Fracking: a Study in Stupidity

There is something about humanity that thinks if you can dig up a resource from the good earth, it is free and you can use that resource to enrich humanity individually and collectively. We dig up many resources from coal to oil, and from gold to lithium to enrich ourselves (or some of us) materially with these resources at the same time impoverishing ourselves in ways you cannot judge with mere money.

Nothing is free in this great planet: everything is connected; so if we dig up and burn coal to produce heat and other energy, a by product of digging up coal is to damage our lungs and in some cases to create the deaths of some of those who do the digging as well as those who close to the slag heaps carelessly dumped close to schools and homes.

But people stupidly ignore this inter connectivity of resources in their quest for enrichment, and so has it been with fracking. In theory fracking is a way of getting cheap natural gas from under the earth where it has been stored in shale rock for hundreds and thousands of millennia. Readers of these essays will know that I have always opposed fracking; it has always been clear that the risks to the many are greater than the rewards that the few and the many may reap from fracking.

I have listened to eminent people claim that fracking is safe and will contribute to our energy security by lessening our dependence on imported natural gas by producing home grown energy. I have never subscribed the the view that fracking is safe. I regarded fracking as presenting three major risks in the following order of importance and risk:

  1. Risk of methane leaking into and infecting water tables;
  2. Risk of methane, an insidious greenhouse gas, leaking into the atmosphere and
  3. Risk of causing earthquakes by damage to the rocks from which methane is extracted by explosions.

In the past view days the government has called a moratorium on fracking in this country. An earthquake of 2.9 on the Richter scale seems to have been caused by fracking and the advice the government has got is that it is impossible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by fracking and so it has suspended all fracking until it can know that fracking is safe.

Having suspended fracking on the basis of the third in importance of risk (in my view) I cannot see that racking will ever return to the United Kingdom, where the geology is unsuitable, there is dense population and where so much of our water depends on clean water tables: all rise to all three potential risks are serious and health and life threatening. However, with humanity you can never say “never” as we stupidly continue to pursue our quest for material wealth at the cost of the environment.

Had the government listened to views like mine the money wasted on fracking could have been better spent on benign energy (like wind and solar) preventing the waste of energy and improving renewable energy and preventing the use of unnecessary energy. Fracking was bound to be dangerous and to me this was obvious.

Andrea Leadsom, the UK minister responsible for science, said that the decision to call a moratorium on fracking follows the science. It is a shame that the government did not follow the science and the common sense when it permitted fracking in the first place. Fracking in the UK has been simply a study in stupidity.

The Effect on Climate of coal, diesel and wood burning

I have written a great deal about my views that particulates are a significant contribution to the changes that our climate are experiencing than we understand, and my instincts seem to be borne out by research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.  If the research has drawn the correct conclusions, then particulates from wood burning, diesel engines and coal burning (which create pure carbon in the form of soot) have twice more impact on our climate than previously estimated. Continue reading

Oil Leaks Again – are we surprised?

Chevron seems to find it hard to keep oil contained inBrazil. It was fined $100 million for a large leak in one of its Brazilian oil fields that leaked 3000 barrels of oil in November 2011 and less than three months later there is another leak in the same oil field which Chevron describes as a small new seepage, and add that there is no evidence that the leak was caused by their drilling or indeed anyone’s drilling. Continue reading

UK Energy Statistics 3rd Quarter 2011

The Department of Energy & Climate Change has published statistics showing energy trends for the third quarter of 2011. The statistics show, comparing the position with the third quarter in 2010:- Continue reading

The Fourteen Billion

I was re-reading a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. Asimov was born in 1920, and each story is prefaced with an explanation of how he came to write it. At the end of the story the note continues with an end piece. Although Asimov was famous as a writer of science fiction – I, Robot was made into a film but it was not his best work – he was also a scientist of renown. Continue reading

Make it Easy for People to use Off Peak Electricity

With all the news about energy costs and all the measures that the government is urging upon people in the United Kingdom to reduce their energy costs by switching suppliers, it seems to me that the government is missing a fairly simple way to reduce energy consumption and save money which will benefit the consumer and the environment.

The idea that I have revolves around electricity costs. These are not for most people the largest energy bill they receive – they usually spend more on gas , but the government has for at least the past ten years equated energy with electricity, so perhaps they will like this idea for saving electricity costs and consumption.

Much of the fuel used in generating electricity from non nuclear power stations is used in firing up the power stations. Nuclear produced electricity cannot be turned on and off quickly – it takes days or weeks to get the nuclear power station working and to stop it working. Gas, coal and oil supplied power stations can be turned on and off (or up and down) more easily and they do this. In the course of doing this much energy is wasted as they will turn up the power some time before they expect a surge of demand and turn it down when they expect the use to be less.

Our UK power supplies at the moment stable, which means that the management of power is done well, but in order for it to be done well the power generating companies inevitably have to waste fuel, which means that emissions are wastefully produced and unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions are produced.

Some but not all parts of the country have “off peak electricity” so called because there is a separate meter that is feed to electric storage heaters which is fed at night using cheap electricity when electricity is not in demand, and the storage heaters feed their heat in the day, when heat is needed.

My concept is to expand this use of white electricity. With the technology available to us today there is no reason why every electric meter could not be set to charge at different rates according to the time of day when the current is used. People then, who use electrical appliances could set their appliances to come on when electricity is in low demand and current could be used then. It would not be rocket science to set up and the technology could easily be incorporated into the smart meters that are supposed to be rolling out over the country.

My concept will not save billions of pounds or millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases but it would produce savings because on many matters people act to benefit their wallets and not their conscious.

Warmth in a Changing Climate: more thinking required

I have always wondered why a think tank is so named. Is it supposed to be like a military tank, that trundles through battlefields and cities firing shells or a fish tank in which in a special environment sheltered for the protection of the thinkers the thinkers can operate. Perhaps it is a water tank, with thinkers encapsulated inside, shielded, but that cannot be it. Continue reading

Photovoltaic versus Solar Thermal – Energy Production

Sometimes politicians forget the plot. The plot is climate change. The only point of solar panels is to produce carbon emission free energy, but now in many countries the point seems to be simply having solar panels themselves. I should add that there are two types of solar panels but the government are subsidising the wrong type. Continue reading

The air that I breathe…

“Sometimes, all I need is the air we breathe and to love you” the Hollies sang, but although we need a bit more than air, we do need air to be clean, free from pollution and of high quality. In the United Kingdom, in the face of the fresh westerly winds that gather moisture and discharge moisture and particulates into the Atlantic Ocean, we should have cleaner air than many places, but our air quality is declining and our people are increasingly suffering from disease and mortality caused by poor air quality. Continue reading

Australia Announces a new Tax on Carbon Dioxide Emissions

No one likes to pay tax and everyone can think of many reasons why any particular tax is bad. New taxes are particularly unpopular and take time to get used to. A new tax has to become acceptable for reasons that people can understand.

There is no clearer case for taxation that taxes that help prevent environmental damage or at least provide some compensation for the activities of those who damage the environment. Continue reading