When it comes to shale gas, it seems the UK Government has got itself in a bit of a tizz. Goodbye reason, goodbye evidence, goodbye engagement. We don’t need you, all we need is completely biased and unsubstantiated opinion.
So we have ended up in a situation where the Prime Minister, and the Chancellor are saying: there is loads of shale gas and prices will come down but at the same time but the Chairman of the only real UK shale interest, Cuadrilla is saying: shale gas will not reduce UK prices and it’s gonna take us a long time to get anywhere. I’m not sure who I should believe………
Things get even more confusing when it comes to what the energy department itself is saying which is generally not a lot. It seems that most of the push is coming from the treasury (I wonder why) but when pushed, DECC does release some snippets of information and this is where it gets a bit weirder. So, I was just going through emails last week and spotted two FOI request responses from DECC on shale gas.
The first one is just downright odd. Someone requested information on what discussions had been taking place between departments on shale gas. The response confirmed that discussions had been taking place between BIS and DECC but that was all it said. And how did it justify witholding the information? Because the ‘safe space’ may be affected and this could have a ‘chilling effect’. Honestly that’s what it says.
The second request wanted to know how the PM’s shale gas community benefit numbers had been produced. Now, when I said biased and unsubstantiated earlier I did mean it. I really meant it. So, the numbers that DECC and the PM’s office used in the press release are based on numbers which were initially developed for an IoD shale gas report (in the ‘influencing’ section of its website)(did I mentioned this was sponsored by Caudrilla?). These numbers were then subsequently used in a press release by the UK Onshore Operators Group on the 27th June last year. This group is a lobby group for the onshore gas industry run by a group called Newgate Communications. Very good lobbying to be fair when your own press release is used by the PM’s office. The one plus is that the IoD report does have some nice animals on its front cover (see below).
Now, I’m gonna throw this out there. I’m not vehemently opposed to shale gas. If done properly it probably can provide some gas in the UK – probably not much though. In fact it may be so little, that it’s not worth doing. This is what National Grid says in its 2013 energy scenarios:
Basically, even in the stretch scenario, onshore gas (including biogas) provides a max 8-10% of gas supply in 2030, not enough to help bills and certainly not enough to even offset imports. To put this into perspective, between 2000 and 2010, we went from being sufficient in gas to importing 60% of it.
The fact is, shale gas is a complete sideshow in the UK energy debate but it does provide a hook for the existing market players. Maybe that’s where all the noise is coming from.
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