Carpe Diem

The harsh reality of life in the UK without shale gas and with a misguided faith in green energy

While inflation-adjusted natural gas prices for US consumers in December (most recent month available) were the lowest in more than a decade (since 2001) thanks to our abundance of plentiful shale gas, it’s a much different story in the UK — they’re having a gas crisis, with low reserves, chronic shortages, price spikes, and rising gas and electric utility bills, which along with unseasonably cold winter weather, is potentially forcing more than one-third of UK households to turn off their heat entirely. Here are two recent news reports about the grim energy situation in the UK that provide a stark contrast to the much more positive energy situation in “Saudi America.”

1. From The Independent: “Gas crisis: consumers face shock £200 ($300) rise in bills as cold weather and snow lead to low fuel reserves.”

Energy bills are set to jump by as much as £200 ($300) over the next year as a result of continuing gas shortages, potentially forcing more than a third of households to switch off their heating entirely, energy consultants warn.

As emergency deliveries of liquefied natural gas from Qatar brought some relief to Britain’s rapidly diminishing gas reserves, specialists cautioned that supplies remained strained and would lead utility companies to raise gas and electricity bills.

“It’s probably inevitable that the energy price is going to go up this coming winter and customers better fasten their seatbelts. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the rise is in double-digits which would push many families close to the edge,” said Ms Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, the energy consultant.

Big Six energy providers buy the vast majority of the gas they supply to households and businesses a year or more in advance. This makes a price rise next winter almost inevitable, since the sustained period of heightened demand for gas as a result of Britain’s unseasonably cold spring weather has pushed the wholesale price considerably higher.

Britain’s gas reserves fell to just 36 hours worth of consumption on Friday, raising the prospect of gas rationing – although the emergency shipments from Qatar have added 12 more hours of supplies.

The Government sought to calm fears about gas shortages yesterday as Centrica, the owners of British Gas, signed a new £10bn deal with the US to import enough gas to power 1.8 million UK homes each year for two decades.

Commenting on the deal, David Cameron said: “Future gas supplies from the US will help diversify our energy mix and provide British consumers with a new long-term, secure and affordable source of fuel.

This second article identifies one of the major reasons for the UK’s energy crisis this winter that is forcing some UK residents to turn off their heat entirely — a misguided energy policy that has relied too heavily on expensive, inefficient, and unreliable “green energy” sources:

2. From The Telegraph: “Too much green energy is bad for Britain“:

With the worst snow conditions in the country since 1981, it’s worrying, to say the least, that gas supplies are running low. A month ago, The Sunday Telegraph warned in this column of the problems of an energy policy that puts expensive, inefficient green power before coal-fired and nuclear power. There have been a few signs that the Coalition is at last turning its attentions to the issue but,
still, not nearly enough has been done. Now we are reaping the consequences.
Because of a misguided faith in green energy, we have left ourselves far too dependent on foreign gas supplies, largely provided by Russian and Middle Eastern producers. Only 45 per cent of our gas consumption comes from domestic sources. All it takes is a spell of bad weather, and the closure of a gas pipeline from Belgium, to leave us dangerously exposed, and to send gas prices
soaring. Talk of rationing may be exaggerated, but our energy policy is failing to deal with Britain’s fundamental incapacity to produce our own power.

There are good intentions behind a green energy policy, and no one would wilfully want to damage the environment. But green technology – in its current
incarnation, anyway – is just too inefficient and expensive to meet our energy needs. In some of the worst weather for more than 30 years, green power still only provides a tiny fraction of our energy needs. Solar power is of limited use in our cold, dark, northern climate. And wind power isn’t much better – cold  weather doesn’t necessarily mean windy weather.

HT: Scott Lincicome

14 thoughts on “The harsh reality of life in the UK without shale gas and with a misguided faith in green energy

    • We’re all going to die. The question is whether we’ll die from freezing to death sometime soon, or dying from the sea level rising 100 years from now, as some predict. Rationally, most would choose to stay warm now and take the risk of the sea level rise far beyond our lifetimes. Unfortunately, the green energy movement has got the issues flipped. We’re worried about 100 years from now (which we can’t predict accurately), instead of the issues staring us in the face today.

  1. WSJ reports that fracking has been delayed again until 2014 in the Bowland shale near Lancashire for an (yep, you guessed it) environmental impact study. Work was stopped there in April 2011 when seismic activity was supposedly detected but that has been cleared since March of 2012. As much as 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas awaits in this play.

    • “Environmental Impact Study” is not some piece of Green nonsense. The drilling caused an earthquake that caused structural damage to hundreds of homes when it was started. You just can’t do that to people.

      • gs-

        alas, yes, it generally is. when i was looking to turn a full bath in my house at tahoe to a half bath, it required and environmental impact study and a water use study that together cost $25k and took 9 months. this is not an exaggeration in any way. $25k and 9 months to be allowed to take out a bathtub.

        mostly “environmental impact study” means “3 years of red tape and free money for green groups who provide them. god help you if TARPA gets on your case. when we extended the house, that was another 12 moth battle as tarpa said we could not take down any trees but the fire department said we had to for defensible space.

        there may be a valid role for environmental impact, but, in practice, it’s mostly a useless nightmare of special interest handouts and obstructionism.

      • What an outrageous lie. No such damage ever occured. Very few people even noticed the tremor, which was too mild to qualify as an earthquake.

    • or get used to rolling blackouts, or maybe only power when the wind is blowing.

      Ironically, the windmills require gas turbine backup in the event the wind slows or stops.

      But, this is a great social experiment. People should watch this situation closely and learn from the policy mistakes.

      • rufus-

        if we were any good at learning from the policy mistakes of others, there would be a lot less socialism, bad trade policy, and absurd regulation in the world.

        alas, it appears that we are not, in fact, any good at learning these lessons. i doubt alt energy will be any different.

  2. Solar, Hydro, and Wind may very well be the fuels of the future, but the fact remains that they are currently too inefficient and expensive for a rational energy policy to be built around.

    • Jon: “Solar, Hydro, and Wind may very well be the fuels of the future, but the fact remains that they are currently too inefficient and expensive for a rational energy policy to be built around.

      Well *obviously* that’s because we haven’t poured enough taxpayer money into developing them. The current trickle is only delaying a bright green future.


  3. Maybe the Brits should think about re-opening those coal mines? I am sure a lot of homes still have coal burning fireplaces that could become useful again with some work (i.e. new flue liner).

  4. The relationship between green energy and home heating is at best remote. Solar collectors are fine for hot water, but heating a conventional home that way is a non-starter. Perhaps readers in the UK can speak to the level of insulation of a typical UK home?

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