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Boris on Fracking

Over at Neal Asher’s (more on him from me later, once I have finished his novel) blog, I see this entertaining Boris Johnson quote about fracking:

The extraction process alone would generate tens of thousands of jobs in parts of the country that desperately need them. And above all, the burning of gas to generate electricity is much, much cleaner – and produces less CO2 – than burning coal. What, as they say, is not to like?

In their mad denunciations of fracking, the Greens and the eco-warriors betray the mindset of people who cannot bear a piece of unadulterated good news. Beware this new technology, they wail. Do not tamper with the corsets of Gaia! Don’t probe her loamy undergarments with so much as a finger — or else the goddess of the earth will erupt with seismic revenge. Dig out this shale gas, they warn, and our water will be poisoned and our children will be stunted and our cattle will be victims of terrible intestinal explosions.

Which is all very good except that, as Tim Worstall is forever pointing out, jobs are a cost. I can see why Boris, a politician, would see votes in talking up the thousands of jobs, but I hope he understands this. When he chooses between scheme A and scheme B, I would hope he does not pick the most expensive, more labour intensive one.

And it is unadulterated good news. The greens’ opposition to fracking may be working now, but the political will will be there the moment the first blackouts hit. So I do not imagine things will get much worse than that, and then there is enough energy for a few more technological revolutions.

26 comments to Boris on Fracking

  • Paul Marks

    Long live fracking!

    Do it now – do it next to me.

    And nuclear power also.

    “What about the waste?”

    Bury it all in my back garden.

    Why should James Lovelock (an environmentalist – but a SINCERE one, unlike the “Greens”) have all the waste? He has offered to take it all.

    I want some!

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Shale Gas is pretty much everywhere. If fracking is allowed to be perfected and utilised unchecked, it will result in pretty much all nations becoming energy independent within a few years. The price of energy would go through the floor, and it would completely destroy the economies of Saudi Arabia and Dubai (to name but a few). They only produce one thing – oil. Before it was found they were camel herders and Islamist warlords. After it was found they behaved exactly as you would expect camel herders and Islamist warlords to behave when they suddenly become some of the richest people on Earth.

    This is a lot of vested interest in keeping a lid on fracking, and there’s no telling how far they are willing to go. The Middle Eastern oil states essentially have nothing to lose by going to any lengths to stop fracking. They’ve put all their eggs in one basket with oil. They have not saved for a rainy day and they have no other skills or resources.

  • Paul Marks

    JV – OPEC is counting on Matt Damon to save them (which is why they are financially backing him).

    It is possible that they are making a mistake.

  • M. Thompson

    Earth First!

    We’ll strip mine the rest of the planets later.

  • M Helme

    It would be hard (for people in the UK) to argue that the substitution of jobs in (say) the Persian Gulf by those in (say) the North of England is, ceteris paribus, not a good thing; the test is whether the costs come down (the long term costs, not just the immediate costs of production)

  • Mike Giles

    Maybe I’m just a bad human being, but the idea of the Middle Eastern oil sheikdoms – who practice and export a particularly nasty version of a particularly nasty religion – being suddenly reduced to abject poverty, warms the cockles of my heart.

  • john in cheshire

    Paul Marks, as you say, Long Live Fracking. May the days of the greens, marxists, fascists, and other socialist hate-ists be numbered. And that includes all those in private industry who for some inexplicable reason think socialism brought them their rewards.

  • “Which is all very good except that, as Tim Worstall is forever pointing out, jobs are a cost.”

    Well, yes.

    “Do not tamper with the corsets of Gaia! Don’t probe her loamy undergarments with so much as a finger — ”

    But that is simply marvellous.

    To equate fracking with an attempt to get to third base……

  • Paul Marks

    John – yes Homer Slotten and his “League of Liberal Businessmen” seem to have escaped from Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead”.

    Alisa – I notice details (at least details my eye is always looking for – being the nasty paranoid creature that I am).

    I have never seen a “Bourne” film all the way through – but I once watched part of a “Bourne” film.

    The hero (Matt Damon I believe – playing himself, or what he thinks is himself….super human killer type, but with a good heart….) finds out that a good Russian was murdered.

    How is it indicated that this man was good?

    Well because he supported “democracy” and OPPOSED denationalistion. Opposed making government (sorry “public”) enterprises, private ones.

    That told me all I needed to know.

    So this stuff is exactly what I would expect the man to do.

    Leftists do leftist things.

    I am content.

    If they started not to act like total and utter shits, I would get confused.

  • AndrewWS

    I, for one, can never even contemplate the existence of Matt Damon without thinking of Team America, World Police.

    Anyone else here remember that Not the Nine O’Clock News song about trucking?

    I like fracking
    I like fracking
    I like fracking and I like to frack
    I like fracking
    I like fracking
    If you don’t like fracking, tough luck!

  • Paul Marks

    Ah yes – Team America: World Police.

    Not bad – not bad at all.

    However, the Southpark people have gone off the boil in the age of Obama.

    This is because they are essentially conservatives – people may be astonished by that (when they think of all the swearing and so on) but they are.

    The fundemental message of South Park is that things are, basically, O.K. – and that people who say that something is FUNDEMENALLY wrong, are themselves wrong (or just nuts).

    The trouble is – things are fundementally wrong.

    For example, the “man behind the curtain” is not just an ordinary confused human being (an American cultural point since “the great and powerful wizard” of The Wizard of Oz) – but something very different.

    Ditto a lot of other powerful people.

    The show (or rather the writers – gifted though they are) can not cope with this reality.

  • veryretired

    It’s been a long time since there was a gold rush, (or oil boom), and any fool who thinks he can stop it is dumber than a donut, if that’s possible.

    But any anti-techie who wants to jump in front of that train can go right ahead as far as I’m concerned.

    It won’t even make a bump, just a little squish, as this express picks up speed.

    Bonus points—What’s the name of the movie?, what part did Kevin Spacey play?, and who was Tert?

  • Rich Rostrom

    I think Boris’ point was “jobs here, in places where there are people who need jobs, not in Saudi Arabia.”

  • Jobrag


    Down the well you pump lots of hot water.
    Down the well you hear the shale layer fracture.
    You watch the gas with pride.
    Then you feel the ground subside.

  • The price of energy would go through the floor, and it would completely destroy the economies of Saudi Arabia and Dubai (to name but a few). They only produce one thing – oil.

    Not really. Saudi makes its money almost exclusively from oil, Dubai doesn’t really make much from oil or gas but is subsidised by Abu Dhabi, which makes most of its money from oil. Oil is still vastly more valuable than gas, and is likely to remain so for a long time. Gas can be used for heating, power generation, and some refinery feedstocks, but it is crude oil that will continue to provide the fuel for transportation and the feedstocks for refineries and chemical plants. If the world suddenly find gas is free for all, Saudi Arabia will be just fine. Qatar will be truly buggered, Russia will take a big hit, but the major oil producers will just carry on much the same as before.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Ah but Tim, if shale gas can be bought for mere pennies a tonne then there will be a motivation to start selling cars with gas conversions to run on it.

    What would you rather pay? £1.30 for a litre of unleaded, or 5p for the equivalent volume of shale gas?

    When that happens, the Saudis will be well and truly screwed.

  • What would you rather pay? £1.30 for a litre of unleaded, or 5p for the equivalent volume of shale gas?

    You’re forgetting one thing: tax. 80% of the price of a litre of unleaded is tax, and should gas replace petrol as the primary fuel in cars you can bet your life that governments everywhere would tax the hell out of it in similar fashion. This would reduce any economic incentive for an entire industry and population to switch to a more expensive (you need a pressure vessel) and less efficient system of fuelling cars.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    About that, unfortunately, you may be right.

    Because lets face it, the Saudis are a carbuncle on the face of the planet and neutering their power and influence by reducing them to being mere producers lubricants and maybe aviation fuel could only be a good thing.

    But like all Mafia cartels, the government is going to want its cut. And that may ruin the whole deal.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I must admit that screwing the Saudis and other thugocracies is the big prize in all this.

    Team America – one of the greatest films of all time.

    “Matt Daaaaaaaaaaaamon.”

  • Laird

    I would also point out that petroluem is a basic raw material in a whole range of products, from plastics to fertilizers. Switching to natural gas for heating, power generation and maybe some propulsion won’t change that. The Saudis would be hurt but not devastated.

  • Paul Marks

    Taxes from government are bad J.V. – but its regulations are deadly.

    California has not only destroyed itself with taxes and government spending – its regulations have undermined what should be the Number One strategic materials supplying place in the United States.

    Put people who think rightly in a swamp – and they will create a marval (for example the refugees from the Huns – who created the Republic of Venice).

    Put people think wrongly in a treasure house (such as California) and they will still bankrupt themselves.

    As for Saudi Arabia – and its Wahabbi supporting rulers.

    Thank Mr Philby.

    Not Kim Philby – his father.

    The first socialist activist in the F.O.

    A traitor and a pig.

    Like his son.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Although heavier grades of oil can be used for those sorts of things Laird, which are commonly available in many places (including the North Sea).

    What makes the Saudi oil particularly valuable is it is especially well suited to being refined into petrol.

    If that market were removed it would just become one supplier out of many, and probably not the cheapest nor the best suited.

  • llamas

    What Laird said.

    Gasoline is expensive because it is made from a feedstock that has high value for all sorts of things other than gasoline. When you can make plastics from it that sell for $15-$20 a pound, and pharmaceuticals that sell for $100 a pound, then if you choose to make gasoline out of it, that gasoline will be quite costly.

    Certainly, even a mass transition to natural-gas for vehicle fuel will not be terminal for the Saudis, but as part of a general trend of flat or reduced consumption of the particular grades of oil that they produce, it would be very worrying to them. But even more so to the smaller oil-producing nations of the Middle East – hence their investment of $15 million in to the production of ‘Promised Land’, which is highly-negative about natural gas production.

    Between natural gas and all the varieties of oil that are available in the US, practical, political energy independence is a real possibility. Note that this doesn’t mean 100% onshore production, merely enough to outweigh foreign producers and draw their political teeth.

    Ah, yes, Harry StJohn Philby – the spiritual forerunner of the Camel Corps.



  • tompaq

    Shale gas is great! Shale oil is even better. Utica Shale formations in Ohio are just starting to yield oil and natural gas. Not only do you create jobs to extract and refine the oil and gas, chemical manufacturers who have been closing plants in the US are keeping them open and building new ones. Jobs in production of the energy and jobs in manufacturing, lower carbon emissions from gas than coal, is a big winning combination. It is changing the moribund economies in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia and if it makes the US energy independent in 20 years, more the better.

  • Paul Marks

    At least Harry StJohn Philby got well rewarded for betraying the people he was sent to help, and handing over Arabia to the Wahabbi supporting House of Saud.

    The House of Saud gave him some slave girls (amongst other things).

    “Surely that did not fit with his socialism”.

    Then you did not understand socialism, my dears.

    Beria had plenty of slave girls – his people used to grab them off the streets of Moscow.