While Britain Dithers, the world is fracking
Comment of the Day

August 27 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

While Britain Dithers, the world is fracking

Here is the conclusion from this forceful article from The Times (UK) (note, subscription registration required but a PDF version is in the Subscriber's Area
Russia imagined that Gazprom would bring its gas customers to heel by threatening a big winter freeze that would reach as far as Germany, but even Bulgaria has used a global gas glut to renegotiate the price down by 20 per cent. Meanwhile Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have become rival suppliers with the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline bypassing Russia entirely. For the first time since the 1989-90 revolutions much of Europe can look forward to being totally free of a Russia that under Vladimir Putin is regressing to bullying Soviet pathologies. In the longer term, Europe may also benefit from the huge offshore gas reserves of Cyprus, Israel and Lebanon.

Which brings us back to Europe's noisy Green Luddites and the politicians who pander to them. Angela Merkel has signalled the closure of Germany's remaining nuclear power plants, even as her country will still import nuclear-generated energy from France and Poland. Her energy policy is as much of a mess as ours, with northerly offshore wind farms lacking connection with southern industries. The Italian Government has also caved in to environmental lobbyists over deep-water oil prospecting in the Adriatic. Judging from opinion surveys, the Poles would happily frack but, for the time being, their geology makes this prohibitively expensive. Britain should grab a piece of this global action as soon as possible - perhaps with a sovereign wealth fund so that the fruits are not squandered.

Despite his Cotswolds affinities, David Cameron has unambiguously endorsed fracking. He says local communities will receive economic benefits and there'll be minimal impact on a countryside that is no more "scenic" than northern Britain, and which was "industrial" itself when charcoal was used in the iron industry. It is just inhabited by people who know how to bounce the media better than those in Cheshire or Cumbria.

Since the PM cannot give this truly existential issue his undivided attention, amidst attending to Syria or gay rights abuses in Russia, he should designate an articulate champion who can make the case for shale gas with the urgency our energy crisis demands. Michael Fallon is the obvious choice. Or is energy policy - and hence what folk pay for such basic rights as heat and light - going to be dictated by the likes of Bianca Jagger and Dame Vivienne Westwood in what, to coin a second new word, is starting to look like a "celebocracy" as well as "chummocracy"?

David Fuller's view I favour lobbying for fracking in the UK or wherever one lives, if your country also has considerable reserves of shale gas and oil. The benefits will be cheaper energy costs, as we see in the USA, contributing to a more vibrant economy for many decades.

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