Friday, 23 May 2014

Renewable energy or Fracking?

There are now proposals to make it easier for energy companies to get permission for fracking for oil and gas [1]. This comes just a few days after Russia has just signed a gas trade deal with China [2]. If Russia sells its gas to China rather than to Europe, then where is Europe going to get its gas from? Is fracking the answer? I believe not. Fracking might bring many good things but renewable energy ticks all the same boxes and more.

Good thingsFrackingRenewable
Lower energy pricesNoNo
Though prices for renewable energy are at least stable compared to fossil fuel prices.
DECC recently announced 8 renewable energy projects supporting 6,500 jobs [3].
Reduces our trade deficitYesYesSee 'What could fracking do to our trade deficit'
Improves energy securityYesYesThough granted gas is more secure than wind as it is not weather dependent - we need energy storage too.
Helps to reduce climate change NoYesFracking will reduce carbon emissions if the gas generated is used to instead of coal and oil, but there is no reason to suppose it will. Where there is a choice industry chooses the cheaper option and coal is cheaper than gas.
Proven technology NoYesEarlier this year Cuadrilla announced that it would take 5 years and 20-40 wells to even find out if fracking is viable here [4]. The geology is different from in the US and it may be necessary to develop new methods.

We have a big problem in that we are dependent on gas for heating in most of our buildings. Renewables can directly replace gas for generating electricity but not in our gas boilers and switching over to electrically driven heat pumps is not a simple matter. I believe the best way forward on this could be to use 'excess' wind to generate more gas. This technology is not yet proven on a commercial scale - but nor is fracking in the UK.

The way David Cameron carries on you would think the UK public was just being bloody minded about fracking. Less than half of us now support it [5]. In comparison, even onshore wind is more popular - 62% of us would rather live near a wind farm than a fracking site [6]. Maybe this is because we take a longer view than Mr. Cameron.

[1] Government proposals to simplify deep underground access for shale gas and geothermal industries (DECC) 23rd May 2014
[2] Russia signs 30-year gas deal with China (BBC News) 21 May 2014
[3] Government unveils eight major new renewables projects, supporting 8,500 green jobs (DECC) 23 April 2013
[4] UK shale gas viability check will take five years, says Cuadrilla boss
(Guardian) 31 January 2014
[5] British fracking support falls below 50%, poll shows 19 May 2014
[6] Britons favour onshore wind over fracking by three to one (Ecotricity) 14 April 2014

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