Cameron Throws a Penny In the Shale Gas Well and Hopes His Wishes Come True
By Mat Hope
Shale gas has become a national talking point in recent weeks. The media debate has hit overdrive, with strong rhetoric occasionally displacing the facts. And now the UK Prime Minister (PM) has got in on the act—throwing his weight behind the creation of a UK shale gas industry.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron is optimistic that exploiting shale gas can bring energy prices down, create jobs and help communities. He says that for those reasons, the UK "cannot afford to miss out on fracking." Evidence suggests the prime minister's optimistic claims should come with some caveats, however.
Cameron says adding shale gas to the UK's energy mix has "real potential to drive energy bills down." His claim contrasts with a number of reports that suggest shale gas production is unlikely to stop gas prices rising. He claims it's a simple calculation: more domestic energy production equals lower costs.
Research suggests shale gas may not affect bills until the 2020s, however. The London School of Economics's Grantham Institute and the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, conclude this is because shale gas won't be competitive with gas imports for another decade. The government's own analysis suggests gas could cost about 10 pence per therm more in the 2020s than it does today.
It claims gas prices could go down if the U.S.'s shale gas boom continues, China exploits its reserves in a big way and a European shale gas industry—including in the UK—takes off. That could allow the UK to import gas more cheaply, potentially reducing bills.
So if shale gas production is going to reduce household bills, it needs to develop across the globe—not just in the UK. Even then, imports are likely to have a greater effect on prices than increasing the UK's domestic supply.
The prime minister claims developing a UK shale gas industry could create 74,000 jobs. But the number of jobs depends on how much shale gas there is, and how easy it is toextract.
The figure comes from an Institute of Directors report. But environmental campaign group, Greenpeace, has called the estimate "wildly optimistic" as it is based on figures from North Sea and US oil and gas production, which it describes as a "completely different" industry.
It's also questionable whether the UK currently has enough skilled workers to take the jobs. A survey by recruitment website, oilandgaspeople.com, found that 44 percent of respondents believe recruiters and companies will have to pay higher wages to hire qualified overseas staff to meet a sudden growth in demand.
So the number of jobs the industry can create will depend on how quickly it develops, and whether there are people with the skills to take them, which is hard to predict at this early stage.
Cameron hopes the community benefit package offered by industry to residents willing to host wells will be enough to stymie public opposition to fracking. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently announced that communities will get £100,000 for every well they host, alongside one percent of the well's revenue if gas is extracted.
The industry needs to drill exploratory wells before it can properly estimate how significant the UK's shale gas industry might be. But as the Balcombe protests show, not everyone is happy to have a frack pad in their community.
And paying off communities may not be the best approach, according to research by Geoff Wood, from the University of Dundee's Centre for Energy, Petroleum, and Mineral Law and Policy. Wood argues that communities need to be involved throughout the planning process if the government wants to prevent them obstructing projects later.
Only time will tell if the current scheme will be enough to encourage communities to sign on the dotted line—recent evidence suggests it might not.
A key cause for concern is the impact fracking might have on the local environment. Shale gas is extracted by firing water at chemicals at high pressure into shale rock, cracking it and releasing the gas. This has led to—sometimes overstated—claims that fracking can stimulate earthquakes and pollute local water sources.
The prime minister says the risks are minimal as "the regulatory system in this country is the most stringent in the world". Nonetheless, the UK's shale gas regulation is still being formulated, and the Environment Agency is yet to finalize the rules for the commercial exploitation.
There are risks involved in any form of energy production. Once the fracking rules are in place, expect a heated debate over whether or not they are sufficient to protect against the worst impacts.
Shale gas is likely to play a role in the UK's future energy mix, but the government and media are getting ahead of industry development. At the moment, Cameron's claims make fracking seem a little too free and easy—time will tell if the Prime Minister's optimism is justified.
This article originally appeared on Carbon Brief.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
French winemakers are facing devastating grape loss from the worst frost in decades, preceded by unusually warm temperatures, highlighting the dangers to the sector posed by climate change.
"An important share of the harvest has been lost. It's too early to give a percentage estimate, but in any case it's a tragedy for the winegrowers who have been hit," said Christophe Chateau, director of communications at the Bordeaux Wine Council, told CNN.
Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, has pushed winegrowing seasons earlier, putting crops at higher risk of cold — and wildfires supercharged by climate change also threaten American vignerons and farmworkers as well.
"I think it's good for people to understand that this is nature, climate change is real, and to be conscious of the effort that goes into making wine and the heartbreak that is the loss of a crop," Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy's Côte de Nuits told Wine Enthusiast.
As reported by Wine Enthusiast:
Last week, images of candlelit French vineyards flooded social media. Across the country, winemakers installed bougies, or large wax-filled metal pots, among the vines to prevent cold air from settling in during an especially late frost.
With temperatures in early April as low as 22°F, and following an unseasonably warm March, this year's frost damage may be the worst in history for French winegrowers. Every corner of France reports considerable losses, from Champagne to Provence, and Côtes de Gascogne to Alsace. As a result, there will likely be very little French wine from the 2021 vintage reaching U.S. shores.
For a deeper dive:
- Climate Crisis Could Destroy Most Vineyards - EcoWatch ›
- Sustainable Wine Is Less Damaging to the Environment, But How ... ›
- In Europe, Climate Change Brings New Crops and Ideas - EcoWatch ›
- California Winery Cuts Carbon Emissions With Lighter Bottles ... ›
Climate change could make it harder to find a good cup of coffee, new research finds. A changing climate might shrink suitable areas for specialty coffee production without adaptation, making coffee taste blander and impacting the livelihoods of small farms in the Global South.
Published in Scientific Reports on Wednesday, the study focused on regions in Ethiopia, Africa's largest coffee-producing nation. Although studies have previously documented the impact of climate change on coffee production, what's less understood is how varying climates could change the flavors of specialty coffee, the researchers wrote.
The team aimed to fill this gap. Their results provide a glimpse into how future climate change could impact local regions and economies that rely on coffee cultivation, underscoring the value of local adaptation measures.
Researchers analyzed how 19 different climate factors, such as mean temperatures and rainfall levels, would affect the cultivation of five distinct specialty coffee types in the future, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) reported. Although researchers found that areas suitable for growing "average quality coffee" may actually increase over time with climate change, regions where specialty coffee is grown will shrink — a pending problem in light of the global demand for high-quality coffee.
"This is an issue not just for coffee lovers, but for local agricultural value creation," Abel Chemura, the study's lead author, told the PIK.
Coffee profiles rely on specific climate patterns for their unique flavors, levels of acidity and fragrances. But in a warmer climate, the coffee cherry — the fruit picked from a coffee plant — matures faster than the bean inside, making for a lower quality cup of coffee, the PIK reported.
For example, the sought-after Yirgacheffe variety of coffee, which is cultivated in southwestern Ethiopia, could lose more than 40 percent of its suitable growth area by the end of the century, PIK reported. This could impact small farms and threaten Ethiopia's economy, the researchers noted.
"If one or more coffee regions lose their specialty status due to climate change this has potentially grave ramifications for the smallholder farmers in the region," Christoph Gornott, co-author of the study, told the PIK. "If they were forced to switch to growing conventional, less palatable and bitter coffee types, they would all of the sudden compete with industrial production systems elsewhere that are more efficient." In a country where coffee exports account for nearly a third of all agricultural exports, "this could prove fatal," Gornott added.
Climate change impacts on coffee production are not unique to Ethiopia. In Columbia's mountainous coffee-growing regions, temperatures are warming by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, according to Yale Environment 360. Extreme levels of precipitation, which are becoming more common, also impact production, as they spread insect and fungal diseases.
"In earlier times, the climate was perfect for coffee," one small farmer in Columbia told Yale Environment 360. "In the period of flowering, there was summer. During harvest, there was winter. But from 2008 onward, this changed and we now don't know when it will be summer, when the coffee will blossom."
But researchers say there are glimmers of hope, emphasizing the importance of local adaptation measures that are designed for particular climates and communities. For example, in regions where temperature is an important factor for specialty coffee cultivation, the researchers suggest improved agroforestry systems that could maintain canopy temperatures, a promising step toward sustaining the "availability and taste of one of the world's most beloved beverages and, more importantly, on economic opportunities in local communities of the Global South," Gornott concluded.
By Suzanne Cords
One day Lizzie, the first-person narrator of the novel, receives an old book as a gift, with a dedication wishing the reader to be among the survivors. Like the preppers who build bunkers and stockpile supplies in remote areas to be ready for the end of the world, Lizzie is convinced that the end of the world is definitely near in times of a threatening climate disaster.
Lizzie, who lives in New York with her husband and son, is a university campus librarian. She worries about almost everything: her brother, an ex-junkie, or her dental insurance and the future in the face of the apocalypse. She is obsessed with reading reference books and articles about climate change.
She also devours words of wisdom, including about Buddhist spirituality: "A visitor once asked the old monks on Mount Athos what they did all day, and was told: We have died and we are in love with everything." But nothing can lift her spirits.
'Lizzie Is Just Like Us'
Lizzie observes rich New Yorkers plan their move to regions that are less threatened by climate change, something she simply cannot afford. Sometimes she watches disaster movies, which lead her to worry even more.
Above all, she is a gifted observer of her fellow human beings. "Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do, does?"
Lizzie, the U.S. author told DW, is a bit like the rest of us — well aware of the climate crisis, but because she cares and worries about so many other things, that awareness falls by the wayside. That's how she felt herself, Jenny Offill said, but the more she looked into the issue, the more she saw a need for action on her part, too.
"I also was trying to see if there was a way to make it funny, because, you know, so much of the world of prepping and imagining disaster is actually sort of strangely funny."
The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 UK's Women's Prize for Fiction and has now been released in German translation.
Climate Activist With a Vision
But then, there is also this serious, scientifically based concern about what climate change means. In the past, says Offill, artists were the ones who would predict disasters; today it's the experts, as well as the students she teaches. In the end, their fears and their justified anger motivated her to take a closer look at the issue. Today, she is a climate activist herself, and is involved in initiatives along with many other artists.
Lizzie, the heroine of Weather, hasn't gotten that far. But she voices her fears, and that's a start. "Of course, the world continues to end," says Sylvia, a mentor of Lizzie's, at one point — and commences to water her garden. There is hope after all.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- 16 Essential Books About Environmental Justice, Racism and ... ›
- The Newest Books by Women Fighting the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- 10 Best Books On Climate Change, According to Activists - EcoWatch ›
By Jake Johnson
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump's attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
Though the Trump administration appealed the ruling, President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration's appeal.
"Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities," the court said in its order.
Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump's order, said in a statement that "we welcome today's decision and its confirmation of President Obama's legacy of ocean and climate protection."
"As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage," Grafe continued. "One obvious place for immediate action is America's Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, which the previous administration sought to relegate to oil development in a series of last-minute decisions that violate bedrock environmental laws."
VICTORY: 9th Circuit ends fight over President Trump's illegal attempt to open up 128 million acres of Atlantic & A… https://t.co/TvYVt2F1jO— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1618347073.0
In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision environmentalists hailed as a positive step that should be made permanent.
"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said at the time. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Biden Urged to Ban ANWR Drilling After Court Approves Leases ... ›
- Court Rejects Trump's Arctic Drilling Proposal in 'Huge Victory for ... ›
- Coast Guard Makes Dire Warning About Drilling in the Arctic ... ›
- Will Oil Companies Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ... ›
By 2035, every new car and truck sold in the U.S. could be an EV, a new report says.
Accelerations in technology and especially battery affordability, paired with new policy, mean the dramatic transition would save American drivers $2.7 trillion by 2050, an average savings of $1,000 per household per year.
The ramp up in EV production would also create 2 million new jobs by 2035. Battery prices have fallen 74% since 2014, and their unexpectedly rapid fall is a key driver of the cost savings.
EVs are far simpler mechanically, and more efficient, than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which translates to reduced climate pollution and lower costs for consumers.
Strengthened vehicle efficiency standards and investment in fast charging infrastructure are needed to accelerate the transition, which would prevent 150,000 premature deaths and save $1.3 trillion in health environmental costs by 2050.
For a deeper dive: