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SNP "not against" shale

The Herald (£) is reporting that Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe has had private assurances from the SNP that they are not against shale gas development, confirming the view I had formed that the Scottish moratorium was simply a way to kick the issue into the long grass until after the election.

In some ways though the SNP have painted themselves into a bit of a corner. "More evidence is needed" they said before the election. This means that some kind of a fig leaf is going to have to be formulated to allow them to argue that the aforementioned evidence has been obtained. I wonder what it will be?


Quote of the day, unimpressed edition

Pope Francis should certainly be commended for his desire to deal with poverty in the developing world, but it is hard to see how he hopes to do so without economic growth and fossil fuels, both of which he thinks are unnecessary evils.

The Bishop of Chester is unimpressed with the papal encyclical


Oil brings development to Africa

The Economist describes how a major oil find in Northern Kenya has brought the possibility of development to an area that was once far from the benefits of civilisation. With oil prices low, it's all on hold for the moment, but even so, benefits have started to flow:

If and when it happens, Turkana will get its first paved roads, power stations and water treatment plants. Yet the knock-on effects of the oil boom are already evident and reach well beyond infrastructure. Drillers have found not just oil but reportedly also several large underground aquifers that could supply the bone-dry region with water for decades. Pastoralists might in future be able to grow crops. A man with a jerry-rigged distillery in a thatched hut near Tullow’s camp says: “We thought oil would bring us jobs and it’s done that—at least for some. But it’s so much more, both good and bad.”

Click to read more ...


Shale gas coolness

While looking for something else I came across this (promotional?) video for a new drilling rig for shale gas operations, which claims huge efficiency gains because it can partially assemble itself and also walk from one well to the next.

Which I thought was pretty cool.


Public views of shale gas

James Wilsdon points us to a fascinating paper published by some of his colleagues at SPRU. Laurence Williams et al have conducted a series of focus groups with members of the public in Lancashire to see what they make of fracking. The views exhibited are something to behold.

Participants came from one of a restricted number of groups:

  • allotment holders
  • ex-miners
  • wildlife trust employees
  • mothers of young children
  • industrial history society members
  • parents of university students

Click to read more ...


Debunk alarm - Josh 336

There's been a minor kerfuffle of bruised feathers on Twitter today about the speedy way our host debunked the latest paper from the LSE. It does seem that blogs are increasingly agile in spotting duff science - something I am fairly sure is a good thing and should be universally approved of.

Cartoons by Josh


Integrity and scholarship at the LSE

Bob Ward and the Grantham Institute are jumping up and down this morning about a new paper the Institute has published. It's fair to say the conclusions of author Fergus Green, as reported in the Grantham Institute press release are striking:

Countries will benefit economically from almost all of the actions needed to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a paper published today (PDF) (13 July 2015) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The paper suggests that individual countries have large incentives to make ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and to agree to strong collective action at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December.

Remarkable stuff, I'm sure you will agree, overturning much of what we thought we knew about the economics of global warming mitigation. It's even more surprising when you learn that Mr Green is not an economist at all, but a post-graduate student who was until recently a lawyer at a firm in Australia.

Click to read more ...


Gray lady

The BBC for once has published a story that could credibly be seen as justifying its taxpayer funding - a fascinating profile of the head of ethics at the Cabinet Office, Sue Gray. The misdeeds of civil servants is something of a theme at BH, but I was particularly interested in this story because as far as I can tell it was Ms Gray who cleared Lord Deben's appointment as head of the Committee on Climate Change despite knowing that he had a conflict of interest.

The story paints a picture of an over-powerful Whitehall official, who seems to operate with an almost total disregard for the law, particularly on FOI. This would not be the first time we have come across public sector officials behaving like this - recall for example the breaches of the law by UEA. Nor is it the first time we have noted the almost complete lack of any consequences suffered by the perpetrators.


Hot spot or not - Josh 335

It is good to see Christopher Booker writing about the 'hottest day of the year' in the Telegraph again. Paul Homewood's excellent posts, on which his article is based, are well worth reading.

The story starts here, with more here, and Booker's first article, followed by more doubts, some Met Office spin, then a belated response, comment moderation, and finally more Met Office spin. It's quite a saga.

Anyone would think they are trying to hype every possible weather event they can. I wonder why?

Cartoons by Josh


Keeping the heat out

An article in the Mail tells the story of the number of people - apparently large - who are choosing to decamp rather than continue to live in their ecohouses.


When Emma Taylor was offered a two-bedroom apartment in an award-winning block of flats, she couldn’t wait to move in.

Newly built, she was informed the building had been constructed to such high eco-standards that it would cost just £1 a week to heat. Unfortunately, as she’s discovered to her extreme discomfort, keeping warm is the least of her problems.

Because unlike most Britons, 23-year-old Emma has come to dread the summer months. Her ground-floor flat in Coventry is so well insulated that when the sun shines the temperature inside rockets — regularly over 25C, a point at which experts say health can suffer.

Click to read more ...


Truth and the green 

Among the environmentally concerned, playing fast and loose with the actualité is seen as a tactic that delivers good results quickly and it's easy to see why: environmental correspondents are almost to a man (or woman) signed up members of the green movement and can be relied upon to repeat even the grossest misrepresentations.

As a good example of truth-telling among the green fraternity, take a look at the column written by Catherine Porter in the Toronto Star, in which she describes a "run-in" her nine-year-old daughter had with sceptic writer Ezra Levant. Then take a look at Levant's video response:



No, it's natural variability

In the wake of Karl et al's frantic tweaking of the global temperature data in order to get the pause to disappear, a new paper by Nieves et al, also in Science, comes up with a different theory to explain what's happening, this time putting it down to natural variability:

Recent modeling studies have proposed different scenarios to explain the slowdown in surface temperature in the most recent decade. Some of these studies seem to support the idea of internal variability and/or rearrangement of heat between the surface and the ocean interior. Others suggest that radiative forcing might also play a role. Our examination of observational data over the past two decades shows some significant differences compared to model results from reanalyses, and provides the most definitive explanation of how the heat was redistributed. We find that cooling in the top 100-meter layer of the Pacific Ocean was mainly compensated by warming in the 100- to 300-meter layer of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the past decade since 2003.

Click to read more ...


All change at the SMC

Here's something I missed last year. There has been a major clearout of the board at the Science Media Centre, with Nature's Philip Campbell, Bob Ward and Simon Singh departing to be replaced by names who are all less familiar (although Dorothy Bishop has recently been in the news as a ringleader in the the Huntwitchhunt). As far as I can see the changes took place last summer.

Not sure I've noticed much change in their output though.


Props away

So, rather remarkably, George Osborne has decided to knock away some of the props holding up the leaky old edifice that is the renewable energy industry. It seems that subsidy junkies will soon no longer be able to claim exemption from the climate change levy. Gratifyingly, the bigwigs at RenewableUK say that it is "a punitive measure for the clean energy sector" and if ever there was a sector that needed a bit of punishment it is green energy, which would have no existence at all were it not for the money extracted from poor consumers that they have persuaded politicians to hand over.

However, some of our green friends seem relieved that it wasn't worse. In particular the Levy Control Framework, which specifies an ever-rising amount that energy companies can extract from consumers in order to meet the requirements of government policy, is set to remain, although some reckon it could be reviewed later in the year.

The markets seem quite sure that this is going to hit the renewables sector quite hard, with Drax shares collapsing, but what it means for consumer prices is anyone's guess. Until the whole machinery of energy sector intervention is torn down, we will never know.




Sutter thread

CNN's JD Sutter - the author of that piece the other day that alleged the Marshall Islands are going to disappear - wants to talk to sceptics. How nice!

The comments are yours sir. I'm hoping you will tell us why you are telling your readers these things about Pacific atolls.

[Preemptive comments by others will be deleted. Let's wait until the man himself has chimed in].



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