Academics cast doubt on shale gas

i Mar 10th No Comments by

Academics from Warwick Business School and University College London have published an opinion piece based on research funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

They advise policymakers that, for continuing economic, social and environmental reasons, the UK’s gas strategy should be developed on the assumption that there will be no domestically produced shale gas.

They say that recovery of UK shale gas (while still keeping within two degrees of climate change)  might only be an option if ten conditions apply.

Summarising, these conditions include:

  1. That there is recoverable shale gas under the UK. (Our difficult geology make make this too difficult or costly.)
  2. That we produce zero electricity using coal after 2025.
  3. That there is widespread cheap technology to capture and store the CO2 that would be produced.
  4. That we are able to measure and manage the methane that is released during shale gas production.
  5. That the fracking industry wins the ‘social licence to operate’ from the people of Britain, because we trust the companies to avoid or control the negative environmental impacts that exist.

Given that Deutsche Bank (and others) is already saying that solar power has won, these conditions seem increasingly unlikely to be met. (In some countries, such as Australia, solar electricity is already less than half the retail price of electricity from the power companies. Within two years it expected to reach ‘grid parity’ in around 80% of countries worldwide.)

You can read more about the academics’ report at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-shale-gas-uk-low-carbon-transition.html

Strategic Analysis

i Sep 30th 2 Comments by

With the government deciding to ignore not only the evidence of its own report, but also 99% of the input to its so-called ‘consultation‘ on fracking, and fracking companies now seeming to bribe landowners with billions of pounds, it seems a good time to step back and take stock of the situation.

Where have we come from, where are we now, and what is going to happen next?

Can we really win?

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 13.59.26

1) Stimulus:

a. David Cameron has said that he wants to go “all out” for shale gas.

b. Ryedale sits on top of one of the biggest reserves of shale gas in the world: up to ten thousand feet thick in places (nearly two miles).

c. In other places where shale gas has been extracted, the USA, Australia, the consequences have been appalling: in terms of health of humans, livestock, crops, and wildlife, and the effects on people’s livelihoods and property prices.

d. From a climate change point of view (if you believe in climate change) fracked gas is worse than coal.

2) Response:

a. Shale gas extraction so far has been carried out in places with far lower population densities than here. In the USA, densities are typically 100th of the UK average. Even at eight pads per square mile not many people live close by.

b. As frackers have moved into areas with higher population densities, like New York state, so popular resistance has grown. In places like Dryden (New York) and Bentley (Australia), Romania, Northern Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, people have been able successfully to hold fracking back — at least for a while.

c. Meanwhile the price of solar electricity is falling rapidly, with banks like UBS and Citibank predicting that solar will achieve “grid parity (even in the UK)” by around 2020. And whether you believe in the worsening effects of climate change or not, the movements for fossil fuel divestment are growing.

3) What next?

a. So, despite all the evidence of harms, and the opinion of the vast majority of the British people, some people in government seem to be set on fracking.

b. And despite some some setbacks in the planning system, the fracking companies are continuing to press ahead.

c. But their approach is very much ‘softly softly’. Seismic surveys and planning applications are “not for fracking”… until they are. They seem to be trying to slip things through ‘under the radar’. And now they are trying to use money to change our opinions.

d. Why? Why are they behaving like this? If fracking is so good for us, why aren’t they showing us the facts (to contradict our facts)? And if the government is behind it, why aren’t the fracking companies simply charging forward full steam ahead?

e. The only thing that makes sense is because they know we can win. They know the harms, and they know we can win.

f. Across the UK there are now over 300 groups against fracking, up from zero just two years ago.

4) Conclusions

a. The fracking companies know we can win. It won’t be an easy fight, because billions of pounds are at stake. But we can and will win.

b. For them, that is ok. Because fracking is just a game. The Bowland shale is just another “play”. And their attitude to investors is the same as their attitude to the local people on the ground.

c. Fracking has been described as a ponzi scheme. (The first investors in make a lot of money. The last investors in lose everything.) The bankers don’t care about them, any more than they care about the people who live nearby.

d. The banks’ don’t risk their own money — they risk the money of other investors, and they take their cut. And once the ‘play’ is over, they move on to the next game.

e. This is why we shall win: because for the fracking companies it is just a play, but for the people on the ground fracking is about health, wealth, and quality of life.

f. It won’t be an easy win. But there are two ways to stop fracking:

— One is to remove the political will, by demonstrating how many people are against it.
— The other is to remove the financial will, by raising the costs of fracking, at the same time as the costs of other forms of energy are falling.

Solar and wind power alter global landscape

i Sep 22nd No Comments by
Solar panels being fitted on new homes in Germany. Why isn't this compulsory on all new-build properties in the UK?

Solar panels being fitted on new homes in Germany. Why isn’t this compulsory on all new-build properties in the UK?

This extremely interesting and inspiring article from the New York Times describes the rapid advancement of solar and wind power in some countries and states.

There is nothing short of a revolution going on outside UK waters, and one that we are sadly missing out on. Worldwide sales of solar panels have doubled about every 21 months over the past decade, and prices falling roughly 20 per cent with each doubling.

Germany is the biggest country leading the change to renewables – they even have a word for the transformation taking place, which they call ‘energiewende’, or  energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

Germany’s push towards renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago. Even in the USA, some States such as California are on track for 30% renewable by 2020.

Read the full article in the New York Times and be inspired.

Transparent solar panels – the future of energy?

i Sep 7th 1 Comment by
The windows of the future can generate energy too!

The windows of the future can generate energy too!

We’ve just read about a very exciting breakthrough in the field of solar energy from the USA. A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while still allowing people to actually see through the window.

“It opens a lot of areas to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way,” said Richard Lunt of MSU’s College of Engineering. “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Read the full article on sciencedaily.com.

Frack Free Ryedale asks why isn’t the UK government investing heavily in this kind of technology, instead of subsidising fracking companies to drill for more fossil fuels, which destroy the countryside, pollute the water and cause more climate change.

Wind energy powers 15 million homes

i Sep 7th No Comments by

wind-turbines171-450x360[1]A report by the Trillion Fund reveals that on Sunday 17th August wind energy provided power for 15 million homes in the UK, setting a new record.

A record high of 22 per cent of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind, while coal only provided 13 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs on Sunday. Solar and biomass both provided three per cent, hydro power provided one per cent, while nuclear generated 24 per cent and gas provided 26 per cent, Renewable UK said.

Jennifer Webber from RenewableUK said: “This proves yet again that onshore and offshore wind has become an absolutely fundamental component in this country’s energy mix. It also shows that wind is a dependable and reliable source of power in every month of year – including high summer”.

Read the full article here.

While Frack Free Ryedale appreciates that wind farms need to be sensitively placed, if there is a choice between a wind farm or a series of noisy, dirty, polluting fracking wells, we know which we would prefer.

UBS bank urges investment in renewables

i Aug 30th No Comments by
Solar village in Freiburg, Germany

Solar village in Freiburg, Germany

According to UBS, the world’s largest private bank, big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years as electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies transform the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed.

In a report that should make all producers of energy take note, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation. Instead, the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies. Read the full Guardian article here.

Meanwhile, an article in the Daily Telegraph focuses on the problems of the oil industry and describes it as being ‘on borrowed time’ as more countries switch to solar and gas.

There is a clear narrative emerging here – renewable energy is becoming competitive around the world even without government subsidies, and more forward-thinking nations are already reconfiguring their energy strategy. Why can’t the UK do the same, instead of fracking for more fossil fuels, destroying our water, landscape and nature in the process.

Fracking ‘not visually intrusive’ claim refuted

i Aug 21st No Comments by
Fracking in the USA - no visual impact?

Fracking in the USA – no visual impact?

An article in this week’s York Press and Gazette & Herald discusses the relative impacts of fracking v solar or wind farms. Professor David McKay, the Government’s former chief scientific advisor, claims that fracking would not be as visually intrusive as a wind farm.

Richard Lane, from York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth group, said: “Visual intrusion is certainly one of fracking’s lesser crimes. Prof McKay chose not to include in his blog post any estimates of the pollution created by each source – particularly the enormous amount of polluted water which is generated by fracking and will then require disposal, or the likely global warming impact of “fugitive” methane emissions.”

Frack Free Ryedale also adds that Prof McKay neglected to mention other the reasons why wind and solar farms would be preferable to a fracking site: for example, noise pollution (fracking sites operate 24/7), large numbers of HGV vehicles day and night, the huge quantities of contaminated and radioactive water fracking produces, air pollution and related health problems, destruction of vast areas of countryside (it is estimated that thousands of wells would be required in Yorkshire alone to make fracking viable), the effect on wildlife, and the very real possibility of contaminating our drinking water supply. Not to mention the effects of burning more fossil fuels on climate change. We know which we would prefer …

Read the full article here.