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ODAC Newsletter Dec 14

Welcome to the ODAC Newsletter, a weekly roundup from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre at nef dedicated to raising awareness of peak oil.

The announcement on Thursday that the government is lifting its moratorium on fracking held all the surprise of turkey on the Christmas menu. The decision, which allows the resumption of test drilling by Cuadrilla in Lancashire and opens the way to fracking across the UK, was inevitable following the government's gas generation U-turn last week.

For some the fracking go-ahead couldn't come soon enough. London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote an enthusiastic rant in his Telegraph column telling the story of the "miracle" that is shale gas. His grasp on the numbers might politely be described as 'rough', and has been forensically exposed by Damian Kahya at Greenpeace. But Johnson has the knack of getting away with such bombast, and his column will be read and retweeted many times more than the rebuttal.

The myth promoted by Johnson and other 'frack-heads' — as Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsley calls them - is that shale production will slash the price of gas in the UK. But this is hokum. Energy minister John Hayes gave a disingenuous interview to Radio 4's World at One, in which he refused to make an actual price forecast but alluded to the US experience, where prices have slumped to below the cost of production - implying that Britain would enjoy the same. But there is no comparison. Not even the most fevered frack-head thinks Britain will become self-sufficient in gas, which means the price will continue to be set by the need to attract imports from Norway, Qatar and beyond, and by European demand for UK gas — to which we are umbilically connected (or exposed) by pipeline.

All the serious work in this area supports this view. A study from the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies has found "unconventional gas will not be a price setter at a European level"i. Research by VTB Capital concludes that European shale gas looks geologically and commercially "challenged" compared to the US, and that "Shale gas will not be transformative in Europe"ii. A report by the Energy Contract Company says "shale will not be a 'cheap' source of gas and there is unlikely to be a repeat of the US experience"iii. And a study by energy consultants Poyry suggests that if UK shale production were to reach 20% of Britain's supply by 2030, prices would be just 2-4% lower than if there were no shale productioniv.

Gas prices are still expected to rise in absolute terms, however, in spite of any fracking that might occur. In the International Energy Agency's 'Golden Age of Gas' scenario, which assumes the most favourable conditions for unconventional gas production, European prices rise from $7.4 per million British thermal units in 2009 to $10.9/MBtu in 2035v. The latest carbon budget report from the Committee on Climate Change, released on the same day as the fracking announcement, concludes "the average annual household bill in a gas-based system could be as much as £600 higher in 2050 than in a low-carbon system if gas and carbon prices turn out to be high"vi.

Johnson claims "The shale gas discovery is hateful to the Libs and the Greens, because it destroys their narrative about the ever rising cost of hydrocarbons.", but truth is just the opposite. Frack-heads like Boris are punting the big lie on gas prices because they are viscerally opposed to action on climate, peak and renewable energy. Shame on them.

Still the last laugh may be on the Conservative converts to fracking. As one Liberal official told the FT: "Most of the shale gas is under Tory constituencies, so we’ll see how much they like it when the drilling starts". What a delicious irony: for once, Nimbies may end up on the side of saving the planet.

i Can Unconventional Gas be a Game Changer in European Gas Markets?, Florence Gény, OIES, December 2010,
ii Shale Gas in Europe — A Slow Burn, VTB Capital, 24 May 2011
iii UK will miss US-style shale gas transformation, Financial Times, 25 September 2012,
iv How will Lancashire shale gas production impact the GB energy market, Poyry, November 2012,
v Are we entering a golden age of gas?, IEA, 2011,
vi Energy prices and bills — impacts of meeting carbon budgets, Climate vi Change Committee, December 2012,


Oil Heads for Weekly Gain on China, U.S. Manufacturing Outlook

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IEA Boosts Global Oil Demand Forecasts on China Economic Rebound

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Opec quotas held despite demand fears

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Total: Oil Production to Peak at 98M Barrels per Day

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Why a potential role for the US as oil production king needs an asterisk

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Oil at $60 or $120 Doesn't Prevent U.S. Supplanting Saudis

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Bosses' fears over energy and resource costs hit new high

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Gas fracking: Ministers approve shale gas extraction

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Gas 'will add more to energy bills than renewables' — government advisers

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Ignore the doom merchants, Britain should get fracking

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Time to get real about clean energy costs — and benefits

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The fracking dream which is putting Britain's future at risk

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Fracking: Untangling fact from fiction

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Fracking laws needed 'to control UK's dash for gas', says MEP

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Drilling spills reaching Colorado groundwater; state mulls test rules

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Egypt Importing Gas for First Time as Exports Disappear

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Government could buy up to £750m of green energy direct

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Energy bill rises will outpace inflation next year, forecasters warn

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Investment decision on Hinkley Point new nuclear plant may be delayed until 2013, EDF admits

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U.S. states threaten lawsuit against EPA over regulations

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Can flex-fuel cars put US on the road to low oil prices?

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Philippines gives green-light to electric tricycles

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