Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cameron, Fracking and Climate Change

There are some who will rejoice in David Cameron's recent pronouncements on the joy of fracks. For those of us jealously looking at what has happened in the US, fracking has seemed like an absolute gift and have been desperately hoping that we in the UK would take advantage of shale gas and oil in the same way. For a long time we've watched the liberal establishment, including large chunks of the government, spreading lies and disinformation or else pandering to the green lobby. We've watched the manoeuvring in the EU as moves have been made to block the advance to market of shale gas. And, let's be honest, we're still a way off commercial exploitation of shale. But, that said, the fact remains that the recent announcement of additional incentives to local authorities to allow exploratory drilling is step in the right direction. The question is, however, is it the right thing to do? And, further, does this mean that David Cameron is no longer a green true-believer?

The reason for doubting the wisdom of the new incentives - allowing local authorities to keep 100% of business rates collected from shale gas schemes - is that it plays into the hands of those who portray fracking as dangerous, unhealthy, polluting, toxic and so on. If, as those of us who support fracking contend, it is safe, non-toxic and non-polluting, then why allow the extra incentives? If it's so positive, why the bribes? This is exactly what opponents will say and are saying. People will be told that they are being bribed, that they are selling out to the energy industry, that their acquiescence is being bought cheaply. Furthermore, opponents will claim that this is a subsidy and that it is yet another example of the fossil fuel industry being heavily subsidised. Yes, it's nonsense, but opponents of fossil fuels play fast and loose with things like definitions of subsidies. So, to those people and the green propagandists in the BBC and mainstream media, giving local authorities more revenues is a subsidy, but the feed-in tariffs and the panoply of schemes that hand over our money to wind and solar farms are not subsidies.

The bottom-line is that the incentives may actually back-fire in that they fuel suspicion and play into existing green narratives that seems all forms of fossil fuels - including the lower CO2 emitting shale gas - as inherently evil and to be attacked and stopped at all costs.

Now, to the question as to whether this change of heart on fracking signals that David Cameron is no longer a true believer. There are those on the left who have always assumed that Dave is really a cynical opportunist who has played the green card for political reasons alone. But the evidence doesn't stand much scrutiny. Dave may not have many principles, but he subscribes pretty much to the liberal line on most issues and particularly when it comes to environmentalism. Which is why he continues to make alarmist comments about climate change and will continue to do so no matter what the scientific evidence shows. He can justify his support for fracking because it reduces carbon emissions compared to burning coal, and because the US has shown that it can reduce overall emissions while delivering reliable power. In other words, for a pragmatic green politician fracking makes a lot of sense, and it's only the out and out fanatic like Caroline Lucas of the Green Party who cannot see that fracking makes sense even within the logic of anthropogenic global warming.

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