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While we still have to burn fossil fuels …

Comment posted on Question: How can we license fracking when we have permanent drought? by Webcraft

While we still have to burn fossil fuels to keep the lights on substituting gas for coal is an excellent idea, as it produces approximately half the CO2 per MW as coal.

However, it does still produce carbon, and if the discovery of abundant local gas causes the renewables revolution to stall then we are going backwards rapidly. Irrespective of whether UK shale gas substitutes for coal, renewables or imported gas, the industry’s latest reserve estimates for just one licence area could account for up to 15% of the UK’s emissions budget through to 2050. Therefore, emissions from a fully developed UK shale gas industry would be very substantial in their own right.

In a nutshell, we simply cannot afford to burn all this gas. Using local shale gas as a substitute for imports while we are still obliged to burn gas is one thing, emptying the reserves and burning it all while tearing up our emissions committments is quite another.

The other problem with fracking for methane is that there is more to the fuel’s carbon footprint than what happens when it burns. The manufacture and transport to site of thousands of tonnes of chemicals has its own carbon footprint, while leakages from the well of methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2 – is also an issue.

As Dr McKenzie says, fracking may well turn out to be a bit of a non-issue anyway . . . many industry pundits believe the profitability of shale gas in the UK has been greatly overhyped, and that it is unlikely to have the impact impact on the UK market that it has had in the US.

Webcraft also commented

  • Renewables generated 35% of Scotland’s electricity demand last year.

    Wind accounted for just over half this. The rest came largely from hydro, but some also came from solar and biomass.

    When you consider the huge changes the coming of the hydro made to the Scottish landscape and the time it took to build the schemes the fact that wind has surpassed it already is quite impressive.

  • Malcolm, tell me more about wind turbines being shut down at night please. I think you are just making this up as you go along.
  • Malcolm,

    The 35% figure I mentioned does not refer the capacity factor of wind in Scotland in 2011. I am talking about the total amount of electricity generated and fact that the equivalent of 35% of all electricity used in Scotland was generated by renewable sources last year.

    Renewable electricity generation in 2011 was a record high at 13,750 GWh. Of this 7,049 GWh (over half) was wind. Wind therefore generated the equivalent of over 17.5% of Scotland’s electricity demand last year.

    I don’t regard 17.5% as too shabby for a newcomer to the generating mix, do you?

  • ‘Token gesture’ huh?

    Scotland generated the equivalent of 35% of domestic electricity demand from renewables last year Malcolm.

    I have no commercial interest in renewable energy by the way, I just have an interest in new technologies and in the world my grandchildren are going to live in.

  • ‘There comes a time when enough is enough and we have to move on’

    But what you are proposing is not moving on, it is standing still. You are like the people who opposed the railways or enacted the Red Flag laws for early automobiles, standing foursquare in the path of progress.

    My ilk are for progress, Malcolm. You and your ilk are for a (very) short term benefit to your own pocket at the expense of future generations.

    As for panicking, I believe it is you and your fellow sufferers from turbophobia that are panicking with the realisation that onshore wind will achieve grid parity in four years time or less. The whole denier thing is unravelling.

    Renewable energy is here to stay, wind, wave and tidal. Live with it.

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