Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oil, gas and fracking Lincolnshire, part 5

Why the Campaign Against Fracking is Vital

The Elephant in the Landscape, as I wrote earlier, is global warming.  The local environmental issues associated with fracking the gas-rich shales, important as they are, are not going to end life on Earth.  They are manageable risks, like sailing oil tankers round the world or driving motor cars without the man walking in front with a red flag.  We assess the risks, take precautions, and carry on, hoping that our precautions work.

Continuing to burn fossil fuel is not a manageable risk.  In fact it's not a risk at all but a certainty that burning the 'unconventional' fossil fuels on top of the easy stuff will lead to catastrophic global warming.  Anyone who cares about their grandchildren knows we're on the wrong road.

We have to keep this carbon underground.  That's why the campaign against fracking is vital.

Individual efforts to reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, our carbon footprint, don't actually cut the mustard.  If we reduce our demand for fuel, the price drops, other people can then afford to buy the fuel and it all still gets burnt.  This is a good excuse to use for taking a flight for a holiday - you say, "Well, if I don't burn the oil then somebody else will, so it doesn't make any difference to global warming".  The logic is fine, though you may wish to question the ethics.

The point is that individual actions to reduce fossil fuel use will come to nought unless there are also limits to supply. Conventional oil, the easy stuff that comes out of the ground when you drill a hole, is limited by geology to such an extent there is a possibility that we might get away it.  Add in the unconventionals, the tar sands, the deep off shore, the Arctic, the coal-bed methane, the underground coal gasification and the fracked shales, and we will certainly not get away with it.

We have to do whatever we can to make it difficult to exploit these resources, sending the price of oil and gas higher, forcing people to stop burning it because it is just not affordably available.  The government could help of course by adopting Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) but until then we just have to make things difficult for those who wish to frack.

We have to keep this carbon underground.  That's why the campaign against fracking is vital. I may have said that before.  I will probably say it again.


Anonymous Ros Jackson said...

There's a great deal of consensus amongst scientists about global warming. 97%, according to this page on NASA's website: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus

What there isn't is any consensus amongst politicians responsible for planning. Some understand what's at stake, but I've also come across a regrettable number of climate change deniers, and it plays out in decisions on wind farms all the time. The challenge is to educate people, and planning authorities in particular, that the science is there and it's solid.

2:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think limiting supply will do any good (as I said repeatedly on Powerswitch) by itself either- as all you'll get are lots of angry people complaining about the price of petrol or their inability to cope with heating costs. Drawing analogies to Jevons' paradox only goes so far- that only applies in cases of elastic demand, whereas basic heating, cooking, transport etc. needs are inelastic, assuming people haven't thought of working alternatives, anyway.

There has to be a concerted, willing effort by the population at large to reduce consumption where possible. So what if it brings the price down? The people who need to heat their homes who can't afford to will benefit, and the people who absolutely have no alternative but to use the car will benefit at the pumps. And so on.

Yes, I think constraining supply could help but without a population that understands the need and is on your side, it will just lead to opposition. For a politician looking at policy decisions, that's electoral suicide.

And besides, why focus on fracking? Most of the easy oil is coming out of the ground in arguably unsavoury countries like Saudi Arabia, which frequently violate Western concepts of human rights. But for the fact we'd probably be a little too short on oil and the energy costs associated with fracking and unconventionals, how about imposing the odd sanctions on Saudi Arabia (at least an arms embargo) making them that little bit less willing to trade with us, as opposed to reducing our own potential for self-sufficiency?

12:59 pm  
Blogger biffvernon said...

Supply constraint is a necessary condition for global warming mitigation but is an insufficient condition for a pleasant world. For that we also need, as you say, to think of working the alternatives.

Why focus on fracking? It's the acting locally now that we've done the thinking globally.

1:23 pm  
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4:08 am  

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