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« No let-up for the Met Office | Main | It's voting, Jim, but not as we know it - Josh 220 »

Peter Lilley on shale

Peter Lilley has written an excellent summary of the shale gas debate for the Spectator - the text seems to be outside the Spectator paywall, so it's doubly good.

We will only know for sure how much is there, and can be economically extracted, by drilling. So you might assume governments would be forcing the pace. Far from it. In 2011, the government imposed an 18-month moratorium. Since that ended, Cuadrilla — the only company which has drilled in the UK — has suffered further delays because of bizarre environmental obstacles. Department of Energy and Climate Change ministers have consistently talked down the industry’s prospects. When the British Geological Survey recently dramatically revised up their estimates of Britain’s shale potential, the department’s chiefs allegedly told them to redo the figures — further delaying the publication of their findings until the summer. There is still no date for the next licensing round to open up more acreage for drilling.

Rather amusingly the article has prompted the usual response from Bob Ward. Ever the master of the fallacy of the trivial objection, Ward notes Lilley's error in naming the great Lancastrian shale formation as the Bowman (rather than the Bowland) and declares, on that basis, that the article is "strewn with errors".

This attempt to decry an attempt to kickstart shale gas exploration is very odd because just a few weeks back, Ward was co-author on a Grantham Institute report that called for UK shale's potential to be explored. Ward seems to have been demanding exactly the same thing he now condemns Lilley for wanting.

This makes the Grantham Institute look very, very silly.

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Reader Comments (32)

It only takes few weeks for Jeremy Grantham to move his financial positions.

"Long" gas one week, "short" the next.

May 9, 2013 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

It really is time for wholesale changes in DEC's personnel.

May 9, 2013 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

If Bob Ward had an uniform he would be a dangerous man, luckily for all of us he's just another loudmouth, albeit with some influence.

May 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

Bob Ward never disappoints in the hypocrisy stakes.

May 9, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Much or all of it is at

May 9, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

"This makes the Grantham Institute look very, very silly."

When has Bob Ward not looked silly?

May 9, 2013 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Excellent piece by Peter Lilley, an almost total fisking. The delays to getting initial drilling up and running are a disgrace, pure and simple. It's down to spite and fear, as they are well aware a successful shale find will cause mayhem to the nut-job economics demanded of 'renewables'.

Btw, I hope the contribution of the two (now ex) senior exec's below are bookmarked for future reference as prices go through the roof, or when (hopefully never) the lights actually do go out. In the event of the ultimate failure their names and contributions should not be overlooked.

"Maybe it is the realisation that Britain is rapidly approaching a crisis of our own making that explains the sudden resignation of Jonathan Brearley, the civil servant who masterminded the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament, followed by the DECC’s director of strategy, Ravi Gurumurthy. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is in disarray".

May 9, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

One must consider the possibility that there has been a malaevolent input to DECC, using relatively innocent civil servants misled by Climate Alchemy into preparing these destructive policies. I have little doubt that Davey was indoctrinated in such incorrect thinking whilst at Oxford.

The comparison is with Germany where past SDP Chancellor, Schroeder was working with Gazprom and Putin to make Germany dependent on Russian gas for the standby power for the windmills. Here however, the issue is a bit more complex because Davey and others were influenced by those like Porritt whose avowed aim is to reduce UK population.

Eugenics is an old problem with Socialists and the far Right, basically any group who consider themselves superior. Thus Keynes was involved:

We are truly in a re-run of the 1930s with people of limited intellect like Davey desperate to do the bidding of modern Svengaiis.

May 9, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecm

I wonder if others think these on the record announcments have any relevance to the position taken by Bob Ward on behalf of the Grantham Institute?

April 10 2013

Jeremy Grantham, the famed and gloomy U.S. contrarian investor, has a few hot tips for people who want to make a lot of money over the next few years: Buy natural gas, copper ore and phosphorus miners.

Mr. Grantham, speaking in Toronto at a conference on value investing organized by the Richard Ivey School of Business, said that investing in natural gas at today’s low prices is a no-brainer because the fuel, now in a glut because of surging supply from new fracking technology, will eventually flip to a shortage, bringing large gains for properly positioned portfolios.

May 9, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Does not The Grantham Institute look silly anyway?

May 9, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

I just wanted to make my post a little clearer. I don't think Bob Ward is made to look silly. It may reveal his conflicts though. The folowing makes complete logical sense and isn't silly at all:

Jeremy Grantham is a big buyer of gas. He is on the record on that point.

The Grantham Institute is on the record as saying Britain should USE more gas.

Bob Ward and presumably by extention the Grantham Institute is on record as saying Britain should either not expect much shale gas output, or should not explore for nor exploit shale gas reserves.

What does all that add up to????

Use more, produce less.

Higher prices - exactly what the Grantham Institute are predicting, here:

The UK should use natural gas, including from unconventional sources such as shale, to help decarbonise its power sector by replacing coal over the next few years, but should not assume that its price will be low,

Exactly what Jeremy Grantham is predicting and presumably investing for, here:

But the surplus won’t keep prices down for much longer.

Mr. Grantham said within five years “the price will have tripled” and market conditions will switch to a long-term shortage.

In fact Mr Grantham seems to have a decent track record at opposig anything that increases the supply of fossil fuel energy sources. He is an outspoekn opponent of Keystone for example.

It all makes great sense for a climate alarmist:

Vociferosly oppose any increase in the supply of fossil fuels because they will destroy the planet.

Acknowledge that we are going to have to keep using those same fossil fuels.

Square the circle by making sure you would profit if prices of fossil fuels increased.

May 9, 2013 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

We would not ask British Gas how to protect pandas, so why we are consulting WWF about shale beats me.

The polar bears insisted I guess.

May 9, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The best thing about the shale gas debacle is that it creates a wall of shame for the guilty men to write their own names on.

And when it becomes obvious, as it most definitely will, that there is:

(A) Massive amounts of shale gas in the UK.
(B) It is economic to extract.
(C) It is not dangerous in any (non-loony) way.
(D) It will make customers energy prices lower.

Then the public will demand an accounting. And because of the guilty men's predeliction for plastering their names all over these transparent attempts to prevent the development of cheap energy, the public will know where to look.

May 9, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record


When we look fro guilty men in this area my instinct is always to start sleuthing for the grubby chubby fingerprints of troughers Tim Yeo and John Selwyn-Beefburger......

May 9, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Oh yes the same grubby, troughing fingerprints are all over this. But when you make the rules so that you can fix the market, should you not be taking the short cut to gaol or worse. Insider trading gets you a whole shedload of bricks thrown at you and yet what is different about Yeo, Deben, Daveys et al. All with a vested interest, making rules to make themselves richer at the expense of the poorer.

May 9, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

Which one of the clowns is Bob Ward?



May 9, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I see on Bishop Hill's twitter Terry Sanders has pointed out UK taxpayer funding of WWF is more than Peter Lilley thinks it is by linking to a DfID project valued at over £9 million. Near the bottom of that page are some documents that can be downloaded. The Annual Review describes the reason for the funding as follows:

The UK, through the Department for International Development (DFID), will invest in a 3 year Programme Partnership Arrangement with WWF-UK between 2011 and 2014. An initial investment of £3,090,356 for 2011-12 has been agreed. Subsequent disbursements will be performance-based; as assessed through robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. This type of strategic investment can leverage much greater impact than traditional project funding by playing a key role in shaping how WWF UK uses its non-DFID resources.

I wonder if private supporters of WWF UK are aware that the Government is spending taxpayer money to try and shape what WWF UK does.

There was also a project previous to the above which cost us £13.3 million.

May 9, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Tghey REALLY don't want us to have shale gas, do they..?

May 9, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

SORREE - trying to eat my lunch and type at the same time.... 'They...etc...'

(That's the 'Establishment' 'They' to which I refer, of course....)

May 9, 2013 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

DfiD have 143 projects that mention "climate change" in either their description or in the project breakdown. The total budget for these projects approaches £1.5 billion over a 5 year period. Here are the 2 largest projects.


To support development and poverty reduction through environmental protection, and help developing countries respond to climate change

To provide funding for projects and activities targeting global benefits in biodiversity, climate change, international waters, the ozone layer and land degredation

If the project does not mention climate change (for example the WWF project) then it will not be included in the search results.

May 9, 2013 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I was interested to see this in DfID's WWF funding proposal.

D. How expenditure will be monitored, reported, and accounted for

The funding provided through PPA is unrestricted. This means that when DFID transfers the funds to the PPA holder they are free to use them for any purpose in support of their objectives. As a result, DFID does not ask them to say where the funds were actually used nor are we able to trace, DFID’s funding through their accounting system.
However, DFID asks that the PPA holder provide a copy of their certified Annual Audited Accounts (AAA) and that they clearly show the PPA funding as a distinct line of income.
DFID also holds the right, at any time, to access the PPA holder’s financial records through either our own Internal Audit team or the National Audit Office (NAO).
WWF PPA will follow these same arrangements.

Hmm - Is Justine Greening aware of this, one wonders? Seems a little slack to me, but perhaps all their funding is similarly dealt with.

May 9, 2013 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

Before retirement over 5 years ago I spent nearly 50 years in the gas industry. I saw the emergence of natural gas and the impact it had, not only on what was a dying industry but upon the fortunes of the country at large. At the time of its discovery estimates told that there were some 20 years’ reserves. Here we are 50 years on and we still have not exhausted those reserves.

Back in the 60’s the environmentalists of the day were issuing dire warnings of the consequences of drilling for natural gas. Some were even convinced that removal of the gas from its pockets beneath the sea bed would lead to it collapsing and draining the North Sea! Today’s warnings of the dangers of fracking leading to earthquakes and contamination of the aquifers must be regarded as the same fatuous nonsense.

May 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz

Further to:May 9, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Stuck-Record

But the problem is that there is no accountability in public office.

Until such time as those who discharge the functions of public office are held liable to financially compensate those who are adversely affected by errors made by said public servant, nothing will change. MPs and NGOs and activist scientists need to be made and held accountable for any error made by them in the discharge of their office.

If public servants had a financial stake in the appropriateness and correctness of their decisions,. it would help them concentrate their minds on doing the right thing.

May 9, 2013 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Richard Verney @7:19PM.

I couldn't agree more.

May 9, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Porter

'This makes the Grantham Institute look very, very silly.' should be sillyer .
Bob 'fast fingers ' Ward , the worlds worst 'attack dog '

May 9, 2013 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

The Grantham Institute doesn't need Bomb to look very very silly!

May 9, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderlandsteve

Oops, that's Bob not bomb :-)

May 9, 2013 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderlandsteve

The best description of WWF being on the public dole to write reports that use phony claims to support anti-consumer energy policies is 'corruption'.

May 10, 2013 at 4:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

Cannot link to the Spectator article.
However, I doubt there will be any mention of why we are not drilling. Energy policy is a EU competence and until the regulatory frame work is in place there will be no progress. This is still very much under discussion.

May 10, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert

I have been reading the recent BGS report to the DECC.

Most of it technical, but I was struck by the last two paragraph of the conclusion-

Shale gas exploration plays have been described as ‘basin-centred’. This term neatly reflects the difference in drilling philosophy between conventional and unconventional plays. Conventional plays drill structural highs near to mature source rocks but unconventional plays need to drill the basin depocentres. For this reason, conventional hydrocarbon wells are not always useful for shale gas exploration because, having been drilled on highs, source rocks in the wells are often thin or absent entirely. New wells specifically targeting shale gas are needed tested to delineate the potential. Shale gas is currently produced in significant volumes only in the US and that success has raised interest in the UK potential. The untested shale rock volume in the UK is very large, however, more drilling, fracture stimulating and production testing is necessary to prove that shale gas development is technically and economically viable. Even if one assumes that the American shale gas producing analogies are valid, many of the operating conditions are different in the UK. In the UK, land owners do not own mineral rights, so there is less incentive to support development, and local authorities must grant planning consent. The US has relatively permissive environmental regulations, low population densities, tax incentives, existing infrastructure, well developed supply chains and access to technology. Cumulatively, these factors mean that it is far from certain that the conditions that underpin shale gas production in North America will be replicable in the UK.

The BGS share my uncertainty that the US based shale gas production model can be applied to the UK.

May 11, 2013 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Well EM if your green Luddite friends would stop their industrial sabotage of fracking by raising every piffling environmental objection, we could actually find out couldn't we?

May 11, 2013 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Don Keiller

Bishop Hill asked me recently if I understood the concept of a bill of rights. I regard it as protection of the freedoms, legal and property rights of individuals, especially against the excesses of their government.
We do not have a formal modern Bill of Rights in the UK. We do have custom and practice which produces the same effect. There is also planning, environmental and property legislation designed to ensure that potentially disruptive and dangerous activities from building a house up through railways and fracking are only approved after due process.
I hope that you are not advocating that due process be short circuited so Cuadrilla can frack faster?

May 12, 2013 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

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