Shale gas will challenge renewables policy
Time will tell whether shale gas will reduce gas prices by half in the United Kingdom as has happened in the United States (your report, 13 February). If significant quantities are recoverable it will certainly undermine the economics of renewables – particularly wind. The economic case for renewables is particularly vulnerable as they are heavily dependant on public subsidy and are generally an inefficient and expensive way to produce energy.
The case for renewables rests almost entirely on the assumption that they are necessary to prevent dangerous climate change. That assumption is becoming increasingly untenable.
The link between CO2 emissions and increasing temperatures is becoming more uncertain in light of recent observational evidence and peer-reviewed literature.
Many have argued that public policy should follow the precautionary principle despite these uncertainties. However, there is evidence that our current course is having an immoral effect.
For example, the dash for bio fuels has taken large areas of productive land out of food production, which in turn has pushed up world food prices. The greatest effect of these increased prices is on the poor.
In addition, the cost of subsidies for renewables has added to the cost of energy prices – which proportionately has greater effect on poorest households. Money taken from the poorest in the form of renewable energy tariffs is channelled to those who can afford the capital for renewable energy schemes – often landowners or large companies.
As the debate on fracking gets under way in Scotland, it is important to factor in these negative effects of current public policy when considering environmental risks associated with extracting what appear to be large quantities of gas from underground.
If we can extract cheaper energy, it will do more than just help our economy and provide energy security.
It will help the poorest among us.
(Cllr) Cameron Rose
During the fracking debate outlined in your newspaper, I was surprised to read the Scottish Government spokesman’s comments that “In Scotland we need a diverse and balanced energy portfolio to provide us with secure and affordable heat and electricity for decades to come”.
Under no stretch of the imagination can Alex Salmond’s policy of covering the landscape and coastal waters with wind turbines be termed “diverse” and “balanced”. It smacks of putting all one’s eggs in one basket.
The publication of the Price-waterhouseCoopers (PwC) report should serve as a timely eye-opener for the Scottish Government.
Its authors suggest that if UK shale resources can be made to realise their full potential over the next 20 years, we all stand to benefit – by as much as £800 per head and by up to three per cent in additional GDP.
That’s because, in PwC’s view, there is a very good chance that household energy prices might actually fall significantly as a result of the energy held in shale rock.
At a time when more than a third of households in Scotland have been driven relentlessly into fuel poverty, the prospect of relief in the form of falling prices coupled with reduced carbon emissions must be welcomed.
Yet the SNP government has invested itself so deeply in its obsessive drive to “re-industrialise” Scotland with renewables paid for by energy consumers like you and me, that it seems blind to any rational alternative that might actually help the people of Scotland more than it helps rapacious overseas developers.
With governments all over the world now looking seriously at how safely and responsibly to extract shale energy in the decades ahead, Scotland’s world-leading oil and gas services sector should be in pole position to exploit our reserves while also exporting their talents overseas.
The Scottish Government must take urgent steps to support them now, before we end up as net importers of the shale oil that will be needed in years to come to back up our utterly useless – but ever expanding – national collection of wind farm follies.
Struan Stevenson MEP
The European Parliament
I appreciate being contacted by your reporter regarding the (PwC) report into shale oil. However, I was unable to comment fully as I hadn’t had an opportunity to read the report as it was under embargo until Thursday.
Having had a chance to read it, I would argue that the claims PwC make are unsubstantiated. It claims Scotland has £5 billion worth of unconventional gas.
However, the economic and environmental cost of the extraction means that this production is only viable if the worldwide whole gas price remains high and environmental regulations are over-ridden – as happened in America where the shale gas industry was given exceptions from a wide range of environmental regulation.
Perhaps this is what Chancellor George Osborne intends for the UK when he talks about working to “ensure a simplified and streamlined regulatory process” for the unconventional gas industry.
PwC then claims the reserves of unconventional gas worldwide are such that they will reduce oil prices. Since unconventional gas by its nature is only viable when energy prices are high, it’s not hard to see the circular nature of the argument.
PwC and its clients have vast sums invested in the gas and oil industries. If this was invested in a long-term low-carbon renewable energy strategy, this could set Scotland and the rest of the world on a track for a sustainable energy future.
Frack Off Scotland Campaign
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