No George, really, just no

Compare the treatment of shale gas to the alternatives. Another source of the same product (methane) is biogas, produced by household waste, sewage and farm manure. The great majority is untapped. Capturing it is easy, uncontroversial and probably a lot more profitable than shale gas.

This is the value of this capitalist market economy type thing. If something is more profitable then people tend to do it. That people are not doing it can therefore be taken as a signal (no, not proof, only as signal, for lack of information reasons) that it is not more profitable.

And biogas gets a number of subsidies, (feed in tariffs and renewables obligations) and yet even with them there\’s a problem with financing:

Securing financial support for an anaerobic digestion project can be challenging. Private finance is available but owing to the significant capital expenditure associated with bioenergy facilities and the risks involved, such funding can be difficult to obtain.

Another way of putting this is that with the current technology biogas is not more profitable.

And of course this is just flat out lying:

The prime minister fluently defends the fracking companies. Last week he maintained that \”fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down\”. Rubbish. The government\’s projection for gas prices sees them rising (with wobbles) from 61p per therm in 2012 to 72p in 2018, where, it predicts, they will stay until 2030. Even the major fracking company here, Cuadrilla, admits that the impact of shale gas on energy bills will be \”basically insignificant\”.

That \”basically insignificant\” comes from here:

Meanwhile, the research that Mr Linder said demonstrated shale\’s negligible impact on price, is presented quite differently in Cuadrilla\’s press release on its findings.

The report, by the Poyry consultancy, estimates that if shale gas production booms in the 2020s it will cut gas and electricity prices by between 2 and 4 per cent.

“According to Poyry, Lancashire shale gas production could also reduce the country\’s wholesale gas and electricity prices by as much as 4 per cent between 2014 and 2035, which corresponds to an average saving of £810m/year,” said the release by Cuadrilla, which is chaired by former BP chief executive Lord Browne.

Sigh. As I pointed out here, they\’re lying. There are two Poyry reports. One on the effect of European fracking on European gas prices. They halve. One on the effect of the extra reserves that Cuadrilla announced in Lancashire on European gas prices: 2-4%.

Greenpeace has been (deliberately?) confusing the two in order to give this most misleading impression that fracking will not have much impact upon gas prices.

22 thoughts on “No George, really, just no”

  1. ” biogas, produced by household waste, sewage and farm manure ….[is] probably a lot more profitable than shale gas.”?

    quick, somebody tell Exxon shareholders, there’s money to be made!

    honestly, I am much more sympathetic to George (and to biogas) than the median Worstall reader, but how can he walk around with nonsense like that in his head.

    I live near Avonmouth, which is a smelly place.
    http://www.adbiogas.co.uk/2012/12/03/avonmouth-food-waste-plant-to-generate-green-power/

  2. Or just, nimby. Let Europe go frack itself and our gas bills halve. But keep it out of England because the English fracking won’t make that much difference. Which if I’ve understood correctly is actually true. And the basis of all nimbyism – that things that benefit me may be done provided the negative consequences are felt elsewhere.

  3. “honestly, I am much more sympathetic to George (and to biogas) than the median Worstall reader, ”
    So how do you compare to the mean Worstall reader or the modal Worstall reader? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  4. And Caroline Lucas was on the radio yesterday, telling us all that fracking in England wouldn’t make much difference because we’d sell all the gas to the Continent.

    *head in hands*

  5. When somebody claims as fact that something is cheaper than the alternative and thus needs more subsidy the default assumption is that they are fraudsters trying to steal from you*.

    That this includes 99.5% of MPs does not change the principle.

    *The exception being X-Prizes which I support – this being because patent laws do not and almost certainly cannot provide the same protection to invention as to the other (less important) factors of production.

  6. Tim said: “One on the effect of European fracking on European gas prices. They halve”

    It’s more that they stay static. Staying at around 40p a therm in 2010 prices instead of heading towards 80p a therm. That doubling in price without fracking is what our betters want and are trying to bring about through policy decisions.

  7. The gubmints energy cost projections are part of their plans to massively increase our energy bills because –well because their heads of full of green eco-sick(and to help their business subsidy buddies prosper). We need to get fracking now and bollocks to whoever else is or is not involved.

  8. You know something is fishy when the Greens use contradictory arguments at the same time.

    1. Shale will make no difference.
    2. Shale will make too much difference.

    Reality: We’re terrified that when joe public finds out how much this will push prices down AND reduce emissions (that thing we’ve been banging on about for years as being worth destroying economies to achieve) they’ll lynch us and won’t ever pay us for our Chicken Little routine, and we’ll have to go get proper jobs.

  9. Actually, Total has invested a few million in biogas. They reckon it might have a future, but I’m pretty sure it’s not profitable in the foreseeable future.

  10. @ Luis Enrique
    It is quite possible to have a bi-modal distribution looking like a sketch of a Bactrian camel with the median somewhere in-between the modes. But any significantly skewed distribution such as Poisson, the logically simplest distribution, will have a median significantly different from the mode.
    The trouble with the mean is that one extreme outlier (in this case Arnald) will drag the mean away from the median and can even drag it outside the cluster covering almost all other readers.

  11. The problem with anaerobic digestion is that methogens produce methane and other anaerobes produce CO2. This has to be scrubbed from the methane using lime or something similar to lock up the CO2. The other problem is souring. You over feed your digester with too much sewage slude and it sours. The pH drops drastically into the acidic zone, methanogenesis ceases and you are left with a very unpleasant, acidic sludge to dispose of. The treatment works often use the methane for generating power.

  12. The Laughing Cavalier

    The government is committed to making energy unaffordable and will tax the bejasus out of shale gas to ensure that that policy is not undermined. Prices should come down but high taxes shall ensure that they don’t so as to subsidise other government expenditure, foreign aid, windmills, solar panels and other absurdly expensive pipe dreams.

  13. “dunno. what reason is there to expect much of a difference between median and mode?”
    Not much, I’d expect the distribution to have a long right tail so the median would be less than the mean, but they are all individuals so I’m not sure what the mode would be.

  14. @Philip

    I’m sure that Dr Caroline Lucas’ scientific and technical opinions are fully informed by her Phd in Tudor Chick-Lit.

  15. @ Eddy
    “but they are all individuals so I’m not sure what the mode would be.”
    I have no idea either – probably when Tim finds TWO guys and/or gals agreeing on something – but if you group people according to *similar* views on a topic you will probably get a mode of the groups.

  16. Oh, sorry Eddy – I should have mentioned that opinions don’t have a zero minimum (unlike physical frequencies) so you can have a very long very thin left tail (Arnald, Ioseb Besarionis dze Jugashvili, Pol Pot etc)

  17. I wonder if greens would be all for fracking if it increased the storage capacity for underground CCS. I find it mind boggling that so much fear is whipped up over fossil fuel extraction but so little over trying to bung loads of CO2 into the same cracks and crevices and expecting it to stay there.

    Too much of our groundwater could become carbonated!

  18. It’s quite easy to distinguish between the mean Worstall reader and the modal Worstall reader. The mean one guards his pennies, whilst the modal one is always fashionably dressed.

  19. @Matt, Just like Eoin’s opinions in matters economic and statistical and charting are fully informed by his PhD in Irish Feminism (specifically a very short period in the dim and distant past and only in relation to the struggle against the nasty Colonial British Empire).

  20. If I might be boring about landfill gas – which I guess is the primary source of (sort of) methane form stuff rotting. The sad truth is that it’s unreliable, limited and the amount produced by the typical landfill doesn’t merit the cost of connecting the generation to the grid – landfills like the two on the edge of our village – simply are inconveniently located.

    Some modern landfills have the generation and connection built into the scheme – but we’re not supposed to be doing landfill any more because of its sheer environmental nastiness.

    George won’t like it but it’s much better simply to burn the whole lot and generate energy from that process. Which is what W2E Plants do.

    George will of course – along with his fellow enviro-numpties in greenpeace – be implacably opposed to incinerators.

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