Fracking in the UK is out for the foreseeable future

no-frackingListening to Osborne waxing exuberant over Britain’s energy future because of his obsession with a fracking revolution in the UK to match that in the US, you might be excused for thinking that he had a trump electoral card. Any such idea is nonsense, for several reasons. The predicted fracking deposits in this country are only a fraction of those in the US and, an equal no-go area for Osborne, are largely located in traditional Tory areas where the public resistance has already shown itself to be formidable. But there is another critical factor which rules out fracking for a long time ahead, maybe decades. It is now utterly uneconomic. Continue reading

Nothing stands between Labour and election victory except its own timidity

Timid Ed lookalikeA sad tale of ambivalence and timidity across a range of policies

This coming Monday the remaining stages of the Infrastructure Bill will be taken in Parliament, including votes on the launch of fracking in this country. Cameron and Osborne have declared they are both ‘gung-ho’ to develop this technology to the fullest degree as fast as possible, though the resistance at Balcombe in East Sussex and Lancashire where the county council has refused drilling consent to Cuadrilla suggests that grass roots opposition may be a lot stronger than the Tories have reckoned for, including in hitherto true-blue areas. Continue reading

Fracking: Osborne’s latest 18th century-style ‘folly’

Gideon in Commons montageIt’s a safe bet that Osborne’s Autumn Statement this Wednesday will hail a fracking revolution as the start of a new energy cornucopia for Britain.   Like everything else politicians say 5 months before an election, it needs to be taken with a piece of salt.   Only one shale well has been fracked in Britain – Cuadrilla’s PH1 at Preese Hall near Blackpool – and that had to be suspended when in 2011 when it caused minor earth tremors.   Another attempt was made by Cuadrilla to set up a fracking operation, thistime on the mainland at Balcombe in the Sussex Weald, but that had to be called off as a result of determined opposition by the Tory rural brolly brigade, a resistance group that has now established a widespread network across the country pledged to fight fracking wherever it rears its head. Continue reading

Falling oil prices could scupper UK shale production

Shale oil rockLast Tuesday the share price of Chesapeake Energy, one of the leading US shale oil producers, fell 29% in a single day. With internationally traded Brent Crude now trading at below $88 a barrel, a 4-year low and down from $100 only a few weeks ago, and the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate at below $85, down from over $107 in June, the fabled miracle of US shale is facing a near-death experience. The oil consultancies estimate that US shale production will break even at $75 a barrel, so there is still some leeway for survival. But the impact of tensions over Ukraine and the gathering conflagration in the Middle East, plus above all the global market fears of secular stagnation kiboshing the world recovery from lengthy recession, are putting the market for unconventional energy production under strain as never before. Continue reading

Is fracking the new poll tax?

No frackingJust as Thatcher ploughed ahead with her ideological totem, the poll tax, in the face of clear evidence that it was deeply unpopular, so her modern-day acolytes around Cameron seem determined to do exactly the same thing over fracking, with very likely the same results. Despite the intense resistance demonstrated against Cuadrilla’s plans to set up drilling at Balcombe in the Sussex Weald, the government pressed ahead with their determination to allow fracking beneath people’s homes which, given Tories’ obsession with the sacred rights of property, is an extraordinary revelation that for them commercial interests now trump everything.

As required under Whitehall rules, the government then undertook a consultation about their plans. It turned out that there were 40,647 responses, of whom 99% were opposed. The government then, with the typical arrogance of the Westminster establishment which proved so toxic in the Scottish referendum, decided nevertheless to go ahead regardless. In a breathtaking illustration of their contempt for public opinion they put out the following statement: Continue reading