“The people at the UK Energy Research Centre, they’ve nothing against this in principle, they’re in the business of finding alternative sources of energy, so they’re not people who are coming at this from a position of ingrained opposition….”
Thus Jim Naughtie on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, introducing yet another, official-sounding, produced-by-‘experts’ report calculated to pour cold water on the nascent UK shale gas industry by alleging that its potential benefits have been “oversold.”
I’m sure Naughtie said this in good faith – but it really couldn’t have been further from the truth. To suggest that the UK Energy Research Centre has an ideologically neutral position on fracking is a bit like saying that the North Korean Communist party remains open-minded on the role of the state in the economy.
Here’s one clue as to its political leanings: “The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) carries out world-class research into sustainable future energy systems.”
Sustainable. That’s the word that should ring alarm bells.
Then we come to the composition of the UKERC’s advisory board, as helpfully noted and commented on by David S at Bishop Hill.
Graeme Sweeney – Shell (Special Advisor)
Keith Allott – European Climate Foundation
Chris Anastasi – International Power plcKersti Berge – Ofgem
Duncan Botting – Global Smart Transformations
Tom Delay – The Carbon Trust
Jane Dennett-Thorpe – DECC
Tony Grayling – Environment Agency
Arnulf Grubler – International Institute for Applied Systems
Nick Hartley – Oxera
Linda Pooley – The Scottish Government
John Scott – Chiltern Power Limited
Philip Selwood – Energy Savings Trust
Sabine Semke – Juelich Research Centre
Diana Urge-Vorsatz – Central European University (CEU), Budapest
Even the International Power rep who might appear to be in favour of optimal energy production turns out to report to GDF Suez which has massive investments in renewables and a clear vested interest in undermining shale gas production. Most of the others are climate activists rather than unbiased energy experts as they have conned the gullible media into believing.
In other words, as Bishop Hill notes, the UKERC is very much in thrall to the “Green Blob”.
Next – big clue this – we have the contents of the report itself, which chooses sniffily to dismiss Britain’s shale gas potential on the basis of no apparent research or evidence whatsoever.
At the end it claims authoritatively: “A blind belief that a future UK shale gas industry will solve all our problems does not fit with this remit.”
Yet earlier in the report it clearly states: “This project has not been about shale gas in the UK” and “A proper assessment of UK shale gas production potential requires further research” and “a 2-3 year exploration programme is required before we can even begin to answer key questions about flow rates and prospects for commercial development at scale.”
So: if, as they fully admit, they don’t know what Britain’s shale gas potential is, how can they possibly go on to claim that it has been oversold?
Besides being dishonest and heavily politicised, the report is also economically illiterate. As Tim Worstall has noted – again at Bishop Hill – the report claims that “despite not one molecule of US shale having been exported it has affected gas prices worldwide (rerouting of LNG and coal etc).” But then it goes on to defy logic by saying that because Britain is unlikely to export much of its shale gas, it won’t affect prices. How can this possibly be when we know, for example, that US gas prices – thanks to the shale revolution – are a third of what they are in Britain.
None of this would matter, of course, if this report had been treated with the respect it properly deserved – and been totally ignored by everyone.
But that would be to reckon without the irresponsibility and bias of the mainstream media, which never misses an opportunity, however flimsy and desperate, to nip Britain’s shale gas industry in the bud – whether by bigging up the usual tired old scare stories about “earthquakes” and water table pollution and “chemicals” or, as in this case, by rehearsing tortured arguments about fracking being somehow uneconomical in Britain.
Hence the extensive coverage by the BBC’s Chief Environmental Activist Roger Harrabin.
Hence this uncritical report in the Daily Telegraph.
There is a concerted effort to kill the UK fracking industry before it has even begun, which is being co-ordinated by a number of vested interests: green activists who think it’s eco-unfriendly; renewables companies who recognise that shale poses a massive threat to their government subsidies; natural gas producers from Russia to Qatar, who would prefer us to carry on importing from them than exploit our abundant native resources.
This report is part of that campaign. It doesn’t belong on the BBC or in our newspapers. It should have gone straight in the bin.