground, we should really revise our projections on emissions reductions from carbon capture.
[ Camp Frack is under canvas in Lancashire protesting about the imposition of hydraulic fracturing on the United Kingdom. ]
What’s wrong with this map ? Yes, the same old question. And the answer is again the same – the lack of geographical accuracy in the map reflects the lack of legal accuracy on the part of Israel in appropriating marine Natural Gas that belongs to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
The map is taken from a new research paper by Brenda Shaffer, of the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa, which has been accepted for publication in Energy Policy at some point in the near future :-
“Energy Policy : Article in Press, Corrected Proof : doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.05.026 : Israel – New natural gas producer in the Mediterranean : Brenda Shaffer : Received 7 November 2010; accepted 16 May 2011. Available online 2 June 2011”
What if Venezuela is America’s new “frenemy” – the oil-producing trading friend that the United States just loves to hate ? They might not have an appetite or budget for military intervention, but considering the fossil fuel resources locked away under Venezuelan soil and sea, they might just be pleased at a change in the regime – and only one person would need to be removed to make that happen…
Since the economic sanctions were imposed on Venezuela by the USA, for trading with Iran, several very interesting events have transpired, several of them on the same day, 8 June 2011.
Thank you, Coal.
Thank you for the asthma, the mercury, the mountain top removal, the birth defects, the mine fatalities, the grossly inefficient electricity networks, the lack of investment in electricity networks, the smog, the heat, and above all, thank you for giving us Glenn Beck, on a platter – this is so much fun to watch !
We are stardust ? Well, not quite. As carbon-based lifeforms we’re actually the offspring of a young sun, composed of the lighter elements, with a low concentration of a few transition metals essential for our health and vitality. Irn Bru, anyone ?
The actual products of exploding old stars that got lodged in the crusty skin of the accreting Earth are often quite toxic to us. Over millions of years, heavy and radioactive elements, being of no use to the ecosystem, have been deposited at the bottom of lakes, seabeds, and ended up lodged in seams of coal, and caverns of petroleum oil and Natural Gas. Uranium ores and other nasties have been overlain by forests and deserts, and only rarely vent, like radon, from Vulcan’s infernal lairs.
And what do humans do ? We dig this stuff up to burn or fission for energy, and when we do it creates toxic waste, that hurts us, and the life around us. Why are we surprised that mercury from the coal power industry is killing fish and harming children ? Why is it a shock that the tailing ponds from mining tar and oil sands are devastating pristine wilderness and waterways ?
It appears that science has now caught up with shale gas extraction technology, and the result is a toxic shock :-
“Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells : A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells : By David Biello, Scientific American, May 9, 2011”
This might come as a bit of a nasty blowback for Christopher Booker, who was singing the praises of “gamechanger” shale gas at the weekend :-
“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”
When did Colonel Muammar Gaddafi learn of threats from the world’s major oil consumer countries against his rule ? Was it in early 2011 ? Or was it several years earlier ? On the public stage, he has been deliberately reduced to a figure of fun, and his message advising non-aggression and protection from aggression is being lost. He is now a desperate man :-
Image Credit : Jacques del Conte
Flushing gas from sandy mud-rock, deep underground. Hmmm. Bet that’s energy- and resource-efficient. Not.
So…the whole caravan comes to town, builds the rig, pipes in water, pumps in chemicals, filters off the gas, pipes out the poisoned water somewhere unquantified, and then packs everything up after a few months because there’s no more gas coming up, leaving the area looking like a moon crater :-
So how carbon-intensive is this kind of operation ? It’s a bit like chopping down Indonesian and Malaysian tropical rainforest to grow oil palm and then burning dirty bunker fuel to ship it all the way to Europe to make “cleaner burning” biodiesel. In fact, it could be worse than that – it could be dirtier than coal :-
And what’s all this business about chemical adulteration of groundwater ? That could be to do with the “hydraulic fracturing” process from horizontal drilling :-
It’s true that the business needn’t resemble a travelling circus when there’s a large “play” of shale and horizontal drilling is used, but what about the possible side effects of chemical leakage into bodies of water and seismic activity, which doesn’t seem to get mentioned very often ? :-
There is some concern that shale gas is being promoted as a new “cure-all” for the energy industry, as gas is believed to be a cleaner source of fuel than coal, and gas shale is much, much cheaper than the proposed carbon capture projects and new nuclear power stations, which will only be developed with substantial tax breaks or subsidies or grants. (I mean, can you see a carbon price being set high enough to pay to make it worthwhile to fit Carbon Capture to every coal plant in the world ?) :-
“The recent ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States has created huge uncertainties for international gas markets that are likely to inhibit investment in gas – both conventional and unconventional – and in many renewables. If the revolution continues in the US and extends to the rest of the world, energy consumers can anticipate a future dominated by cheap gas. However, if it falters and the current hype about shale gas proves an illusion, the world will face serious gas shortages in the medium term”
A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fan wrote to me, linking to the CCS industry :-
“A British study indicates that cheap low-emission shale gas, with double the global reserves of conventional sources, will discourage investment in nuclear reactors and carbon storage. “In a world where there is the serious possibility of cheap, relatively clean gas, who will commit large sums of money to expensive pieces of equipment to lower carbon emissions?” Paul Stevens, senior research fellow at Chatham House, a London-based institute for the study of international affairs, wrote in the report published today.”
This is what the CCS fan had to add :-
“What this important article from the ‘CaptureReady’ international CCS news website fails to pick up (although other authors have) is that these prices will have an equal dampening effect on all renewables projects as well, […] never mind offshore wind power costs, while easily meeting all conceivable carbon dioxide reduction targets out to beyond 2050 and delivering reliable, dispatchable power, with none of the unreliability/unpredictability ‘down-sides’ of variable wind output. ‘I know which I’d pick’ as a power company today, especially given the low investment cost per kW […]. Looks like it may be ‘gas forever’ for at least the next couple of decades, so we need to lobby very hard for CCS from the start on every new gas powerplant and large industrial plant, followed by a big programme of properly-subsidised CCS retrofits, if that’s where the real industrial world is going…the quoted US conventional gas number is just plain wrong (far too high!), and the Shale gas price is very geology/location and project-scale-dependent (that is, variable), so that price in Texas does not mean similarly low shale gas prices everywhere – meaning the total resource quoted is certainly not available at that sort of low price. As with all resources, there’s actually a ‘staircase’ of amount versus price. Shale gas exploitation is ‘inherently costly’ (capital-intensive) due to the relatively larger number of wells needed, the poor permeability and the considerable cost of the ‘fracking’ operation itself. The poor inherent permeability inevitably means that the production rate will decline more steeply and quickly than conventional gas wells, meaning that costly multiple repeat fracking may be necessary, adding to costs.”
And as a summary of the shale gas downsides :-
Main conclusions [on shale gas] :
1. Huge levels of uncertainly on total reserves and future production rates, even in the USA.
2. Not at all certain that the large-scale US shale gas experience can be replicated in Europe/Rest of the World at all – environmental issues/local NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] may stop it in its tracks.
3. Said huge uncertainties, on top of the recent recession, is significantly increasing commercial risk factors and inhibiting new production investment in all types of energy supply. Possibility of resulting very steep multi-year price rises, if shale gas ‘fails to deliver’, as demand rises and exceeds current supply, due to investment cycle time lag.
4. Particular over-supply problems in the LNG [Liquid Natural Gas – mostly from the Middle East] sector which should keep the cost of UK imported LNG low for a considerable time.
5.The EU has shown itself unable/unwilling to invest state funds in new gas production/transport projects of all types.”
Forget about price just for a moment…remind me again…where does all that fracking water, with all those toxic chemicals in it, end up ?
The documentary evidence shows that America’s business interests often outweigh its political progress. Yet it’s perhaps more concerning that, increasingly, corporate America is at risk of damaging good environmental governance.
With all the talk of free markets in international trade, the Coalition Government in the United Kingdom has felt the pressure to open up the back door to American energy businesses, whose highly-paid sales representatives in slick suits want us to buy their dirty energy projects – just take a look at the upcoming UK Energy Bill and its proposals for Electricity Market Reform.
American companies seem poised to sweep in and take all our public non-subsidy “support” for building new nuclear power plants. Viewers of a sensitive political disposition should look away now as this is a Wikileak :-
The country that brought you the engineering industry that brought you the giant Gulf of Mexico giant oil spill now wants to bring you unsafe deepwater drilling in Britain’s Continental Shelf – and the UK’s new Energy Bill would let them do that without demonstrating any learning from the BP April 2010 fiasco :-
There’s lots of talk in the energy sector and the financial markets about the American shale gas miracle “gamechanger” and how it can be replicated in Europe and across the world, and not enough discussion about the environmental dangers :-
It’s good to talk about local environmental damage from “unconventional” gas, but what’s not being discussed so widely is that these “new” resources of Natural Gas aren’t really very green, and neither are the “traditional” resources – in some cases they’re not much better than coal :-
We know that the Americans always seek to protect the interests of American-owned businesses – and we know they do that for the best of intentions – to keep America wealthy (except it’s really only a few people in America that have any wealth, but anyway…)
Yet I think there should be a limit to how far we have to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs for economic recovery.
To export all their dirty energy technology to Europe is just not helpful, and I think we should say no, no, no.
The public propaganda budget for most energy and mining companies is eensy weensy compared to the profits they can make by polluting and stealing.
Are you ready for another American energy myth ? Yes, the country with the energy production “community” that brought you the Gulf of Mexico spill disaster of April 2010, is now threatening groundwater pollution and seismic shocks at a county near you in the United Kingdom.
A glimpse of the public relations that have led up to this can be seen very easily by using an Internet Search Engine using an Internet Browser (like Google running on Google Chrome, for example), using the search term : “shale gas gamechanger”.
That little word “gamechanger” has been soaking through the business, engineering and financial press in relation to “unconventional” gas for at least six months. Everybody digests this word in connection with information touting the magical promise of virtually free gas in the rocks beneath our feet. And then they repeat the concept and this little sales word to others. It’s gone completely viral.
Roger Harrabin of the BBC (thanks, Roger) brings word that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has recommended a moratorium on shale gas operations until more science is known about the results of the engineering :-
“…”We are aware that there have been reports from US of issues linked to some shale gas projects,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) told BBC News. “However, we understand that these are only in a few cases and that Cuadrilla (the firm testing for shale gas in Lancashire) has made it clear that there is no likelihood of environmental damage and that it is applying technical expertise and exercising the utmost care as it takes drilling and testing forward.”…”
So who is this company “Cuadrilla” ?
It is an entity formed from one Australian engineering giant and one American financial giant, seeking to propagate the American way of life of developing “new” energy resources :-
“…Lucas announced that the Riverstone/Carlyle Global Energy and Power Funds, a group of energy-focused private equity funds managed by Riverstone Holdings LLC, has committed to subscribe US$58.0 million for equity in Cuadrilla Resources Holding Ltd, the holding company established by Lucas to hold its investment for unconventional hydrocarbons exploration and development in Europe.”
“Lucas was a founding shareholder in Cuadrilla and has supported the management team since the company’s inception. Lucas’ total investment as of today’s date amounts to A$52.4 million.
Cuadrilla has applied for, and in some cases been granted, exploration licences totalling in excess of 1.5 million acres in the UK, Holland, Spain and Poland. In addition, Cuadrilla has designed, overseen the manufacture of and delivered state of the art cementing and fracture stimulation equipment and is soon to take delivery of a DrillMec HH220 top drive rig.”
So, does this technology actually work safely ?
Nobody really knows, is the short answer.
“…Funded by the Cooperative, the Tyndall report demonstrates how the extraction of shale gas risks seriously contaminating ground and surface waters. In this regard alone, there should be a moratorium on shale gas development until a there is a much more thorough understanding of the extraction process…”
Why do we continue to have American companies imprinting their business models on the UK ? We have to have their “independent” nuclear deterrent, their behemoth nuclear reactor construction companies, their health insurance companies, their failed genetically modified crops, their privatised prison and school and health centre management policies, their tax concepts, their social control policies, even their zeal for state terrorism…sorry…”The War against Terror”. And nobody seeks to question why we have to copycat everything the Americans do, even when it goes badly wrong.
Why can’t we have a War against Error ?
We need a real “regime change” here – we need to say a big no to American energy policy. And that starts with asking a few questions about the way American companies do business.
Here’s just one example of the sort of practice that the people behind Cuadrilla get up to :-
“In 2000, Carlyle entered into a joint venture with Riverstone Holdings, an energy and power focused private equity firm founded by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. In March 2009, New York State and federal authorities began an investigation into payments made by Carlyle and Riverstone to placement agents allegedly made in exchange for investments from the New York State Common Retirement System, the state’s pension fund. It was alleged that these payments were in fact bribes or kickbacks, made to pension officials who have been under investigation by New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. In May 2009, Carlyle agreed to pay $20 million in a settlement with Cuomo and accepted changes to its fundraising practices.”
And you trust these people with the right motives when agreeing to finance shale gas exploitation in Europe ?
A. J. Lucas Group is the engineering partner in this enterprise :-
“The Company’s Oil and Gas segment is engaged in the exploration for and commercialization of hydrocarbons in Australia, Canada, United States and Europe. As of June 30, 2010, the Company held 56.95% interest in Cuadrilla Resources Corporation Limited (Cuadrilla).”
Starting with Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, they appear to want to dig up the whole of Lancashire :-
“Mr Cornelius said Cuadrilla would begin the extraction process in early January and would hope to have its first flare – gas burning at the surface – by early February.”
“If successful, the find would be extremely significant given Britain’s dwindling energy resources and our increasing reliance on imported gas. Cuadrilla had previously said the amount of shale gas in the Bowland site could meet as much as 5 to 10 per cent of Britain’s energy resources.”
“Now, after the first samples have been analysed, the suspicion is that the Lancashire fields could hold a lot more.”
“Now one site has been explored, the drilling rig will be moved to another site on the Bowland Shale to assess the size of the gas field overall. If those explorations also prove successful, then Cuadrilla will look to sell the entire operation to a large exploration company, like Shell, to carry out the expensive and time-consuming production process.”
Somebody has to say no to this. That somebody could be you.
What does shale gas “fracking” do to land, peoples and communities ?
Come and find out :-
“GASLAND : Opening 17 January 2011 : Winner – Special Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival 2010 : Nominated – Grand Jury Prize – Sundance film Festival 2010 : A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Another in a long line of essential environmental documentaries – each of which seems to be more alarming and compelling than the last…”
Come along and watch your own hellish future if you are unlucky enough to sit on top of gas-bearing rock formations :-
17 – 27 Jan, 4 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17, 19, 26 – 27 Feb 2011
A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Director Q&A plus panel discussion : After the premiere on 17 January there will be a discussion panel afterwards comprising the director Josh Fox, along with representatives from The Co-operative and WWF.”…”
Here’s just a few links to peoples groups opposed to the engineering of unconventional gas :-
It’s time our authorities read between the lines and regulated this practice away from Europe.
If we had a sparsely populated continent with lots of unused land, then maybe it might be OK. But with the risks still fully unquantified, we should keep this engineering out of well-populated and ecologically sensitive areas, particularly areas with water courses and farmland.
If you, dear Reader, are a Republican American, and you are demographically “middle class”, and you support the Tea Party movement, you are likely to have been seriously deceived – by Big Energy. Or Big Mining.
Who are these “Big Diggers”, propagandising the naive, well-intentioned, right-wing citizens of the United States of America, so they don’t realise they’re thinking somebody else’s thoughts, shouting somebody else’s slogans, riding somebody else’s train ?
“Protesters condemn ‘dirty oil’ at World Energy Congress : (AFP) : 14 September 2010 : MONTREAL — Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in the streets of Montreal Sunday, calling for an end to “dirty, risky” oil exploration, ahead of a global gathering of energy experts. A dozen protesters covered in molasses staged a “Black Tide Beach Party,” while dozens of others carried banners that read “Too dirty, too risky, go beyond oil.” A blond baby boy smeared in brown sticky molasses wailed in his activist father’s arms, while protesters used megaphones to slam the provincial Quebec government of Jean Charest for inviting oil companies to the five-day World Energy Congress at the sprawling Palais de Congres. Some 5,000 participants from industry, government and academia, were expected to attend the conference, slated to officially open Sunday evening. The event is expected to tackle global energy issues, such as improving access to energy in the world’s poorer regions and the role of new technologies in ensuring a sustainable energy future. Many protesters directed their anger at BP over a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. But Julien Vincent, a campaigner for Greenpeace International, said BP was only part of the problem. “British Petroleum is one part of a big industry that’s got an abysmal safety record and an abysmal record in terms of its obligations toward protecting communities,” he told AFP. “You also have oil from Shell dripping out over Nigeria right now. You have oil spills that have taken place in China that have flooded ports,” he added. “The entire industry needs to be told to sit back and listen up.” …”
What happened to all that deepwater crude gusher oil, so visible from space, spreading like a magical sheen on the surface of the waters in the Gulf of Mexico ?
It’s now lying as a 5cm layer of gunk on the sea floor, that’s what. That’s where you’ll find Ground Zero for BP’s careless “blame the cement” spill mess-tastrophe :-
If ever there were an advertisement for the campaigns to end the age of fossil fuels, this, I think, is it.
Unlike the United Kingdom, where political sensibility can quash the most logical enactment of energy policy, plans for progress voiced so tentatively you can bearly feel a ripple, or hear it over the whispering swoosh of a new wind turbine blade, over in Deutschland, what they say, they intend to happen, and they’re making serious proposals about how that’s going to be done :-
“09/07/2010 : Green Visions : Merkel’s Masterplan for a German Energy Revolution : By Stefan Schultz : Giant windparks, insulated buildings, electric cars and a European supergrid: the German government on Monday unveiled an ambitious but vague blueprint to launch a new era of green energy for Europe’s largest economy. SPIEGEL ONLINE has analyzed the plans…”
It appears to be time to wave bye-bye to German coal, incidentally, even as a strong commitment to renewable, sustainable energy is put on the table.
I wish the British Government could take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror of the future and realise what a bunch of dithering duffers they appear to be.
What we need is a proper Energy Policy, chaps, and since you’re in the hot seat you better come up with it. Elected or not, our ministers and officials need to get up out of their deep leather chairs, extinguish their pipes, don their working breeches and get digging for Britain, and I don’t mean Shale Gas or Old Coal.
An e-mail trail with a certain amount of political content…
from: Kate Shepherd
date: Tue, Aug 10, 2010
subject: Climate Week
It was lovely to speak with you today about Climate Week and I’d be grateful if you could pass on the information to the rest of your team.
Climate Week, 21st – 27th March 2011, is a new national occasion on climate change, backed by the Prime Minister, Al Gore and Kofi Annan. During Climate Week, thousands of events will be run by organisations from every part of society to highlight the positive steps being taken to help prevent climate change.
I have attached a document for further information, the document includes a list of supporters of Climate Week, which range from every part of society: from the Chief Fire Officers Association to the Women’s Institute, the Girl Guiding UK to several Regional Development Agencies.
From a conversation with the Claverton Energy Research Group over the leak of a German military study into Peak Oil :-
“09/01/2010 : ‘Peak Oil’ and the German Government : Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis : By Stefan Schultz…”
My view on Peak Oil is that it is the tip of the iceberg – and I know that’s a totally inappropriate metaphor.
The art of petrogeology dictates that right on the heels of Peak Oil is Peak Natural Gas, and there is strong evidence for Peak Coal. In the US for example, I understand there is very little good hard anthracite left.
My position is that – since the “conventional” Fossil Fuels are depleting, there are strong moves towards the “unconventionals”, the shale gas, the deepwater oil, the smoky “half peat”, the Lake Baikal hydrates, the frozen subsea wastes of the Arctic [don’t forget the Tar Sands !] and so on. People argue for “stop-gap” energy resources, but they carry with them huge risks not only to the Climate, but also the the Economy with the step-change in EROI/EROEI [Energy Return on Energy Invested – that is – how much energy do you need as input to get energy as output] and the “clean-up” costs.
My take on this is that pretending that Peak Conventionals doesn’t exist leaves a veil in front of most peoples’ minds – they believe in the Power of Technology to supply all their Fossil Fuel needs, now and into the future – it’s just that the actual location and form and dirtiness of these new resources will be different than in the past.
And here’s the rub – we need to encourage people to think about the “alternatives”, or rather, the “solutions”.
The only way forward is Renewable, Sustainable Energy resources, because of Peak Oil, Peak Natural Gas and so on, and if people do not learn about that, they will not understand the privation for most people that will surely come with Peak Conventionals.
We all love the inputs, but what about the outputs ?
Fossil Fuels have been providing an easy life and easy pickings for the citizens and enterprises of the industrialised world for some time.
People love their jet-fuelled lives. One man will move one kilometre from his home to a restaurant in two and a half metric tonnes of steel and glass believing he is admired for his larger-than-car-sized car. He will wear sunshades, and oil-slicked hair (if he has any) and sport a tan from his recent holiday over the ocean. A life of glory and feeling good about himself.
But what about the emissions ? What, indeed, about the environmental devastation at the places the Fossil Fuels (and metal and glass) were mined and refined and manufactured ?
What do we leave behind ?
Shock ! Horror ! Major Climate Change Scientist spotted at Climate Camp…ah, but which one… ? How to distinguish one dressed-down, unwashed individual with dishevelled locks from any another ?
Any sign of Climate Change sceptic-denier Andrew Montford, as affectionately known as “Bishop Hill” ? Can’t make him out, but he might have responded to the banner appeal to “Come On Over for Lunch”. You never know. That might be him chopping potatoes, right in the thick of it.