Britain has a fracking industry–or could have one, anyway, if it weren’t for the Greens’ political clout. It finally became too much for Natascha Engel, Britain’s “fracking czar,” who quit with a blistering letter of resignation:
Natascha Engel’s decision to walk away from such a high-profile role is driven, she says, by her dismay that Ministers are jeopardising Britain’s energy security because they would rather appease noisy green campaigners than listen to scientists’ advice.
The result, she says in an exclusive interview, is that government policy is strangling the UK shale gas industry at birth – despite overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking, if properly regulated, is totally safe.
Killing off this industry, says Ms Engel, a former Labour MP, will cause higher, not lower, greenhouse-gas emissions, as we are forced to rely on increased imports of gas.
The United States is the only country to reduce significantly its CO2 emissions; we did it by substituting natural gas for coal in power generation. But Britain’s Greens won’t let that country develop its considerable natural gas reserves.
Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is demanding zero emissions by 2025 – bringing Central London to almost a standstill for much of the past two weeks with its ‘direct action’ protests – also campaigns against fracking.
[L]ast night, [Engel] revealed, she submitted an explosive resignation letter to Energy Secretary Greg Clark. It says she is stepping down because ‘a perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a Government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish’.
The Government, it adds, is ‘listening to a small but loud environmental movement that opposes in principle all extraction of fossil fuels. The campaign against fracking has been highly successful in raising the profile – and filling the coffers – of some campaign groups, but they do not represent local residents nor the wider population.’
British Greens suppress natural gas production by limiting earth tremors caused by fracking to 0.5 on the Richter scale, a barely detectable level. No such standard applies to, for example, quarry blasting or construction. Engle explains:
Ms Engel says: ‘A 0.5 tremor is much weaker than the rumble you might feel when walking above a Tube train. Yet if a frack unleashes a tremor rated 0.5 [caused when water is pumped underground into the shale to crack it and release the gas it holds] operators have to stop what they’re doing for 18 hours… this is making fracking impossible.’
The success of fracking in the US and Canada has led to an economic boom in these countries but also, crucially, lower emissions – because burning gas produces far less CO2 than burning coal, which it has partly replaced. In America and Canada, the limits imposed on the tremors that can legally be caused by fracking are much greater, according to Ms Engel: between 2 and 4.5 on the Richter scale.
Given the Greens’ intransigence, how does Britain generate electricity? It simply imports gas that was produced elsewhere, thus increasing CO2 emissions and outsourcing jobs and tax revenues to other countries. It also commits the ultimate environmental folly by burning “biomass,” i.e., low-quality trees from the southern U.S. that are shipped to Britain at considerable expense. I wrote about the biomass folly, which is imposed on Britain by environmentalists, here and here. The last link is especially informative if you are interested in the details of the biomass fiasco.
Britain’s Greens want to substitute renewable energy sources for the natural gas that can be produced by fracking. But, as Ms. Engel explains, this simply can’t be done:
The irony, she says, is that by wrecking the shale gas industry, which the British Geological Survey says has the potential to supply Britain with gas for many decades, the Government is certain to increase emissions.
‘If you look at energy use as a whole, including heating and transport, gas accounts for 40 per cent of the total. There is simply no way renewables can fill that gap at the moment. We get less than five per cent of our total energy from wind and only 0.5 per cent from solar.’
Hence, she says, the inevitable consequence of killing the shale gas industry is that the quantity of gas burnt in UK homes, businesses and power stations imported from abroad will soar – and with it, the far bigger carbon footprint caused by the process of making liquified natural gas and transporting it here. Ms Engel says imported gas already costs £7 billion a year.
I don’t think most environmentalists care at all about the consequences of the policies they advocate. Modern environmentalism is tribal virtue-signaling, nothing more. And the rest of us are stuck with the bill.