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Energy Crunch: Gas, wind and hot air


Image via chaunceydavis/flickr.

Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies' -  Industry expert warns of grim future of recession'driven 'resource wars' at University College London lecture
  2. Fracking companies entitled to licences on more than 60% of British land -  Assessment claims major fracking effort would create jobs and income for local communities, but would require thousands of wells to be drilled across the UK and dozens of daily tanker journeys.
  3. Currently Licensed Areas and Areas under Consideration in the Draft [Oil and Gas] Licensing Plan:

    Source: Figure NTS 1, Strategic Environmental Assessment for Further Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing, Department of Energy and Climate Change.
US oil production is booming, and the big debate stateside is whether to lift the ban on oil exports put in place in the 1970s. So is the peak oil scare over? Don’t bet on it. The revival in US output - up from 5.2 mb/d in 2005 to 7.8m/d in late 2013 - may be impressive, but world oil prices have remained stubbornly high. Brent crude averaged more than $108 per barrel for the third year running, as increased US production was offset by increased global demand, supply disruption in Libya, Iraq and Sudan, and production declines of 4% at mature oilfields.
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) released its regulatory framework for opening Britain up to onshore oil and gas development just before Christmas. In case you missed it, our map of the week (above) shows just how much of the country could be affected – some 60%. It’s still uncertain how much gas could actually be produced, but the report’s high scenario suggests 4.3 to 8.6 trillion cubic feet over 20 years. That averages out at 12% of current UK demand, and wouldn’t even get going until the 2020s, so it’s clearly not a solution to long-term energy security. DECC’s environmental impact assessment includes a long list of fracking risks – including land loss, traffic, noise, air quality and water – but the government managed to get shale gas removed from an outline deal on new EU environmental assessment rules.
Renewable energy got a New Year boost as wind power became the primary power source in Spain, meeting just over 21% of demand and cutting power sector emissions by 23%. Wind energy records were broken in stormy Britain too, with turbines meeting 10% of electricity demand in December.
The war of words over UK energy prices continues, with Labour accusing the Big 6 of overcharging their customers by £4 billion, and First Utility slated for its energy-saving advice to share a shower. DECC energy adviser Professor David MacKay suggested the best way to cut energy demand would be to move away from the throwaway society, and instead towards repair and reuse. Peter Lilley MP, a self-confessed ‘global lukewarmist’ with interests in the oil industry, said Professor MacKay “should either decide whether he’s chief scientific adviser or whether he’s going to join Friends of the Earth and knit his own socks.”
Is it too late for a New Year’s resolution to raise the tone of the energy debate?

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