This article starts talking about gas, then talks about cheap electricity. This shows the confused mishmash surrounding anything to do with energy. Gas shouldn't be being used to convert it to electricity and squeezed down the electricity grid, it should be sent down the existing GAS grid to be used as GAS by consumers.
Energy Minister Christopher Huhne has an opinion piece in the The Daily Telegraph today – and it's really an 800-word explanation of why we need a new Energy Minister. The subject of Huhne's essay is new, cheap gas. The article finds the minister on the defensive about shale gas: it's why he's taking his argument into print. …
Wednesday 9th November 2011 14:32 GMT Anonymous Coward
Quote '(France has bowed to its powerful nuclear lobby by imposing a moratorium on unconventional gas exploration, but since France's electricity is already so cheap – the cheapest in Europe, in fact – it doesn't need shale anything like as much as the rest of Europe does.)'
Perhaps we should tell our anti-nuclear lobby to go fuck itself (along with all the Greens who 'simply adore' windfarms) then we can have cheap electricity (or not given the UK government's propensity to tax everything to the hilt then wring their hands and tell us its not really their fault but we are working on peoples well-being).
Wednesday 9th November 2011 14:32 GMT Hermes Conran
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:11 GMT Yag
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:58 GMT Mike Richards
It's not so long ago that EdF was the largest corporate debtor in the world despite having most of its nuclear costs either written off, transferred to the spreadsheets of the French government or simply ignored.
It must be easy to generate cheap power when you don't have to pay for anything.
Thursday 10th November 2011 09:43 GMT Yag
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:12 GMT SkippyBing
So, errr... how do you suggest we get electricity? Fairies?
I've no objection to the gas being used on the gas grid, but if the people digging it out of the ground want to sell it for people to make electricity then that's up to them. I think market forces come into it, although with the number of tariffs and bribes in the UK power system how that'll work out I've got no idea.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:58 GMT JP19
that's up to them
No it isn't. It is our ground and our gas underneath it so what happens to it is up to us.
All dead dino fuels are a limited resource and we should make the best use of them. Gas is the only fuel that fits in the huge existing network of pipes feeding our homes and buildings. It can also be liquefied for use in vehicles.
The last thing we should do (or have done) with this relatively clean portable and easily stored energy is piss it away in fixed power stations inefficiently turning it into a different form of clean portable and very expensive to store energy.
Thursday 10th November 2011 02:31 GMT HMB
No Gas, No Wind
If you don't want to burn up that gas for electricity, and I do sympathise with your reasoning, you'll have to make sure the Wind Turbines get scrapped or someone invents a way of storing mind boggling amounts of energy.
Gas driven electricity production keeps the lights on when the wind doesn't blow.
Let's also keep in mind that gas is only useful for heating and cooking. A well insulated home has a much greater need of electricity.
Also many homes aren't connected to the gas network, alarming numbers of trendy new apartment buildings too.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:57 GMT Dodgy Geezer
Wednesday 9th November 2011 23:59 GMT Ammaross Danan
You must also note that nuclear doesn't get subsidies to the extent that "green" windfarms and the like do. If you want to talk about "non profitable" nuclear, try looking at the windfarm books with the government subsidies taken away. Currently, with prospective gov't cost cuts to the renewable energies, we're starting to hear the cries of how unsustainable they truly are without gov't funding....
Wednesday 9th November 2011 14:33 GMT Dirk Vandenheuvel
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:58 GMT Dodgy Geezer
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:57 GMT Dirk Vandenheuvel
Wednesday 9th November 2011 23:58 GMT TopOnePercent
The only possible reason to care if your food comes from 8000 miles away or 8 meters is if you believe the unadultrated twaddle about global warming or man made climate change.
In the unlikely event we run low on gas, we can dig up our coal, or go nuclear. There's centuries worth of known energy reserves even assuming economic growth was booming.
I've decided that the Guardian has become simply too cheap for the damage it causes to society and should be increased to not less than £100 per issue. That should stop some of the nonsense being repeated ad-nauseum without sufficient consideration as to its implications.
Thursday 10th November 2011 00:00 GMT Sean Baggaley 1
Logistics 101: Big ships are cheaper than small ships.
... the larger a ship gets, the more *efficient* it is to run. The ship's engine only has to increase in power linearly, while the ship's *volume* increases *exponentially*. That's why cargo ships have become so damned huge that even the Panama Canal is having to be widened to accommodate them.
It literally costs *pennies* to ship goods like Australian Cheddar all the way from Australasia to Europe. Pennies! It's such a tiny fraction of the final price tag to the consumer at the end of the logistics chain that the costs of labour to manufacturer the item are far, far more influential on the final price tag. Cheese doesn't fundamentally care whether it's maturing in a cave in Australia, or in a container, deep inside the hold of the Emma Maersk on its way to London Thamesport.
Consider that the Chinese are already connected *by rail* to the United Kingdom, (albeit via the 5' Russian gauge, which does complicate matters) and have been since the Channel Tunnel opened, so it's not as if that option never existed. Yet they still prefer to send by ship whenever possible. Why? Because the ships carry far, far more containers per trip, and are cheaper to use for container-load freight that isn't in any particular hurry. An individual freight train simply cannot transport anywhere near as much freight as a ship: rail's primary advantage is speed, which makes it better suited to Just-In-Time logistics chains where stock turnover is quick and rapid delivery times are crucial.
So, no, that Australian Cheddar is _not_ "too cheap". Once you factor in all the costs—yes, even CO2 emissions!—it still costs less to import the stuff than to manufacture it (at great expense) in the UK, where farms tend to be much smaller than their famously vast antipodean counterparts. Economies of scale very clearly apply at both the production and shipping points in the logistics chain.
The UK, on the other hand, has very small farms—there's a bloody good reason why "DEFRA" was nicknamed "Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs" by British farmers—too much bureaucracy and high energy and fuel prices, which make it impossible to compete at the low end of the market. This is why so many British farmers, dairies and the like are so focussed on the high end, premium consumer markets. It's the only niche they have any hope of competing in.
Even British miners have been through this change. Unfortunately, nobody's ever been interested in marketing coal as a luxury, designer product.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 14:53 GMT sandman
As someone who is distincty green-tinged (not Colonial Defence Force) I don't see the problem with shale gas. Burning it still produces CO2, but a hell of a lot less than burning coal in a power station. Nuclear would be a still better option, but with long lead times and a lack of political will we need something in the interim. Even better, we don't have to get into bed with dodgy regimes (or be blackmailed by them) for our gas.
The whole fracking argument is a bit of a diversion, we've been setting off explosions underground for a long time, without causing major earthquakes or ground water contamination - it was called mining. I think the problem may lie in the name, a cross between fucking and cracking can't sound good!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:53 GMT Mike Richards
What's often ignored with any discussion of any gas is that it is rarely pure and needs to be sweetened before put into a pipeline. The two major acid gases in natural gas are hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide is easily reduced to sulfur, but carbon dioxide is regularly vented into the atmosphere at the treatment plant. Injection back into the field can be done, but isn't widespread. So when you add the carbon dioxide that comes up with the gas to the carbon dioxide that is produced by burning it, the actual savings from burning gas often aren't as good as made out.
Overall, gas is a better fuel than coal and oil, but it probably isn't good for the long term health of the planet.
As for fracking, yep it can cause 'quakes. But generally not big ones.
A few large 'quakes have been linked to injection of fluid into wells (the most famous being in Colorado where nerve gas waste was being pumped into a deep reservoir). But most are small, just like the swarms going on at Hellisheiði right now where Reykjavik Energy are injecting water to bring new geothermal boreholes online. (It's the little cluster of yellow and orange dots near the centre-left of the map between Reykjavik and Þingvallavatn (the big lake)
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:09 GMT Anonymous Coward
"Cheap power is no longer feasible, ministers reason, and electricity supply may become irregular, or intermittent, "
Any western government that is unable or unwilling to guarantee electricity supplies, in the 21st century no less, should be marched en masse into a retirement home for the mentally bewildered and locked in for the good of the gene pool.
They better make it somewhere the lynch mobs can't find also because if you thought the Poll Tax riots were bad you wont like the civil unrest that cutting off peoples power for no good reason provokes
Thursday 10th November 2011 14:42 GMT Intractable Potsherd
"Cheap power is no longer feasible"
Quite right. That is tantamount to declaring war on the population. It is it treason, and those holding these views need to get ready for the backlash when the rank-and-file realise that the government has been working to the detriment of us all.
It isn't only North African states that can decide that the current political system needs to change quickly.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:10 GMT Chad H.
Article fails to back up title
Maybe I missed it, but which part of the article detailed how this is a crisis for the greens?
Is Shale Gas limited? Yes
Does it pollute? Yes
Ergo, no crisis for the greens.
Look I agree with you guys on the ROC rought on wind power; but your solution to the energy problem assists in the creation of a greater problem.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:15 GMT smylar
Failure to understand!
They're not in crisis as in they are having an internal conflict about whether it's good or bad.
They are in full crisis mobilisation mode to absolutely kill shale gas, as it threatens their build windmills and Carbon free at all costs agenda.
Why, because it's very attractive to power companies, it'll be cheap, the technology is understood and requires little investment, and by the time it runs out we may actually have figured the alternative. It would substantially reduce carbon emissions as we could then decomission all the coal plants - this looks like a sensible phased approach to me, to cover the period before reliable cheapish low carbon technology actually appears! While keeping the not so well off from crucifying every green they come across!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:11 GMT PyLETS
Orlowski as energy minister ?
Don't make me laugh.
Better to have one who understands the need to diversify supplies. Pity the countries which can have the lights or winter heating turned off by a nuclear accident or over a pricing displute with a monopoly supplier. The fact that French nuclear electricity is massively subsidised doesn't mean we shouldn't include nuclear or carbon based or renewables in the mix, but to get most appropriate spend and proportions of these we should be aware of genuine as opposed to politically subsidised end-user prices.
"For example, full insurance against nuclear disasters would increase the price of nuclear electricity by a range of values—€ 0.14 per kWh up to € 2.36 per kWh—depending on assumptions made."
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:12 GMT Anonymous Coward
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:12 GMT Anonymous Coward
Everbody wants to go to Heaven..
... but nobody wants to die.
If you don't agree with energy produced (sadly), by coal, gas, and Nuclear, then turn yourself off the grid. Go buy your ultra-expensive solar cells, rig it with extra-pollutant heavy metals batteries, and let us be, and move somewhere where you can yell us consumist pigs and energy addicts into the wind, and make your home self-sustainable with a windmill, while you're at it.
Nobody came up with a better idea for energy, that's practical, in quantity, and/or as portable. We're stuck with gas and nuclear, until someone solves the teething problems with hydrogen cells. Until then, fell free to turn off your energy-hog-PC/notebook. I'm about to turn mine off.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:57 GMT frank 3
you forgot a measure the oil sector relies on.
"The UK's energy policy is anything but "technology neutral". It's full of measures created by lobby groups for their respective energy sectors."
You forgot a subsidy.
The fossil fuel industry requires a regular influx of 'dead english soldiers' and 'spent munitions' to produce 'dead arabs' er.... I mean 'friendly oil-producing states'
It's the same one you always forget Andrew.
Thursday 10th November 2011 01:34 GMT Sean Baggaley 1
I don't recall the UK and US invading Europe in 1944 in order to obtain more supplies of coal and gas.
Pretty damned sure Bosnia didn't have many fossil fuel resources either.
Oh, and neither did Vietnam. Or Korea. Contrary to Hollywood's attempts at historical re-enactments, US troops were _not_ the only ones shedding their blood on foreign soil in those conflicts: The US had New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other allies in Vietnam, while 686 soldiers from the UK were killed, 2,498 wounded, and 1,102 were classified as Missing/Prisoner of War in the Korean War during the 1950s.
Nevertheless, _all_ wars are ultimately fought over resources of some sort. Oil is merely the current fashionable choice for the discerning warmonger, but WW2 was started by the Germans over land. For the Koreans and Vietmanese conflicts, the resource was officially branded as "Freedom-O!® - The New Wonder Politics! (WARNING: May contain Capitalism)."
Resources need not be tangible, or even physical: they can be abstract. Prior to the 20th Century, most wars were basically primitive tribal thuggery, with the resource fought over being that of spreading one's political and social influence over a wider area (i.e. ruling more people than you currently do).
Executive Summary: Fighting wars over oil is not what the recent war in Iraq was about. The West's oil habit _may_ have swayed politicians into agreeing with an invasion of Afghanistan, but spending trillions of dollars on the _possibility_ of _maybe_ getting a slightly more stable supply of oil seems an awfully expensive option. The more plausible rationale is that Afghanistan (and Iraq) were primarily invaded in order to more easily spread the cultural meme that is "Western Civilisation".
Monday 14th November 2011 12:14 GMT Andrew Orlowski
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:57 GMT Beachrider
Cost of generating electricity...
In the USA today, Nuclear power is more expensive than Coal-fired or Natural Gas-fired plants. Up and comers include tactical-wind-generation (i.e. doing it where there is enough wind), within three years and solar-power, within 8 years.
Coal's costs do go up when 'scrubbing' of sulphur-compounds is added, but it still doesn't hit the costs of nuclear fuel+capital+maintenance. Don't expect a lot of nukes to go up on the USA anytime soon. Natural Gas is largely pipelined from Quebec and the Gulf of Mexico. New oil/gas reserves are fueling activity in North Dakota/Minnesota.
The Copenhagen/Kyoto accords were not signed by the USA or China (most everybody abandoned Kyoto, including Japan). Although carbon-loading is a key issue for public health, its dominant role in global-warming is disputed by many in the USA. Global warming is a FACT. How-much of that we ascribe to carbon-loading is in dispute.
Expect the USA to continue with fossil fuel electricity for at least 20 years. If Solar and Wind deliver to promise, they could achieve 20% in 10 years and 40% in 20.
That is about as 'green' as the USA is going to get, from a macroscopic perspective.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:54 GMT Swarthy
The true cost of Nukes
You mention fuel+capital+maintenace for nuclear being more expensive than a coal plant with scrubbers, and I can't argue against that, not having the number on hand; however, the fuel+maintenance for nukes is lower than the fuel costs for coal per MW over the course of a year(or five).
The capital is the part of the nuclear equasion where it all breaks down. The only nuke reactor currently under construction had ground broken in 1973! It's been sitting in purgetory as the various "Green" groups throw up road blocks to construction and/or operation. That's almost 40 years of intrest on loas, with no ROI.
Nuclear isn't expensive, the Greens are.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:58 GMT JohnMurray
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:59 GMT James Micallef
The energy prices table posted in the article is quite misleading because it looks only at capital cities. The cost ratio between London and the rest of the UK is a lot higher than that between many capital cities and their respective countries. Looking at the whole country, the UK prices come in 16th - 18th (depending on consumption) most expensive out of 27 EU states (source - http://www.energy.eu/), so actually electricity is quite cheap in the UK as it is.
Having said that the main rationale of the article holds - that countries focusing on alternative energy, especially wind, have higher bills (Germany and Denmark being by far the highest), while those focusing on nuclear have lower bills (France having the lowest cost of any 'developed' nation)
Shale gas is a good way forward, provided it is kept in mind that, however many years of supply are available, it is still NOT renewable and will eventually need to be replaced by a long-term solution, ideally fusion. Even if that is too far off, shale gas can be stop-gap to safer fission (thorium, pebble-bed etc) as a further stepping-stone to fusion.
Regarding the absolute cost, sure, cheap energy does lead to cheaper food and goods and better overall quality of life, however it also encourages wasteful practices (not even going into the 'too-much-carbon-being-put-in-the-atmosphere' bit, which is also a concern). Best way to make full use of cheap energy benefits without wastefulness is to put a levy on use above a certain level and use that levy to subsidise any usage below the cutoff level.
Thursday 10th November 2011 14:47 GMT Intractable Potsherd
"it also encourages wasteful practices" - so what? If energy is cheap an plentiful, what does it matter how it is used? Second, who is gong to decide what is "wasteful"?
However, congratulations - you have just added a new miserabilist, anti-technology, anti-humanist argument that I haven't heard before!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 15:59 GMT Thought About IT
"New, unconventional gas doesn't require any subsidies at all."
Well, that's not how they do it in Canada. British Columbia is providing the gas industry with 78 million cubic meters of free water each year for fracking:
If that's not a subsidy, I don't know what is!
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:22 GMT 0laf
Even if they fully exploit shale do you actually belie that any of the drop in gas prices will be passed onto the end consumer?
Not a feckin chance. The Gov will find a new tax to levy on it to keep prices at best fixed whilst still raising more revenue to pass onto poor developing nations with their own nuclear weapons programs, space programs, new formula one tracks etc whilst still telling the Brits we're evil for not freezing to death and if we're cold we should all spend £12k to save 50p to prop up the companies the greenies have invested in so they can keep buying ipads and soy latés.
Can we not burn MPs and greens as a clean for of energy? The amount of hot air the put out must contribute greatly to global warming/cooling climate panic.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 16:56 GMT Yet Another Anonymous coward
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:53 GMT Curly4
The events surrounding news like this is hysteria created by the media to keep up listeners, readers and/or viewers. In other words to improve THEIR bottom lines. This is short sighted though it may help the bottom line today but what dose it to the the nation (or world) tomorrow? But by whipping up the interest of the population the emotions can be manipulated by those who want a certain outcome to put pressure on the powers that be to get that outcome even though it may be the worst outcome in the long run.
All forms of energy needs to be researched and developed depending to the effect that form of energy will have on the future. Until we know what the unintended consequences are we should go slow. We know what we have now and how to mitigate some of the consequences with what we have now so be slow to replace the devil we know with a devil we don't know.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 19:54 GMT Richard 12
Dear Mr Huhne.
We should not bet the farm on wind and solar.
Everybody in the electricity industry knows that high penetration of wind and solar can only be a disaster, with the lights actually going out fairly soon.
Not this Parliament, and probably not the one after, but the one after that is ****ed.
Once the lights go out, those student and civil servant protests will be nothing compared to the human wave that will engulf Parliament.
Even today much of the UK's fuel poverty is directly caused by Government policy.
Yours, a very much annoyed industrial electrician.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:07 GMT Anonymous Coward
"A government's energy policy should remain focused on keeping the lights on, and costs low."
Lights on (and allegedly cheap power) now, in time for this year's company results/bonuses and the next election?
Or lights on (and any power at all) in time for the next but one generation (sic) of kids in the West to not have to grow up in the dark from time to time?
The policy for the last couple of decades (leave it all to the market) gets us option 1.
Unfortunately for our childrens' children, the markets have never been able to look more than a couple of years ahead, and most politicians can't either.
Houston (as in Oil City), we have a problem.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:09 GMT clean_state
The Market save us all!
Another article that forgets that capitalists markets do not work for non-renewables. They work great for renewable stuffs, like wheat for instance. Market prices can adjust supply and demand across seasons. Speculators buy wheat after harvest and resell it in the winter. For other produce like cherries, people eat them in spring when they are abundant and make do without cherries the rest of the year when the cost is prohibitive. It works because the next year, there is more wheat and more cherries.
For a resource in fixed supply, like oil and gas, market forces optimize the speed of exhaustion! As we exhaust our limited supply, the stuff becomes rare hence expensive which is an incentive to go grab whatever there is left. The situation is even worse for overfishing. The last fish is going to fetch a million so you can be sure there will be a race to catch it.
-1 to Andrew for not mentioning this and chanting "markets markets markets" with the liberal crowd.
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:09 GMT Britt Johnston
cheap energy or free beer?
Interesting article revealing the pressure on politicians to favour the next big cash cow.
I don't agree that the political aim should be to keep energy prices low. Yes, there is probably a long-term correlation between cheap energy and growth, but this is not an argument to keep prices low, rather one to use energy sources wisely, also over long periods. Clearly, European growth is not related to the different prices given in the table, nor were energy price increases a major factor in the current lack of growth in Europe.
Finally, earthquakes are expensive: not because I spilt my beer when the last one came around, but because people sue for damage to buildings. This is true whether the cause is fracking for gas or a green geothermal project. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/science/earth/11basel.html
Could it be that part of the lobbying is for indemnities from such side-effects?
Wednesday 9th November 2011 20:13 GMT Charlie Clark
The impact of shale gas on the gas price is not directly determined by its price of extraction* - gas from non-war-torn Libya was pretty cheap to extract - but because it is sold on the spot market and, thus, not coupled to the oil price as most large gas deposits are. This applies to any non-conventional sources like shale and bio-gas or gas manufactured by catalysis on windy, sunny days.
IIRC gas exploration and discovery has not yet hit the same kind of problems that oil has - tar sand extraction or those incredibly deep wells of Brazil - which drive up the price of exploration and extraction and, thus price. The gas price was historically tied to the oil price which kind of made sense when there were few suppliers and gas was less fungible. That arrangement makes less sense today when the price of extraction is so much lower in comparison and there are sufficient suppliers to guarantee a market even if the price falls.
Fundamentally the problem remains that, until we understand that the cheapest energy is the energy we don't use, we're making ourselves dependent on one supplier or another.
* I've yet to see anything covering the full costs of shale gas extraction over time - insuring against groundwater pollution and subsidence claims.
Thursday 10th November 2011 09:16 GMT Gorbachov
do as I say, not as I do
Once free market types start demanding killing off subsidies for all fossil fuels then I will join the chorus. But when you subsidise one tech (e.g. gas) and cut subsidies to the other (e.g. solar) you don't get to say "see, gas is _much_ cheaper than evil, commie solar"
Is gas cheap? Yes, for the moment. Will it be cheap tomorrow? I don't think so. And then you'll cry and moan that our entire infrastructure is geared to oil/gas/coal and that we can't afford to build a new one and must dig for fossils under national parks and in deep, deep water and consequences be damned.
Wind and solar won't be 'enough' but at the rate we are growing _nothing_ will be enough. We simply cannot grow at this pace without some kind of substitute for oil (and no, there is not enough economicaly recoverable gas to replace oil). And maybe we shouldn't even try.
Thursday 10th November 2011 17:42 GMT Yet Another Anonymous coward