So, shale gas doesn’t work? Really?

We should find out whether UK shale gas will work – lift the fracking ban and let’s find out.

We do understand that if you’re an activist in a political party then it is necessary to accept some of the argument as handed down from on high. That’s rather what the collective vision of a political party means. But we do wish that such activists would occasionally have a little think about what they’re being asked to swallow. Perhaps taste it for basic logic, that sort of thing.

Take, for example, this insistence that there’s no point in fracking for natural gas because it will take a decade to get anywhere. Peter Franklin repeats this at Conservative Home for example:

Would we be swimming in shale gas by now, the envy of less happy lands? I’m afraid not. It took decades for the industry to become a major player in the US and Canada. There is no credible scenario in which the much younger UK industry could have made an detectable difference to the current energy crisis.

Let’s keep that logic, pure and in its entirety, but change our example. Fairchild Semiconductors released the first (4-bit) silicon chip in 1960. The IBM PC turned up in 1981. So, therefore, it was the year 2002 before alanamichaelsugartradinglimited was able to get their computer available to the UK market. Which is of course abject nonsense, the Amstrad PC was shipping in lorryloads by 1984.

There being a little thing about this technological process, which is that developing a technology is a difficult and time consuming thing. Deploying one already invented, even copying or adapting it is markedly easier. In that simple truth is also the reason that capitalism and markets work so well together in increasing living standards. It’s something Adam Smith makes a point of, and surely 246 years and counting is long enough for people to grasp it? People make something that works. Others copy, adapt and chase it, this brings prices down and the second iteration of adoption is vastly faster than the first.

We can also change the example again. Otto Benz demonstrated something that worked, vaguely, in 1886. Henry Ford released the Model T in 1908. That’s a long development period, most assuredly it is. But the British factory, at Trafford Park in Manchester, was producing Model Ts in 1911.

It’s not necessary to go reinvent the wheel that is – only to roll it over to where it’s going to be used. That fracking has been developed means that we don’t need to develop it again, we only need to deploy it.

It’s not going to take a decade to produce results, despite what we hear from varied government sources.

Or we can consider Jack Richardson’s arguments.

The process of removing shale gas can cause unpredictable earthquakes which pose an unacceptable threat to local communities through the pollution of water sources.

Well, yes, we know that the safe seat isn’t going to be offered to those who don’t do their grunt work first, but what nonsense is this? Shale gas extraction isn’t usually the cause of seismic events. The experience in the US is that it’s usually the reinjection of waste water that is. Something the UK doesn’t allow. Further, the UK doesn’t allow fracking closer to the surface than a kilometre down, the British water table being, by and large, one fifth of that depth. We don’t use deep aquifer water in Britain and, given our glorious weather system, aren’t going to either.

Nor is anyone rational to accept the arguments about the size of the country and number of wells. Standard practice is to run a number of wells off the one pad, each pad being around that football field size. Given up to 20 wells off the one pad – around achievable reality right now – that’s 300 pads for the 6,000 wells it’s claimed we would need. And if Britain doesn’t have room for 300 football fields then the schools sports programme is in difficulty, isn’t it?

That folk become ambitious in politics is one thing but might we ask that they think a little too? Richardson again : “Ultimately, shale gas is an unproven energy resource in the UK.”

OK, it’s unproven. So, what do we need to do? Go prove it of course. It is, we agree, entirely possible that it won;t work. Good, excellent, if that happens then the capitalists will have lost some money. We’ll all, no doubt, be heartbroken. But we will also have proven these assertions that it will not work. Or, of course, it might work and then we’ll have another energy source and rivers, great gushing foamers, of tax revenue to direct into the Treasury, whatever else might happen to gas prices. Which would be a nice thing, no?

The correct answer to “unproven technology” is let’s go prove it.

Sadly this constant repetition of talking points is infecting the media itself, not just the party political base. Jeremy Warner:

But even if the moratorium was lifted tomorrow, it would be six years or more before you’d see much of a yield,

Well, at least that number is moving in the right direction, even if it’s still vast overestimate – our sources are talking about 12 months. But even then our insistence isn’t that this is the glorious solution. It’s that we should go find out.

The same is true of Warner’s worries about reserves and how much can actually be extracted from them. So, we don’t know right now. The thing to do is find out. Drill. Not to just drill baby, but to increase the stock of human knowledge. Even, to be able to get us past these pantomime shouts of “Oh yes it will” and “Oh no it won’t” to where we actually know the answer.

We would also point out that this is one area where technology definitely will develop, as it has done in every other mineral resource mankind has ever extracted from. We used to gain some 10% of the stock from conventional oil reservoirs. A century of development has us, often enough, extracting 30 to 40% these days. Yes, the same has been happening with both gas and oil fracking in the US, the refracking of wells once and twice is now commonplace, extending operating life and increasing the percentage of shale resource extracted.

Having snarled at all and their assertions, let us, just for a moment, take them seriously. We don’t know whether fracking for gas will work in Britain, we don’t know how much of it can be extracted, the effect upon prices if it can be, all in all it looks like it won’t work.

OK then, so why the ban? We don’t ban people trying to run their cars on water, we just watch and laugh because we know it doesn’t work. The only possible reason for a ban is to insist that something which might work – running a diesel on the old oil from the chippie – will work. So, the conclusion has to be that those who insist upon the ban do indeed fear that fracking will work. Otherwise they’d be allowing it, and ready to guffaw when the capitalists lose their money. As they’re not doing that we should not believe their assertions that it will not work.

At minimum we should go out and prove them right, not accept the unfounded claims.

We do not insist that fracking will work. We think it will but then the proof is, as they say, in that pudding. So, we should find out whether it will work – lift the fracking ban and let’s find out what reality has to tell us.

Anything else just isn’t science, it’s politics. 

via Net Zero Watch

February 16, 2022