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Mutant meme

The Confederation of British Industry has long been the smarter-suited twin brother of the Labour party, voicing endless calls for corporate welfare and cushy government contracts in parallel with the socialists' demands for "benefits" and jobs for the boys.

John Cridland, the latest man to head the organisation, is perhaps greener tinged than many of his predecessors and his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference touched on some of these areas. Although much of it involved the usual calls for investment (see "corporate welfare and cushy government contracts" above) he also found time to repeat that rather strange meme about the impact of shale gas in the UK:

New build can't be 100 per cent nuclear and renewables. To close the supply gap in time we will need some gas. Gas can be built relatively quickly and cheaply, and has roughly half the carbon emissions of coal. Even the government's carbon watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change, recognises the need for some new gas to be built between now and 2020.

But we know the new build can't be 100 per cent gas either. Too much gas would bust our carbon budgets. But even if you forgot about carbon momentarily, look at European gas price projections. They all disagree on the number, but they all agree on the direction: up! European shale will help, but not on a US scale.

As I've pointed out before, it is said that European shale will not affect gas prices as they have in the US essentially because of government policy decisions. Whether UK gas prices come down is therefore simply a question of whether Ed Davey actually gives two hoots about poor people in the UK.

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Reader Comments (20)

So... without a carbon target... we could have a dash for gas.
Hmnn. What to do. This government stuff isn't easy.

Sep 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

In the UK, shale gas, like wind, is free. Without UK politics there would be no wind-to-energy and with UK politics there is no shale-to-energy. Explanations of this phenomena are still being wrought as they move glacially from half-baked to fully-baked.

Sep 27, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

If anything more was required to confirm the witlessness of politicians when considering energy policy this "New build can't be 100 per cent nuclear and renewables." is it.

If we build nuclear, which is essentially zero carbon, why would we build renewables at all? we would already have a zero carbon source of energy, why spend money on saving uranium, which is a piddling cost in terms of e overall cost of nuclear electricity, and emits no carbon dioxide anyway? Using an expensive unreliable bolt on fuel saver?

The point is that no intermittent renewable energy source replaces conventional power stations. They merely allow them to be turned down occasionally when the sun comes out or the wind blows - neither of which is the case in the depths of winter when we need them the most .

Nuclear power however directly replaces conventional high carbon baseload whilst gas provides high slew rate demand following dispatchability to cover peaks - not as well as hydroelectric and pumped storage, but then Slartibartfast didn't give us the Fjords to enable us to have enough of that.

The rational solutions to power generation are either 80% coal or 80% nuclear and 20% gas.

If you care about emissions, nuclear is the cheapest way to replace fossil stations. If you care about cost, coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity.

Coal and uranium can both be safely stockpiled in huge (energy equivalent) quantities. Gas less so. We cannot stockpile wind or sun at all.

The rational position is that if 'renewable obligations' are seen for what they are - flagrant rent seeking based on false assumptions and deep corruption then baseload and a bit more should be covered by coal and/or nuclear, and gas can fill in the gaps as long as it remains more cost effective than a either running big coal plant in hot standby or spinning reserve, or running dispatchable nuclear plant.

The main point being that in no scenario does 'renewable energy' of the intermittent kind have any advantage over coal gas nuclear or hydro, whatsoever. It should be discontinued immediately. It has nothing whatsoever to offer in reality beyond a political gesture to greenness.

The fact that it is not is down to the spinelessness of politicians and the greens who are simply too embarrassed to admit that its a totally useless gesture, having been taken in by the sophistry of the renewable energy companies.

Sep 27, 2012 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith

One point I would like to make yet again is that UK shale deposits are huge and very very high quality. The Bowland shale play in North West Lancashire currently only has one license holder in place and so much area is still available, this play makes the US plays look tiny.
One of the most famous US plays is the Barnett field. This field varies between 100 and 600 feet in thickness and has the highest "gas in place" figure of any US play at 240 billion cubic feet per square mile (of surface drilled). Another famous US play is the Marcellus field and this has a gas in play resource of 13 billion cubic feet per square mile.
The Cuadrilla license area in the Bowland play is sitting on a shale field that is 4,000 feet thick and has a gas in place resource figure of 1.4 trillion cubic feet per square mile. Any new adjacent licenses granted in a future dash for gas are likely to be similar.
Ultimately the Bowland shale play alone could run to 1,000 trillion cubic feet and there are many other as yet unexpored deposits in the UK.

Sep 27, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Davey, Clegg, possibly Cameron and Huhne are traitors aiming for EU commissioner jobs.

Sep 27, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Whether UK gas prices come down is therefore simply a question of whether Ed Davey actually gives two hoots about poor people in the UK.

High energy costs affect everyone. 'Poor people' are used as a way for policy makers to deflect opposition to their plans. Higher energy prices are in the pipeline but the government will pretend it is okay by handing low income groups a bung.

Energy is critical factor in all of our lives. It's too important to be used as a plaything of politicians who are always on the lookout for grand gestures to soothe their consciences and communities they can play against each other.

Sep 27, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

More on the Bowland shale play Cuadrilla license. The major shareholder in Cuadrilla is a company called A.J.Lucas and they have investments in shale all over the UK and Europe. The figures given by A.J.Lucas are a total gas in place for the Cuadrilla license of 200 trillion cubic feet "plus". However the Cuadrilla license area is roughly 12 miles by 12 miles, a tiny area compared to the total Bowland shale play.

Sep 27, 2012 at 2:42 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Does your description of the CBI mean that when the BBC, that noted independent organisation, calls them the Bosses' Union, they are in fact correct?

Sep 27, 2012 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

So far there is little evidence of a campaign for shale gas like there is for various forms of renewable energy. However, if further exploration proves that we in the UK, and also Europe in general, really do have considerable reserves of shale gas that are economic to exploit then we can expect the Greens to step up their campaign against shale using environmental damage as their excuse.

Therefore it is important that we compare the environmental costs of shale with those of other forms of energy production such as coal, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal (a theoretical possibility in Cornwall, I think, or we could string an underwater power cable to Iceland and import electricity from there) and various forms of hydro-power.

Hydroelectricity is a very well proven form of renewable energy but the environmental costs vary from one place to another. As far as wind in concerned the environmental costs include those of all the pylons disfiguring the countryside as well as sound at various frequencies. As far as shale is concerned the environmental costs include "earthquakes" but those should be compared with earth tremors and subsidence in present and former mining areas to give the public a reasonably reliable impression of what those risks are. I imagine that biomass might also have significant environmental impacts even though it is supported by the Greens.

Perhaps the Global Warming Policy Foundation could carry out a study of the environmental costs of various forms of energy production, including shale, in order to stop the Greens from dictating the terms of the debate.

Sep 27, 2012 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I don't see that there is a "question of whether Ed Davey actually gives two hoots about poor people in the UK". The answer simply put is that he doesn't. They are simply unfortunate but necessary collateral damage in the war to "unpick the industrial revolution" (as I have had cause to say many times in the past).
If the battle was genuinely anything to do with CO2 and global warming —a phrase that has barely seen the light of day in this whole debate in recent weeks— then Davey would be calling for as much nuclear as possible.
However, when you reach the farcical stage where nuclear is not considered "renewable" but wood is it's hardly surprising that the interests of the least well-off in society are not considered to be of importance to the government.
But I would ask, if government is not about helping those least able to help themselves then what is it about?

Sep 27, 2012 at 4:51 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I think the real problem the left has is that it is anti-ANY form of fossil fuel and as shake gas is a form of fossil fuel the greens are therefore anti-shake gas being used. Unfortunately the reality is that you can't reason with these kinds of fanatical lunatics.


Sep 27, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I believe that the environmental costs of shale are minimal however right now the most important things are that we get our economy moving in the right direction and that means reducing costs for our industry and our population, both will produce growth.
Why on earth are we discussing climate change when most of the world is in recession?
Get your priorities right FFS, do we save the planet (if it needs saving) and impoverish our population?

Sep 27, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

"Whether UK gas prices come down is therefore simply a question of whether Ed Davey actually gives two hoots about poor people in the UK."

They tend not to read the Guardian so I suspect he doesn't know about them at all.

Sep 27, 2012 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Cridling is a nitwit. But I'd put a Mars bar on the execrable "Lord" Adair Turner in a contest for the CBI's Chief Nitwit in recent years.

After his stint at the CBI and famously being the watchdog who forgot how to bark when Chairman at the FSA, he was a leading cheerleader for joining the Euro, he had a nice stint as Chair of the Committee on Climate Change (now handed to his good chum Lord "Beefburger" Deben) and he is now a hot tip for Governor of the Bank of England. That'll be the ticket!

But it isn't just shale gas that looks increasingly attractive.

Those sticklers for everything greenie, the Germans have a different kunning plan:-

Poor Moonbat, what will he say to that?

Constructing modern, energy efficient coal plants would be an excellent idea. But since there is so little left of the UK Coal mining industry (and since Clegg, Cameron and Miliband are unanimous that CCS is the way to go - although there is no prospect of large scale carbon capture & storage even if it made any sense), that won't happen in the UK.

Whatever happened to the laws against Treason???

Sep 27, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

"to head up": aw, Bish, must you? [dealt with! BH]

Sep 27, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Your Grace - geology matters, and a straight analogy to the US is inappropriate. As to Mr Dung's assertions about Gas In Place - the important questions are

a) how much is technically recoverable (the whole thickness isn't in play) and
b) how much is economically recoverable

The goal isn't to find gas - the goal is to make money for shareholders. The role of Gov't is to set up the right environment to have that happen in a responsible, sustainable, predictable way.

Sep 28, 2012 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterLearDog

Isn't the statement "Too much gas would bust our carbon budgets" an outright lie anyway? Is not the US's CO2 output falling precisely because of the massive increase in gas usage over coal? Would not the UK have similarly falling CO2 output if a large proportion of our electricity generation by coal was replaced with gas?

Sep 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJim

Mike Davis's comment that (Leftists in general) are in the business of unpicking the industrial revolution is spot on. (Hence so much made-up, half true 'science' just window dressing to fool the proles, not intended to be critically examined, hence the outrage of progressives when it is challenged, and their assumption that everyone is like themselves completely politically driven so the criticism can only be coming from right wing enemies of some kind). However, they have failed to share with us their 'vision' of how we will exist in the future anything like as comfortably as we presently do. Orwell's comment, about the propensity of Leftists cutting off the branch on which they are sitting, comes to mind.

Sep 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill


The role of government for more than a year has been to ban any fracking in the UK which is the reason that more information about our reserves is not available. Cuadrilla has not asked for a government subsidy and so if the Bowland play is not as good as they think then they will lose money and we have lost nothing. However Cuadrilla has been running a fracked well within its license area for over 20 years, I think they know better than you and I what they are sitting on.

Sep 28, 2012 at 1:17 PM | Registered CommenterDung

[snip - language]

Sep 28, 2012 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

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