Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Shale Gas: Phoney War Over

Right from the start the C@W community, above and below the Comments line, have been solidly in favour of the UK exploiting whatever its shale gas resource turns out to be: frack on! say we.  

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
This is quite a moment for the Anti camp, seeing the Pro forces assembling on the hillside in front of them at last.  The Antis are a heterogeneous bunch.  On the 'green-red' flank, naturally all the air-headed swampies are milling around.  They are often deployed as berserkers in the fray, but the leadership lies elsewhere. Keeping an eye on the No Dash For Gas website since their extraordinary debut at West Burton, it has been clear that there are some heavy-duty professional troublemakers in their ranks, along with academics and genuinely clever people, all highly motivated, whose capacity for mischief will prove to be extensive.  (As part of the joined-up government planning, the police have been tooling up seriously for this match ever since Balcombe, but their native brain-power and intelligence-gathering will be stretched by the smart tacticians they are facing, GCHQ notwithstanding.)

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 ...

ND

27 comments:

roym said...

What all this mobilisation and we still dont know if it is recoverable?

I see one of the other objections is that of our role as global exemplar. however seeing as our emissions are the size of a gnats fart in the breeze that argument is as noble as it is idiotic.

BrianSJ said...

Absolutely right about regulation; we have so many regulators in Britain that are completely captured. Not sure money is the answer - wasn't for Elliot Ness.

hovis said...

Nick, as one of the few "anti's" on the comments in this blog I shall reply in depth later when I have time later, but your comments bring a wry smile to me face as your position is easily as "faith based" as the "anti's" you beleive you are describing. But we can agree there is another push for Shale, growing. The Total investment its totemic at best, 30m is peanuts.

Raedwald said...

Well called, all at C@W, and Frack On! indeed

And this time let's not waste the boom - it's a time for intelligent national structural renewal (and loadsa work for the Construction Industry ..)

Nick Drew said...

hovis - looking forward to yr riposte

don't overlook my penultimate para. I'm serious about the regulatory deficiencies of the current set-up - what goes on in some US states is a disgrace, and as we know with banks and indeed every other industry, if you don't regulate right, you get shocking behaviour

(thanks, Brian!)

SumoKing said...

As far as regulation goes, you just follow the asbestos model of Barker v Corus (Corus having been British Steel at the time, meant it is really Barker v HMG), fight a horrifically expensive battle, literally to the death for the claimants, to overturn 100 years of common law of negligence...... then realise that voters (or Unions if you are incumbent labour) won't foot the bill for various terrible medical conditions and cancers and then reverse the case using legislation and tell the insurance lobby, sorry we tried but turns out we are really really retarded.

Maybe time to look at a 3rd party litigation funding harvest.

Anonymous said...

Good points. I think we should insist on "gold plated" regulation to assuage fears, because this is so valuable we can extract it holding to high standards

Also yesterday's news of local authorities keeping the rates was a mess. People don't know what this will mean, if anything it implies a bungling council will just have more money to waste on newsletters and marble foyers.

David said...

"the police have been tooling up seriously for this match ever since Balcombe, but their native brain-power and intelligence-gathering will be stretched by the smart tacticians they are facing, GCHQ notwithstanding"

Not within GCHQ's remit, old chap.

Anonymous said...

"the whole affair would be just a glorified Hunt Saboteur affair"

"Just" ? This went on for years in Newborough. I know shale gas isn't like little furry animals, but ..

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/staffordshire/3727180.stm

Anonymous said...

Looking well to the future....if we should discover and produce so much that we can export some of it perhaps we should start a sovereign wealth fund instead of squandering the proceeds a la North Sea Oil. Norway managed it.

(Of course we could start to pay off the national debt as well).

Jim said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, fracking will happen because there's tax revenue in it, and no politician can resist being the one to get their mitts on it and dole it out to their favoured sections of society. There will be a lot of p*ss and wind about it, but it will happen because money talks, particularly where politicians are concerned.

Nick Drew said...

Not within GCHQ's remit, old chap - ah yes, David, I was forgetting ...

BrianSJ said...

Presumably Cuadrilla and the regulator are happy that John Browne is a fit person to be in charge.

Anonymous said...

I wish they'd just stop faffing about and get on with it.
What don't the left like about energy independence, people being able to afford to heat their homes and business being able to cut costs?
Probably too obvious.

BrianSJ said...

O/T but ICYMI
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014-01-14Westinghouse/NuGen/prweb11488193.htm

john miller said...

Had to laugh at an Indy article accusing Cameron of bribing everyone to accept fracking by taxing it.

Amazon and Starbucks et al need to pay more tax, but fracking needs to pay less! No, wait! We don't mean that, we mean, err....

Kilgore Trout said...

That was fantastic. Cheers.

andrew said...


They dont need to do anything.

A nice big burst of left-wing-ish violence in late '14/ early 15, some injured police and some some govt ministers talking about dangerous accidents, public order, jobs, your childs wealth being threatened will both shut up most of the middle class agitators and make a nice electoral point.

Like the miners strike but without destroying a communities way of life (until the first leak of toxic chemicals).

Elby the Beserk said...

@Andrew

fyi

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/1/14/greens-prevented-environmental-testing.html

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/1/10/fracking-flares-up.html

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/1/14/having-a-laugh.html

Bishop Hill's the place for all your anti-fracking activist/arsehole news. Not reported in the MSM is that such have been firing flares at police helis at the Manchester site

Budgie said...

Well, I am surprised, ND, we are mostly in agreement. Kindly award yourself an iced bun.

However if my acquaintances are anything to go by the greenist/anti-frackist meme that fracking causes water pollution has already taken complete hold. No water pollution will be taken as a cover-up. Some water contamination will be taken as absolute proof.

It is therefore as you say essential to have a proper, independent, honest and open system of regulation. Also unless the proceeds of successful (and clean) fracking are distributed locally even that will not be enough.

Nick Drew said...

well thank you Budgie, I think I shall

mmmmm ... iced bun ...

mustn't get too carried away, though - my New Year's Resolution is to cut down on cozy consensus

Electro-Kevin said...

For various reasons we are going to need to pile resources into homeland policing.

We also need to wrest media and education back from the Left.

Blue Eyes said...

Sadly did not read all the above comments so my apologies for any duplication.

Cameron's push to allow councils to keep the increase in tax revenue is a good one. Indeed i have often thought it should be generally the case, in order to promote development. But in this case it will allow some locations to go forward with drilling while others drag their feet.

Hopefully when Lancashire, say, sees how well Yorkshire has done out of the extra fracking cash views might soften.

Ryan said...

In my experience if you see middle class activists at such events they usually turn out to be members of the LimpDems. I'm guessing if this is happening already it is because they had assumed their leadership would be against it.

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