We also recognised, right from the off, that an abundance of shale would be the death-knell of conventional Green arguments (many of which have been swallowed whole by DECC) for renewables being somehow 'cheaper in the long run' - they'd have to retreat to a purely doctrinaire, faith-based case. As such, they'd hurl everything they have against the shale industry ever getting off the ground, let alone up from under the ground. Mendacious anti-shale propaganda is just the soft side of this, but there was bound to be a tougher manifestation. As we said years ago, PC Plod (who sometimes fails to protect entire power stations, complete with security staff and perimeter wire) could therefore find himself fairly well stretched trying to police hundreds of small, dispersed and vulnerable sites the length and breadth of the land.
Finally, while we are in told-you-so mode, we said that the often embarrassingly amateurish Cuadrilla and other tiddlers who were making the running were merely stalking-horses for the big players.
Some have despaired of the government's resolve in the matter - indeed, we may sometimes have been a bit frustrated too - but hey, once again GDP trumps GHG ! And so it comes to pass.
- government is really working hard - even if clumsily - across all departments clearing obstacles to large-scale exploration
- big players - most notably the French, GdF-Suez and Total, who are banned from shale development in their own country - are buying in
- the LibDems are officially onside, even if some of them can't hide their skepticism
- and yes, even Labour is now formally on board, whilst inevitably registering some qualifications to its support
But if that was the end of the matter, the fertile popular ground that revolutionaries always seek would be entirely missing, and the whole affair would be just a glorified Hunt Saboteur affair. The really interesting factor is that village by village, a serious middle-class Anti movement is gathering. Partly nimby, partly countryside-idealist, partly soft-green, it already has more traction than the anti-windfarm lobby. It's quite a network (trust me on this one), and is replete with 'sensible' experts who know how to run effective planning-permission campaigns, as well as the kind of well-heeled, time-on-their-hands, county-class enthusiasts who have real clout.
The front presented by all these Anti forces is by no means monolithic. In part, that's its strength, but of course it's a vulnerability too: the county types quickly fall out with the rent-a-mobs after a few noisy, dirty days of skirmishing in the lanes and fields. Also, as every despairing revolutionary knows, the bourgeoisie always disappoints when the going gets truly radical. It may be, for example, that the current government multi-disciplinary onslaught (which, as well as bundling Labour onside, has already ended the initial knee-jerk Anti attitude in the Beeb, whose coverage is now studiously balanced) seems responsible - and determined - enough to convince a lot of folks that the Man in Whitehall probably knows best, that it's happening whether we like it or not, and that a bit of extra revenue from business rates and local royalties won't go amiss. (Look at how the water companies are rushing to join forces with the nascent shale industry.)
IMHO there is a simple step the government could take that will be very helpful in defusing the genteel Anti movement which, to repeat myself, is really gathering steam and is underestimated at their peril. The Environment Agency is truly too feeble to represent a genuine regulatory safeguard on the very real potential environmental aspects. Osborne, in particular, seems to think it is clever to take short-cuts here. That is very short-sighted: there is no shortage of money in this game to institute an impeccable, world-class regulatory regime that will satisfy all reasonable folk.
In any event, it's game on. Will this be Poll Tax Riots 2 ? Miners Strike 2 ? or a re-run of the Huntingdon Life Sciences nonsense ? Could get interesting either way. Let's hope there is actually some gas down there ...