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Thursday 5 May 2011

Del Boy Revisits The Shale Sale

The return yesterday of Maily Telegraph blogger James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole from a brief exile saw him once again extol the supposed virtues of shale gas. In sole support of his claims, Del Boy cites a report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) which also extols the energy source.

The GPWF calls itself a “think tank”. Its office space is rented from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. Benny Peiser, its director, has declined to reveal who is funding the organisation – which puts the GWPF in the same category as our old friends at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).

The GWPF’s report begins with a Foreword from Freeman Dyson, scientist and contrarian, who asserts “Because of shale gas, the air in Beijing will be cleaned up as the air in London was cleaned up sixty years ago” [my emphasis]. Dyson is plain flat wrong with his timeline.

Sixty years ago, when London abandoned its tram network, the air quality was not “cleaned up”. It got worse, and only after the Great Smog of December 1952 was legislation passed in 1956. London’s air quality was improved, not by gas as Dyson suggests, but by Government intervention and the subsequent move to burning smokeless fuels.

So when the GWPF report tells of shale gas as “the cheapest and most effective way to hasten the decarbonisation of the world economy”, one should be on guard. Because shale gas does not bring decarbonisation. This brief overview of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process used to release natural gas from shale gives an idea of current concerns.

And, quite apart from the potential of shale gas to be dirtier than coal or oil, which I considered back in February, is the recent linking of the fracking process to increased seismic activity in parts of the USA. From an area of northern Texas to West Virginia to Arkansas, fracking is suspected of being behind an increase in the number of earthquakes.

It is because of concerns not just over seismic activity, but also the cocktail of chemicals added to fresh water before it is pumped into injection wells, and the potential for pollution of groundwater, that any responsible Government should tread carefully when the energy lobby comes calling.

Delingpole, by refusing to acknowledge these legitimate concerns, and heaping abuse on those who do not share his views, along with his belief in The Great Conspiracy, advances his cause not one millimetre, while freely spraying any residual credibility up the wall.

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