Thursday, 20 October 2011

Shale Gas - the latest crazy scheme to avoid dealing with fossil fuel problem

Campaign for tar sands, shale oil threaten to hobble our economy.

To the left is a graph which lets us compare Energy Returned/ Energy Invested Ratio (ER/EI).

It costs energy to dig a hole, to refine a produce. But the energy sources which have enable us to build our economy up were easy to get. In normal oil fields, a hole is drilled, the oil or gas is under pressure and it wants to come out. Then its a matter of refining it. 

The industrial revolution was built and sustained on massive expansion of the use of energy. Now we begin to run out of the sources that served us well in the past.

The reason why policy makers go for wind is because it has a high ER/EI ratio and it will never run out. Even with a subsidy, the subsidy circulates in the economy whilst reducing trade imbalance due to imported energy. Over the year, this boosts the UK economy by reducing our dependence overseas. 

Currently in the right wing press and blogs, there is a barrage of anti-wind, pro shale gas advocacy. These sources are the most useless of all energy sources. They are energy sinks. It costs a great deal of energy to extract gas from shale deposits. This means, one form of relatively cheaper energy is being burnt to extract a small amount of energy as different fuel source - meanwhile as those reserves run out, all energy is getting more expensive. Investing in shale is insane, yet makes sense from a market price point of view. This means the market, as it has been wrong about everything from house prices, to labour costs, to security of sovereign debt is wrong about energy prices too.

By thinking strategically about energy we can know when to ignore the market. The low ER/EI ratio for shale means it is unsustainable. The market price that seems to make it viable cannot be anything but a bubble. The high ER/EI for wind means that with suitable production capacity, we can bring costs down until electricity is dirt cheap.

The apparent economic case for shale gas, comes from the high prices in 2008 and large reserves - it just makes no strategic case to use them. The high market price in 2008 has already fallen back - as nations see one source failing to deliver, they diversify their consumption to other sources.

Dealing with perceived Wind Power Variability 'problem'.

Disqus for A New Red Dawn