LibLink: If I’m Lib Dem leader, we’ll oppose fracking

Tim Farron has been writing for Politics.co.uk about his desire to see the party change its policy on fracking. The headline is entirely misleading, because what he actually does is show respect to the party’s processes by saying he’ll ask the Federal Policy Committee and Conference to reconsider the issue. But why?

The UK should not be pursuing another fossil fuel source, when there is so much potential for renewable generation from tidal and hydro that is still untapped. I would like the party, through the federal policy committee and the conference, to think again about our existing policy on fracking.

He outlines what he thinks how the party should improve its policy position on climate change and green energy:

Let’s be clear, though: the party has missed a trick in not making a more powerful case that investment in low-carbon and resource-efficient industries will give a Britain a stronger economy, more jobs and greater prosperity. The UK’s low carbon business sector grew rapidly in the last parliament and is now five times larger than the aerospace industry and twice as large as the chemicals sector. There’s a massive opportunity to boost low carbon exports and create jobs. This was the main argument of The Green Manifesto, which I launched last year, and The Green Book (2013). I was pleased that some of themes were taken up in party’s election manifesto, but we need to put them across much more strongly.

The top priority in my personal manifesto is active, ambitious, liberal government to create a new economy – low-carbon, high- skill, innovative, enterprising and resource-efficient. That means we must keep pressing for a legally binding decarbonisation target for 2030, which can largely be achieved by expanding renewables, and for a deadline to retire the UK’s most polluting coal stations.

He says there are two big challenges Liberal Democrats should address:

There are two other big challenges that we, as Liberal Democrats, are uniquely placed to address. Britain’s natural environment, including its wildlife, animals and plants, is vital for peoples’ well-being, health and happiness — and for a lasting prosperity. We must not fall into the trap of treating action to protect the natural environment as the ‘poor relation’. I was delighted that our manifesto proposed a Nature Act, to put the natural capital committee on a statutory footing, to require it to set targets for natural capital, including?the protections of biodiversity, clean air and water, and to empower it to recommend actions to meet these targets. I will argue in parliament to have our Nature Act passed.

The second challenge is ensuring Britain’s continued membership of the EU, which plays a vital role in protecting the environment and enhancing peoples’ quality of life. EU legislation has, for example, set tough emissions standards for new cars and forced the government to clean up air pollution in our big cities, which currently contributes to an estimated 29,000 deaths a year. The EU’s strong environmental record is one of the best reasons for supporting UK membership, and it should feature strongly in our campaign for staying in Europe.

You can read the whole article here.

 

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46 Comments

  • That is a very irresponsible position. Mr Farron is obviously poorly advised.

    The Grid cannot function with the levels of renewable energy being proposed therefore a substantial amount of fossil fuel generation is essential. Furthermore, renewable generation frequently drops down to around 1% of demand so alternative generation is needed to keep the lights on. The best option is gas. We will therefore be largely dependent on suitable prices and supplies from the middle East, Russia, etc. Not a good position to aim for.

  • Agree with Tim to campaign for a legally binding decarbonisation target for 2030, which can largely be achieved by expanding renewables, and for a deadline to retire the UK’s most polluting coal stations.

    Not happy with the EU though. If we check the details we can see that Greece was led into, admittedly mostly by the IMF, an increasingly bigger debt rather than solving its financial structures. Therefore the EU is not helping its weaker members in the right way. Disorganised lending is never a helpful answer. We should make strong representation that the EU is clearly out of touch on many issues [especially the Euro Zone] and needs reform. I could not support accepting the EU as it currently and generally operates – though its Human Rights are still more acceptable than its financial methods [including the Commission’s grants system etc].

  • Stephen Hesketh 1st Jul '15 - 12:52pm

    Peter1st Jul ’15 – 12:24pm
    “That is a very irresponsible position. Mr Farron is obviously poorly advised. The Grid cannot function with the levels of renewable energy being proposed …”

    Peter and who might be proposing those levels of renewable energy? Surely not the same people who seek fossil fuel tax breaks and subsidies and who constantly knock the potential of renewables?

    From what I can see, the Lib Dems under Tim Farron will propose a huge expansion in renewable energy generation and, crucially, from a range of sources.

    Not only will this help us meet climate change comittments but also create jobs, frequently in local SME’s, spread generation around the UK e.g. as tides fall and rise and regional winds blow, not put aquifers at risk and open up new export markets just for starters.

    I definitely prefer Tim Farron’s solution to seeing huge areas of often densely populated or high grade agricultural coastal land lost to the oceans as global temperatures and sea levels rise.

    I believe it isn’t Tim Farron not seeing the bigger picture!

  • Jamie Stewart 1st Jul '15 - 12:55pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Tim, and I work within the oil and gas sector. The most sure form of energy the UK can produce is renewable, and we need to invest in it to make the most of it economically, otherwise all our renewables projects will be led and run by international/overseas organisations taking their profits overseas. Shale gas and oil is only a short-term option in the UK which will most likely require large subsidies. We have very few big open areas which are really exploitable on the same scale as the US!

  • Well done, Tim, for raising this as an agenda item.

    There is a need for a thorough look at all carbon reducing options……. and establishing a thorough investigation into all the consequences of fracking. It would also be useful to enter into dialogue with the Green Party on this issue.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 1st Jul '15 - 1:38pm

    This seems to me to be another example of headline grabbing populism which doesn’t survive scrutiny.

    Even with a big increase in renewables (which the party has rightly long advocated) fossil fuel generation is still certain to be an important part of the mix in the UK for some decades to come. That being the case, natural gas is the cleanest and best option, and sourcing a propotion of it here rather than being reliant on Russia and the Middle East is prudent.

    So saying, “The UK should not be pursuing another fossil fuel source, when there is so much potential for renewable generation from tidal and hydro that is still untapped” is just glib. It sets up an entirely false choice between renewables and fracking when in fact there is nothing inherent in using fracking (if environmental and safety cases are met) that prevents renewables being pursued. Energy policy is about using a sustainable mix of energy sources to meet our needs, not doing one thing to the exclusion of all others.

  • Those aiming to be political leaders need to temper their green credentials with a bit of reality. Renewable energy is a hugely expensive, useless means of supplying the grid. Carbon capture may never exist in an economically viable industrial scale for decades. A decision tomorrow on nuclear power will not produce electricity for almost two decades. Wave power at any useful scale is currently a dream.

    In the meantime we need to keep the lights on while closing down all our efficient, low cost power stations.

  • There has been no global warming for 15-18 years . The models predict a hot spot at approximately 10km above the equator: there is a cool spot. The warming of 1919 to 1940 is very similar to that of 1976-1998: there was cooling after 1940. There was a little ice age from about 1650 to 1850 and then the planet warmed. Mass thermometers readings only date from about 1850 and then in NW Europe and NE USA. Many of the thermometers on land ( 33% of Earth’s surface ) have been impacted by urbanisation. The only thermometers not affected by urbanisation are those in ballons and satellites and they show no cooling for at least 5 if not 18 years. Total ice coverage for N and S Poles has increased .

    The major problem with burning coal is soot and acidisation and modern power stations can deal with these.
    Wind turbines barely work for about 30% of the time and the actual power produced is often only 15 % of their maximum capacity. Cold spells in the UK often coincide with low wind speeds, therefore little generation from wind turbines.

    Power from wind, wave and tidal cannot be stored. Turbines work best in an enclosed environment and need to be kept turning continuously. How are damaged wind , wave and tidal turbines going to be repaired in winter? How does reach the top of damaged wind turbine tower in order to undertake repairs if one is concerned it could collapse or catching fire, especially in wet or icy and windy conditions ? How does reach the top of offshore wind turbines when they are damaged in conditions of high waves and strong winds?

    How does one assess and design bearing for offshore wave and tidal power structures which can cope with corrosion due to sea water and sand? What are design life for offshore structures and repair requirements?

    For those concerned about fracking impacting water , please provide a source-pathway- receptor analysis of potential for pollution( standard practice in treating contaminated water ). As there is extensive legislation and practice in monitoring and preventing pollution from landfills,factories,on shore oil and gas abstraction sites ( Brownsea Island , Poole Harbour mines, quarries and farms , please explain why this is not good enough to prevent any pollution from fracking sites.

  • John Tilley 1st Jul '15 - 3:07pm

    This is still Liberal Democrat Voice is it not? Or have I flipped into another dimension?

    The strange anti-science comments of people who are not party members pontificating on who should lead this party with a proud record on climate change by pretending that everything is fine and we can just keep on mucking up the planet and the climate as if there is no tomorrow seems a bit odd.

    Phrases like “temper their green credentials with a bit of reality” are a bit rich coming from people who deny the reality of what 99% of the scientific community have been saying for the last ten years.

  • The issues Peter raises with renewable energy are certainly not beyond the reach of human ingenuity to solve. Indeed, as part of the Energy Union plans now being finalised, the EU aims to significantly increase interconnectivity between national grids, making each individual state able to run a more renewables-heavy mix with less excess capacity needed for reliable supply. The storage problem remains tricky, but there are some large scale demonstrations of flywheel based technologies coming online in the near future that promise progress there, and the nature of a continent spanning grid is that deficits in one area are very likely to be made up by excesses elsewhere.

    Charlie’s brief (and unreferenced) exposition of the state of the art of energy and climate science is factually incorrect in every respect other than the bits about the challenges building and maintaining a renewable infrastructure. And to be blunt, if that attitude of whataboutery had prevailed two centuries ago, we’d never have driven the industrial revolution in the first place.

    And Tim Farron on fracking? Fossil fuel reserves, especially novel ones such as those accessed through fracking, ought to remain in the ground as much as possible to serve as a strategic reserve against instability. Or rather, deterioration of the instability we already have. While the energy gap will need to be closed, and will probably have to be closed with new conventional fossil fuel plants, he’s right to reject the exploration of a short term quick fix in the form of shale gas. He’s also very right to open the bid with bold, ambitious ideas for change. Some commentators want to see something entirely more moderate. Well, a lot of our experience in coalition suggests surely that if you go into the negotiations with a nice, moderate compromise already there, you’ll just get argued even closer to your opposite numbers’ views. Open high, get argued down to moderation, not open moderately and get argued down to nothing.

  • If Mr Farron bans fracking, how does he propose to run the grid without gas fired electricity if political events interfere with our gas imports?

    Important note to Greens – During most of last month wind turbines produced less than 2% of our requirements due to light or no winds. Most of the other 98% relied on fossil fuels including gas. Coal stations are being shut down.

    Also note: Grids require a stable baseload supply and in addition, a stable supply capable of being ramped up and down to balance the variable load. Wind and solar cannot meet either of these requirements.

  • Jenny Barnes 1st Jul '15 - 3:51pm

    There is no need for fracking in the UK to provide gas for baseload electricity. Humanity has already found more fossil fuel than can be safely burnt, so finding more is not a priority; there is plenty of gas in Qatar and the infrastructure to import it, so there will be no problem keeping the lights on, and the coal fired generators off, whether or not we in the UK invest in fracking, tidal, wind or solar. Interestingly, it seems likely that the new interconnectors to Europe will largely import electricity – and the marginal European megawatt hour is likely to be generated by dirty coal in Germany.

    Charlie’s post is not very helpful. Ignoring the climate change denial, of course renewable energy can be stored. Dinorwic and similar pumped storage and grid scale batteries will store any spare electricity you might want, or if there’s too much, it can be exported via the interconnectors, backing out dirty coal generation the other end. A typical wind turbine will generate on average around 1/3 of it’s peak output; this is well known. And Solar works best in the summer, so a June with light winds will get plenty of electricity from rooftops. This doesn’t show in http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ because it’s too many small pieces of generation. 3Gw of wind at 4pm on 1/7 : about 8% of demand.

  • John Tilley 1st Jul '15 - 3:55pm

    Peter

    Your comments seem to indicate that keeping the grid operating is your priority and that all other considerations should be it on one side.

    This seems to be putting the cart ahead of the horse, and worse than that to be growing feed simply for the purpose of feeding the horse that pulls the cart irrespective of where the cart is going or what damage it might do on the way.

    Keeping 1940s thinking going in the 21st Century is of course a grand hobby for people interested in the conservation of outdated engineering on a national scale but have you ever considered that there might be something better?

  • David Allen 1st Jul '15 - 4:13pm

    Those who argue that we can’t cope without fracking should realise that they are betting the farm on something that probably doesn’t exist. Yes, shale gas in the US is economically viable, but that proves nothing about whether it will be viable here. We don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the vast tracts of empty countryside that can be ripped up at will, we don’t have the same favourable geology. Osborne likes waffling about fracking because it makes it sound as if he has a dynamic and viable long term plan. He doesn’t. We should not join him in fantasyland. All credit to Tim Farron for showing, well, leadership.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/11006723/fracking-for-Shale-gas-the-dotcom-bubble-of-our-times.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/10901879/Before-you-back-Britains-fracking-boom-drill-down-into-the-details.html

  • Jenny Barnes

    Everything Charlie said about the climate, excluding an obvious typo, is factually and scientifically correct and well documented.. I fail to see why you dismiss it as climate change denial. It does rather question your credibility.

  • John Tilley
    Behind my comments is the concern that politicians like making sweeping statements that ignore inconvenient facts that make their decisions impractical or with consequences they probably didn’t consider. Unfortunately power generation and renewables are full of people pontificating about policy when they obviously haven’t got a clue about the facts or the technology. They think it all works by magic.

    To answer your question specifically, keeping the grid operating should be our top priority. Can you contemplate the country without heat, light, water, gas, communications, industry, financial services, hospitals, etc.?

    The grid was built to cope with a variable demand. It was not built to cope with a variable and intermittent supply and can be badly damaged if the supply and the load are not closely balanced at all times.

  • If Mr Farron bans fracking, how does he propose to run the grid without gas fired electricity if political events interfere with our gas imports?’

    Spot on, yet another band wagon for Farron to jump on ,the real world is another place but explaining why domestic fuel bills are so unnecessarily high may be a tad more difficult. But,hey, whatever it takes to get elected.

  • Jonathan Pile 1st Jul '15 - 6:30pm

    three cheers for Tim. He is accused of populism when he always opposed Fracking in the national parks. I was saddened to read in the wake of the Lancashire anti Fracking victory the only people decrying such a popular decision were liberal democrat supporters of Norman Lamb. if Tim is elected we can again be a truly Green Party committed to renewables and fighting fossil fuel pollution.

  • Gwyn Griffiths 1st Jul '15 - 7:09pm

    Jenny Barnes

    “there is plenty of gas in Qatar and the infrastructure to import it”

    1. Thank goodness it’s in such a politically stable part of the world …
    2. So it’s ok to import it (and what’s the carbon impact of the transport?) and burn it here, but not to extract it here for burning? How does that work?

  • Charlie’s climate change comments have not been recognised and have therefore been dismissed as garbage. They are actually at the heart of the credibility problem of the models. However, further comment on that is clearly wasted here.
    The point about fracking is that our electricity relies on gas much more than on an infinite number of wind turbines and solar panels combined. This is for solid technical reasons that Mr Farron does not understand.

    Our gas supplies or gas prices may be disrupted by political events outside of our control. Strategically, we may not have enough gas to run the grid. Strategically, turning down the opportunity to have our own low cost gas to keep the National Grid functioning in times of political turmoil in order to enhance personal electoral purposes may be a tad misguided.

  • Peter,
    I think most people thought that turning this board into a series of unsupported assertions about climate science like so many other places on the net was probably a mistake.

    Climate models are extremely complex and certainly imperfect. That is why the IPCC puts rather large margins of error on their predictions. But the physics of greenhouse gases is relatively simple (my father did his PhD on it, actually, long before anyone was talking about global warming). If the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, you should expect temperature to rise. The difficult part is predicting how quickly. Now of course we can hope that all the climate modellers are badly wrong and that the levelling off of the temperature increase seen in the last decade or so is going to continue… Or we can take some precautions … Meanwhile we are doing a giant experiment on the place we all have to live

    As for fracking, I always thought the too-rapid development of North Sea oil by Thatcher was a big financial error. We should have joined OPEC and sold that finite resource for a fair price. Lets leave that gas in the ground in case we need it in the future – once it is gone it is gone for ever.

  • Andrew
    The large margins of error identified by the IPCC were sadly not communicated via the summary for policymakers. This is not surprising since it was written by advocates and politicians. That has been a major problem because now policies are based on exaggerated and unsubstantiated scaremongering with a low probability of being realised.

    The reference to the “hot spot” concerns the expected positive feedback of water vapour. The lack of the hotspot suggests that the positive feedback is not happening. It is more likely negative feedback through cloud formation and increased albedo. The precautions you mention should not include the destruction of competitive industry, committing poor people to fuel poverty and jeopardising the functioning of the national grid.

    I note you comments about developing North Sea oil being a financial error. I am surprised by your claim, since I have the impression that much wealth has been attributed to the development but since I have no expertise in the area I am unable to make an informed comment.

  • Peter,
    I don’t really want to get into a discussion of the details of climate change models. However I am pretty sure the summary for policymakers in the IPCC report was the consensus of the scientists, not some version changed by politicians…

    re North Sea oil – yes of course it brought prosperity. But it would have brought much more prosperity if we had sold it at a higher price. Norway have had a much more sensible approach, extracting the oil more carefully and using the one-off windfall money strictly to invest in science and infrastructure, not given away in tax cuts… With renewable resources you can sell them off just as quickly as you can renew them… But we can never renew the oil we sold at < $10 per barrel in the 1970's

  • Peter,

    I do however have some sympathy with your view about destroying the world economy. I would be moving the discussion on to putting money aside to ameliorate the potentially disastrous effects of climate change in countries like Bangladesh. If we reduce our economies to subsistence (as the Green’s would have us do, pretty much) we will have no money to do that. But on the other hand there is not much sign that the advanced economies have much stomach for helping poor countries in any circumstances…

    However there is plenty of money in low carbon technology and we will definitely need it at some point in the future. And in my view the right price for finite resources is high, so that makes the relative cost of renewables (which are not finite) much more comparable

  • Sadly there is little comparison between the IPCC summary and the actual reports. This is very important to realise. Please don’t just take my opinion, it is a well known and publicised fact.

    The problem with the third world is that our sophisticated green advocates wish to deny the use of conventional fossil fuels for energy in third world countries. The result is no electricity and the burning of available wood and even cattle dung in the most primitive of circumstances. This results in high mortality of children and older people due to inhalation of smoke products including dioxins, carcinogenic particulates and other toxic products as they rely on fires inside their huts without proper fireplaces or chimneys.

    The Green advocates are so obsessed by their climate change religion that they are oblivious to the destruction and misery they are causing. The most powerful route out of primitive misery is the blessing of electrical power and our carbon obsessed fanatics wish to deny these people any hope of this.

    This brings us back to climate change predictions by computer models, the cause of the advocacy. I have to say that as every year passes, the justification for this climate change obsession recedes and looks increasingly like bad science a few decades ago. More recent science show a continuing trend of decreasing climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide.

    The current status of this work suggests that a doubling of CO2 will produce a small, almost welcome increase in global temperatures.

  • Tsar Nicholas 1st Jul '15 - 10:50pm

    The IPCC process is flawed, but not in the way the climate deniers imagine. Its weakness lies in the fact that it relies solely on peer reviewed papers, which are by the evry nature of the peer review process years out of date before they are even published. Then the IPCC goes through a complicated process which depends on 100% agreement. One objection and the data is thrown out. Finally, the whole set of conclusions go through a very politicised process before publication. The final result is a publication that is reliant on old data and which doesn’t mention vital points – such as the matter of methane being outgassed from the Arctic at an exponential rate.

    The IPCC’s fourth assessment was released in August 2007 and the ink was hardly dry before Arctic sea ice had collapsed to a level lower than the report had forecast for the end of 2100. Sea level rise is another area where the IPCC’s forecasts are ridiculously conservative. 1 metre by the end of the century. Seems like nobody has told the Greenland and West antarctic ice sheets which are well on their way to collapse well before the end of the century.

    Peter Wadhams, professor of polar oceans at the University of Cambridge has recently referred to the work of the IPCC as “criminally negligent.” Asked whether there is any hope for humanity he has said that only if we start taking serious action now (we’re not, are we?). He refers to the two degrees warming target as a pretense and points out that we are headed for more than four degrees warming in the near term. Oliver Tickell, in the Guardian a few years back, wrote that at four degrees, all we can plan for is extinction.

  • I hoped my visit here was finally over. I’m sure regulars did too. Then I discovered this gem. In Germany, the transition to wind power is very advanced. Their problem is overloading of the grid.

    During May, for example, engineers had to intervene on 50,000 overload cases to prevent serious damage to the grid when the wind suddenly picked up and generated too much electricity. This is not a trivial problem, the extra 555 gigawatts generated have been wasted but must be paid for by consumers.

    Readers may like to reflect on my comment that supply must balance demand. The consequences are amusing as well as expensive. Throwing more windpower at the grid may have large negative consequences.

    As I keep saying, it is a useless way to power a grid. I say that on technical and financial terms without a green or anti-green consideration in sight.

    I note that Tsar Nicholas is reminding us of Peter Wadhams’ well known views. I shall say that these are not main stream and leave it at that.

  • Tsar Nicholas 1st Jul '15 - 11:56pm

    It doesn’t matter whether Peter Wadhams’ views are mainstream or not. What matters is whether the data points to the conclusions he reaches, and they do.

    As of end 2014 average global temperature was up by 0.85 degrees on 1880. That compares to a plus 0.7 degree measurement in 2000. So, +0.7 in 120 years, and then another + 0.15 in just 15. Sure looks like an acceleration to me. Plus we are in the midst of a phenomenal El Nino, much more powerful than the 1998 one. I hate to see what global temperatures will look like in 12 months’ time given that during an El Nino heat comes out of the oceans.

    Meanwhile, the Arctic is up around three degrees and the sea ice there may well disappear in September of this year, something that hasn’t happened for three million years and something that was not supposed to happen until 2100. Temperatures at the North Pole in the third week of May reached an astonishing 30 degrees! Methane eruptions, which were noted back around 2009 as small events from Arctic ponds and the like have grown much larger. NASA’s CARVE Project monitored 150 mile wide columns erupting from the Arctic ocean in 2013. Methane is up to 100 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2 in the short term.

    Sea surface temperatures are related to wet bulb temperatures, which are a more accurate predictor of human health prospects than simple temperature because they take into account humidity. Sea surface temperatures off Pakistan recently reached 33 degrees centigrade, just ahead of a wet bulb temperature in the southern part of that country which as killed well over a thousand people in recent weeks. the western parts of the United states are suffering from a4 year drought and the Pacific north west is ablaze with record amounts of forest being destroyed in unprecedentedly large wildfires. meanwhile the greater part of the Caribbean and South America is suffering from severe drought with water supplies in mega cities like Sao Paulo only being on for a few days every week.

    Yeah – carry on. It will all be fine right up until the moment we all die.

  • Jenny Barnes 2nd Jul '15 - 9:09am

    @Gwyn Griffiths.
    1. There are plenty of other LNG suppliers. Qatar is actually quite stable, but if not, Australia and the USA (once it decides to export) are possibilities. Or pipeline gas.
    2. My point is that the argument put forward by several people that “we must have fracking or the lights will go out” is nonsense. Long term I am in favour of solar power generated in hot sunny places: North Africa would be good technically, maybe Spain, Greece, Southern Italy as well. And wind and tidal.

  • I am a supporter of Farron,but this is reckless. He needs to slow down and take a more balanced approach. Fracking in the Fylde could transform the Blackpool area, it needs investment and some hope for the future, at the moment it is declining.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 2nd Jul '15 - 10:50am

    There seem to be a couple of straw men arguments being raised here by anti-frackers:

    1. That people who think fracking could be part of the mix are swivel-eyed climate change deniers.

    2. In Jenny’s words, that the argument is “we must have fracking or the lights will go out”.

    On the first point, the vast majority here (myself included) accept man-made climate change is real and serious. We support efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and radically develop renewables. We support energy efficiency. All we are saying is that, certainly in the medium term, fossil fuels WILL be part of the mix to meet energy needs. That being the case, we want that to be the cleanest form of fossil fuel and for it to not be transported over vast distances (for good environmental reasons as much as anything – although there are also concerns over the security of supplies from the Middle East and Russia).

    On the second point, we accept that you could in theory source fossil fuels (for a significant price, with significant environmental costs for transport, and with some security risks) from elsewhere. We simply ask why you would necessarily want to do that.

    All we want is an intelligent, reasoned debate about energy policy.

  • Tsar Nicholas 2nd Jul '15 - 11:54am

    sir Norfolk Passmore and others – there is no medium term when it comes to climate change – it is happening at an accelerating rate and study of past climates shows that things don’t happen gradually but in abrupt steps.

    But since money is the only thing that many people understand let me point out an inconvenient truth (pun intended). For fracking to be profitable you need oil prices at well over $100 a barrel. However, at that price you wreck the global economy. In any event, in many cases fracking is an exercise in futility because you expend as much if not more energy in recovering the energy from the ground as you get from it. Plus you will wreck the ecology of an area in return for perhaps just a few years worth of oil. If you have a fracking well that lasts as long as five years you’ll be lucky. In most cases oil ramps up in the first year of a well and then falls off significantly.

    We had our chance with North Sea oil but all we did was sell it off cheaply and significantly alter the atmospheric chemistry. The clever economists thought this was a great thing at the time.

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '15 - 12:34pm

    For those pro-frackers who “want an intelligent debate” or “hoped my visit here was finally over”, how about reading my previous post, and letting us all know what your thoughts are about it? I refer to the evidence that in the UK, fracking is just not at all likely to be technically and commercially feasible.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/11006723/fracking-for-Shale-gas-the-dotcom-bubble-of-our-times.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/10901879/Before-you-back-Britains-fracking-boom-drill-down-into-the-details.html

  • Tsar Nicholas
    There was a mini ice age from about 1650-1850, yet within this period in Btitain ther was a warming from about 1700-1760 , which at it;s peak was 3.4C/century.

    When talking about CO2 what is often ignored is that for the models to work , the water content in the atmosphere must increase. The satellite data shows no increase in water vapour. We understand fluid dynamics well , but clouds do not operate as fluids- read Freeman Dyson.

    When assessing ice coverage must needs to determine total mass of ice at N and S Poles. Changes in current and wind can produce local anomalies.

    If one looks at certain photographs and ice records from the 1920s and 1930s thre was significant less ice than in the 1980s.

    Ifone looks at the geological rceord , CO2 has reached 1000sppm. Is the climate variable-yes. Are ther cycles of seasons, years decades, centuries and thousands of years , all yes. Do we understand cycles -no.

    When designing equipment , the operations which includes repair must be assessed. If one wants to look at history, the Tiger Tanks mks 1 and 2 were over complicated and difficult to repair and as consequence a german general preferred the Panzer Mk4. If one wants to understand the importance of repair, the Soviet T -34 tanks and AK -47 automatic rifles are very good exampes of equipment which are easy to repair. One great advantage of the Spitfire was the Merlin engine could be seriously damaged and still function . Robustness is an iportant concept when designing eqipment- how much damage can it sustain and still operate?

    Andrew
    No summary, differs. The first reports were far more factual and nthen NGOs became involved. Consequently , many scientists stopped becoming involved.

  • Tsar Nicholas 2nd Jul '15 - 1:35pm

    Charlie

    The events referred to in your first paragraph were not global events. There is no trace of such changes in, for example, Himalayan glacier ice.

    Certainly, CO2 has reached much higher levels in the past, such as the Cretaceous, which ended 65 million years ago. But no humans were alive then, and the only mammals were those with small body weight and body mass. Any larger mammals would not be able to cool their bodies. In fact, the tropics during the Cretaceous seem to have been sparsely populated as larger animals moved towards the poles.

    Above all, the flora and fauna of periods like the Cretaceous evolved and adapted over time because climate change was slow. The rapidity of climate change now outstrips the ability of flora and fauna to adapt by a a factor of 10,000. That is why more biologically minded scientists say that humanity will become extinct within a few decades at most. Humans need habitat. Without plants we will have no food and we will die. a 4 degree centigrade rise on average around the globe will mean warmer temperatures than that in the interior of continents like north America and Russia where much of our food is grown.

  • Havining been critical a few hours ago I have had a slight metamorphis about this. Our first electoral objective should be to get back into third place in the polls and most importantly see off the Greens. This approach would significantlty be helpful in that respect. However in the long term we will surely be Fracking both on environmental and economic grounds.

  • Tsar Nicholas 2nd Jul '15 - 5:59pm

    Charlie

    “If one looks at certain photographs and ice records from the 1920s and 1930s thre was significant less ice than in the 1980s. ”

    This is imply not true.

  • Tsar Nicholas
    There has been no increase in temperature for the past 15-18 years while the CO2 has increased. In the 1920s and 1930s there was extensive melting of ice with in the Arctic Circle. Climate models are based on various assumptions that temperature increases with CO2; they are running hot. If models do not fit recorded data , they are wrong . All computer models need to be calibrated with recorded data : it is called calibration.

  • Tsar Nicholas 2nd Jul '15 - 8:36pm

    Charlie

    Many climatologists rely on historical data and not on models. The models tend to be quite accurate for large parts of the world but they have been completely off as regards the Arctic, but not in a way that gives comfort to climate change deniers. whereas average global temperatures are 0.85 degrees above 1880s levels for the globe, the warming in the Arctic is around three degrees centigrade. This phenomenon is known as Arctic amplification.

    Average global temperatures show a 0.85 degrees increase since 1880 as of 2014. In 2000 that figure was 0.7 degrees centigrade. The difference means that there has been an increase. Deniers have sized on the record breaking El Nino of 1998 when the oceans released a lot of heat into the atmosphere to argue that there has been a pause in global warming, which as I have demonstrated is not the case. I think we will witness a jump in global average temperatures this year because we are experiencing an El Nino event which is far stronger than 1998. In any event, climate deniers never look at ocean temperatures when arguing for the pause. the oceans’ temperatures are way up and this is having a disastrous effect on phytoplankton which are the basis of the worldwide food web.

    Oh, and if there really had been a pause in global warming you deniers would have to try to figure out what happened back in the 1970s to cause it since there is a 40 year time lag between the emission of CO2 and the bulk of the warming effect. So today’s warming is due to CO2 emissions is down to what we spewed into the air when Harold Wilson was prime minister, and the rate of emissions has increased markedly since then. Off the top of my head we were at 330ppm and now we are at 400ppm. Since there is no known mechanism for sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere an awful lot of warming is locked in, which is why I am pessimistic about the chances of humanity surviving for too long.

  • @Tsar Nicholas,

    I think that while a lot of individual members of the human race might well die before their time due to climate change, I do not for a minute think that the survival of the human race is at stake, any more than we have to “save the planet” (which has survived much hotter temperatures in the Cretaceous than are forecast now…). If there is an existential threat to the human race it is still nuclear war, and I find it rather disturbing how little attention is paid to this at the moment.

    I am not saying that we should not worry about climate change, but it is on a similar level to things like Ebola and war in Syria, east Africa and many other places that are driving the current migration crisis far more than the climate

  • @Tsar Nicholas

    I think it is possible that you are looking at the temperature record for the town of North Pole in Alaska, where the temperature did indeed reach 30 C on 23rd May. I can’t find any sign that it got much above freezing at the actual North Pole…

  • Peter Bancroft 3rd Jul '15 - 1:04am

    David, the two articles you posted suggest that every company pushing for the right to be involved in fracking in the UK has misunderstood the science and is making a big mistake which will cost them lots of money. If you accept the premise that the Telegraph knows better why not just allow fracking in the short term as it will apparently quickly run to a halt? Is it really the role of govt to use superior knowledge of industry to stop companies from investing in areas where they have misunderstood their own markets?

  • What a result at Hampton Wick last night. Could this be in part to the Airport extension and the party’s greenish stance?.

  • David Allen 3rd Jul '15 - 11:15am

    Peter Bancroft,

    Companies pursuing fracking in the UK are taking a big gamble, but are not necessarily making a mistake from the commercial point of view. If their long-odds bet pays off, they could make a lot of money. If it fails, as it is likely to, then the losses can be borne by high-risk investors or simply written off via bankruptcy. There is also the possibility of gaining government funding. Cameron and Osborne have bet their reputations on making fracking happen, so they may well want to quietly subsidise a failing industry so that it doesn’t go belly up until they are out of office.

    The Telegraph is merely reporting a general expert consensus.

    If we were talking about an unwise investment in biscuit manufacturing, you would be right to say that Government should just let companies go ahead and judge their own risks, rather than claiming to know better. But we’re not talking about something fairly harmless like a biscuit factory. We are talking about allowing a lot of environmental harm, even if little or no fossil fuel can be produced. We could also be putting ourselves into a position where the driling companies face a stark choice: either go bankrupt, or make increasingly desperate attempts to widen the exploration, bend the environmental rules, and push for taxpayer match-funding in order to stay afloat.

    You may get your way. Cameron and Osborne may find ways to get fracking permitted. If so, then as you say, it is likely to prove a damp squib, though it may take some time before that is accepted. In the mean time, we will have allowed Government energy planners to bet the farm on a “save us from Putin” technology that won’t actually save us from Putin. They will therefore have lost the chance to make more realistic future energy plans, and made our future a lot less secure.

  • Tsar Nicholas
    The warming of the planet predicted by the computer models requires an assessment of the climate sensitivity which defines how much warming occurs for doubling of the CO2: some papers now give this figure as low as 0.7K for doubling of the CO2. What do you think the correct answer is?

  • David Evershed 6th Jul '15 - 4:14pm

    Tim Farron’s anti fracking policy is an attempt to have Lib Dems replace Labour as the most anti business party.

    In my view the country’s most pressing issues are

    – low productivity
    – massive trade deficit
    – poor competitiveness in engineering, manufacturing and energy industries

    Lib Dems don’t even have these issues on the agenda let alone any constructive policies to address them.

    Encouraging the fracking industry would be a small help.

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