ENERGY strategy in Britain has three big goals; keeping the lights on, keeping the bills down, and moving to a clean energy future. We need to meet the UK’s demand for energy, using clean and low carbon energy sources if we are to continue to combat climate change and grow the economy. But this isn’t something which will simply happen overnight. It will take time as we start to move to more renewable and low carbon energy sources. Moving from coal to gas would make a huge contribution to reducing our carbon footprint, and is the ‘bridge’ we need for many years to come. The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers’ money to fund renewable energy generation. There isn’t, and even if there was, we would still need gas – as a reliable source of electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.
Andrea Leadsom, Energy and Climate Change Minister, UK Government
THE pursuit of shale gas is a fool’s errand when renewables can deliver what’s needed for an energy revolution. This is especially true for the 1.3 billion globally who lack any access to electricity, and for those who live ‘off-grid’ who need decentralised and locally appropriate technologies, but it’s also true for energy systems in the global North. Like new coal and new nuclear power, investment in unconventional gas is a serious distraction from badly-needed investment in renewable energy. There has been some research from the US which indicates that extracting shale gas via fracking could have a bigger total greenhouse gas footprint than coal. Apart from the climate impacts, gas extraction is the source of serious environmental and social conflicts around the world. Development of gas pipelines and infrastructure drive land grabbing and we believe threatens water resources and biodiversity in many places. Furthermore, we believe there are significant risks of water contamination and air pollution from fracking.
Friends of the Earth International
IT is incontrovertible that in the long-term we must move to as low carbon as practicable technologies but the tools for this (carbon capture and storage and renewable energy technologies) are not currently ready to satisfy global energy demand and poverty alleviation needs and some may never be economical or implementable. Shale gas has the potential, if managed and regulated with diligence and authority, to provide some of the necessary reduction in CO2 while delivering energy to a rapidly growing but carbon-constrained world.
Professor Peter Styles, a British geologist and professor of Applied and Environmental Geophysics at Keele University
ALTERNATIVE sources of energy can become a satisfactory substitute for fossil fuels if we put as much effort and genius in the effort as we did in producing the first atomic bomb. The most satisfactory single alternative would be hydrogen fusion but that quasi-miracle may be beyond our capability. We may discover that wind, solar, biomass, etc., all piled on top of each other, may have to do, but their success may turn out to require an effort that started a generation ago. Essential to any and all success is the realisation on our part that we may be able to do anything, which includes fail.
Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus of History, Geography, and American Studies at the University of Texas
FOR the past four months, natural gas, which is cleaner than coal, has generated the largest share of America’s electricity. But some, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, believe it’s already time to begin replacing natural gas with wind and solar energy. These renewables are growing, but from a very small base, and only with billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies. Wind and solar have other issues: the wind does not always blow nor the sun shine. So, renewables need backup energy, mostly from natural gas. Instead of relying on government mandates to transform our energy sector, let’s allow the marketplace to work. America’s huge, low-cost supply of natural gas is the product of innovation and entrepreneurship. This American form of problem-solving has produced a market-competitive solution to help us turn the corner on energy costs and emissions which are now at their lowest level for 27 years. No other country has been able to replicate this American success story. Of course, many renewable energy advocates would like to see us abandon market principles altogether. But if we do, we not only drive up energy prices, but slow the pace of innovation.
Dr J Winston Porter, former EPA assistant administrator in Washington DC. He is now an energy and environmental consultant, based in Savannah, Georgia, USA
FOR more than a year the Task Force on Shale Gas has explored the potential impacts, positive and negative, of creating a shale gas industry in the UK. In December we published our final recommendations. We are convinced that gas is required as part of the UK’s energy mix for the short and medium term. It is simply not feasible to create a renewables industry that can meet all our energy needs in the short term. Gas represents an environmentally cleaner alternative to coal. The adverse climate impact of shale gas is similar to conventional gas and less than LNG. Our conclusion from all the evidence we have gathered over the past year is clear. The risk from shale gas to the local environment or to public health is no greater than that associated with comparable industries provided, as with all industrial works, that operators follow best practice.
Lord Chris Smith, Chairman, Task Force on Shale Gas to UK Government
THE International Energy Agency sees renewables providing an ever-greater share of the global energy supply, but fossil fuels are not going away soon. In the central scenario of our flagship World Energy Outlook, global energy demand rises about one third by 2040. Renewables will contribute to that surge, to be sure, but so will natural gas: in fact, under all WEO scenarios, gas has at least a one fourth share of global energy in 2040. Shale gas has increased the shift of some electricity generation from coal, and further development of natural gas, along with renewables, is critical to a diverse, secure and sustainable energy supply in the coming decades.
Laszlo Varro, Chief Economist, The International Energy Agency
THE US experiment with shale gas has shown that, given the right resources and massive drilling efforts, significant amounts of natural gas can be produced. However, it has also shown that production tends to be short-term (wells deplete rapidly), that resources vary greatly in quality (only the ‘sweet spots’ are profitable), that water and air pollution can result from drilling, and that methane leaks erase any climate benefit of shale gas over coal. In contrast, renewable energy resources represent the future of energy – with declining costs and far lower environmental impacts.
Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute
WE want to be very clear: solar cells, wind turbines, and biomass-for-energy plantations can never replace even a small fraction of the highly reliable, 24-hoursa- day, 365-days-a-year, nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations. Claims to the contrary are popular, but irresponsible. We live in a hydrocarbon-limited world, generate too much CO2, and major hydropower opportunities have been exhausted worldwide.
Tad W. Patzek, Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin
PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a regulation designed by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce US power sector CO2 emissions 32% below 2005 levels. Because each state has a unique energy mix, the Clean Power Plan sets state-specific reduction goals and provides the flexibility to meet them through individual compliance plans. No matter how states choose to implement the plan, it is well understood that natural gas is the most cost-effective way to advance our clean energy goals while ensuring continued economic growth. That is why natural gas will continue to be an essential component of how America produces energy for years to come. In fact, the Energy Information Administration reported that in April power sector carbon emissions had reached the lowest level since 1988. Not coincidentally, April was the first time in history that natural gas overtook coal as the number one fuel source for electricity.
America’s National Gas Alliance