British Petroleum dismisses shale gas carbon claims


BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years

Energy firm’s analysis finds switch to other fuels like shale gas will do little to cut carbon emissions
BP oil rig Alaska

Rig in BP oil-field near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Research by the energy firm looks at the likelihood of curtailing climate change.
Photograph: Worldfoto/Alamy

 

Global greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise by nearly a third in the next two decades, putting hopes of curtailing dangerous climate change beyond reach, a new report by BP has found.

The drastic rise in emissions, despite international efforts to cut carbon, will come despite the predicted enormous growth in the use of shale gas, according to the oil and gas giant.

Shale gas – previously inaccessible because the exploitation of these resources requires technology only recently perfected – will account for a rising proportion of the growth in energy in the years to 2035, but its use will not cause a decline in greenhouse gases.

The finding deals a blow to proponents of shale gas, who have argued that its use will cut emissions. Burning gas produces much less CO2 than burning coal, but the effect of a huge rise in shale gas exploration will not ameliorate the increases in emissions that scientists say will take the world to dangerous climate change.

Proponents of the fuel have argued that shale gas can counteract dependence on coal. But while shale gas use has increased dramatically, particularly in the US, where it brought down gas prices from $12 (£7) to below $3 (£1.80) at one stage, global emissions have continued to rise as the coal that would otherwise have been used has been exported elsewhere.

Christof Ruehl, BP chief economist, said that fuel switching had little impact on overall emissions. Coal use globally had risen to record levels, even as shale gas had risen.

In the UK, shale gas has received a boost from David Cameron, who vowed to go all out for shale by offering taxpayer-funded giveaways to companies. But the news that such a move will not cut overall emissions takes away a key plank in the arguments put forward by shale companies.

BP in its global energy outlook said gas would take a 27% share of global energy consumption by 2035, with a similar share for coal, oil, and an amalgamated low-carbon sector including nuclear, hydro, wind and sun.

BP predicts that global emissions will rise 29% by 2035. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that emissions must peak by 2020 to give the world a chance to avoid a further two degrees of warming, beyond which the effects of climate change become catastrophic and irreversible.

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, said: “The case for shale gas is crumbling. Experts say it won’t lead to cheaper fuel bills, and now BP says it won’t cut carbon emissions either.

“Follow the PM’s logic and we’d be punching thousands of holes in our countryside only to further add to climate change and continue with sky-high bills.

“Instead of going all out for shale, the prime minister should focus on the real answers to the energy challenges we face: energy efficiency and renewable power.”

Meanwhile, analysts at the City firm Brewin Dolphin also poured scorn on Cameron and George Osborne for over-hyping the potential impact of shale in Britain. “We believe the shale industry is unlikely to produce commercial volumes of gas until the end of this decade and that it is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on gas prices,” said a report drawn up by Elaine Coverley, head of equity research, and Iain Armstrong, oil and gas equity analyst at the investment house.

“This is due to two reasons; first, commercially available volumes are likely to be significantly lower in the UK than in the US, and second, if UK shale is successful, exploration companies could export the gas to achieve higher prices,” they argue.

Their comments came as a new opinion poll for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) found that 47% of people would be unhappy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home, compared with just 14% who said they would be happy.

The findings come just days after the prime minister announced that councils that back fracking will get to keep more money from the business tax revenues once production at a well is under way.

The biggest concerns for the people polled included fears of damage to the local environment, the associated noise and disruption, fears over the chemicals used and health risks, as well as fears that drinking water might be contaminated.

Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said: “These poll results suggest that simply offering money to local councils and communities is not enough to convince the public about the benefits of fracking for gas and that much more work needs to be done to engage with citizens on this potential activity.

“Building trust between government, industry and communities is essential if we wish to make use of this technique in shale rocks under the UK.”

The Guardian carried out the first UK nationwide poll on shale last summer and found people split down the middle, 40% in favour of shale drilling in their area, 40% against, with 20% unsure. The IME poll suggests attitudes to shale are hardening rather than softening.

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Did anyone expect JZ to come out AGAINST shale gas?


A READ A DAY KEEPS THE IGNORANCE AT BAY
14 FEBRUARY 2014 05:49 (SOUTH AFRICA)
OPINIONISTA JONATHAN DEAL

Fruit of the poisoned tree

  • JONATHAN DEAL
  • 14 FEB 2014 01:54 (SOUTH AFRICA)

Our government hasn’t adequately done its duty in researching the implications of shale gas. In election year, it is up to citizens to decide whether they want to continue eating the fruit of the poisoned tree.

A dilemma of extraordinary proportions confronts world leaders as they wrestle with ‘the fraternal twins of peril and opportunity – typically the choice between economic growth and sustainable progress. This article intends to make a case for cautious investigation (critical thought)– a science-based analysis of the actual experiences that must ultimately inform policy – it is not a blanket statement that proponents of shale gas mining are wrong or that the converse applies.

Spanning cultures and continents, shale gas is typified by a commonality of benefit and risk. Energy, jobs, revenue, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are four key areas that arrest the attention of any government. Stacked against the elephant in the room – the risk of environmental, and ultimately economic damage – these considerations project shale gas into a ranking as the most widely debated fossil fuel in more than two hundred years. Four primary areas define the broad environment in which we approach a discussion on shale gas: community, environment, development and sustainability. Interdependent and universal, each is of itself and in relation to its counterparts, undeniably central to the survival of humanity.

It follows logically that a review of shale gas mining commences with acknowledgement of the dynamics driving its development.  Barely ten years ago shale gas was unknown in the realm of many governments and in the minds of a majority of people – speculation over Peak Oil and the end of the fossil fuel age was endemic, and oil and gas companies were turning to ever more expensive and risky sources of carbon – colloquially labelled extreme energy.

Economics, climate change, science, politics and corporate goals

Author and expert on natural resource issues, Michael T. Klare puts it thus: “The pursuit of untapped oil and mineral reserves in remote and hazardous locations, is part of a larger, more significant phenomenon: a concerted drive by governments and resource firms to gain control over whatever remains of the world’s resource base.”

If economics informs government opinion, the touchstone of the ‘prosperity’ argument is development, with the measure of GDP naturally pegged as the definitive gauge of the health and wealth of a people. Economists predominantly calculate growth projections on what has been, and remarkably – even in the face of the global resource debate – still produce reports that refuse to even acknowledge the environmental and social costs of specific developments. Despite the advent of environmental economics based theory and supporting documents penned from within the economist community, modern economics in practice appear to have had little effect in modifying the GDP-based clarion call of ‘upward and onward.’ A 2009 report from Boston University, states: “GDP is dangerously inadequate as a measure of quality of life,” yet within the context of shale gas in South Africa it is largely the anticipated contribution of shale gas mining to GDP that has elected officials already revising GNP, jobs and economic growth forecasts. Vast numbers (R80-R200 billion) and substantial percentages3.3%-9.6% of GDP abound. Unsurprisingly, the government appears to accept, apparently at face value, the predictions of economists paid by oil and gas multinationals. Meagre attention seems to have been expended on the base model applied to develop such numbers, and divergent opinions generated by well-published economists are greeted with silence.

The notion that exponential global growth, fuelled by traditional energy sources, will meet the needs of humanity is ingrained and commonly accepted to the extent that it is claimed by some that the world is not running out of resources.

A malady of pessimism, as undesirable as such may be, should not be countered with unrestrained optimism. Gore writes “Our natural and healthy preference for optimism about the future is difficult to reconcile with the gnawing concerns expressed by many that all is not well, and that left to its own devices the future may be unfolding in ways that threaten some of the human values we most cherish.”

Climate change

One of the key arguments promoted by environmentalists is anthropogenic climate change. Whether or not human activities cause or affect climate change is probably the most central issue in the debate, which itself, (climate change) is underwritten by hundreds of thousands of articles and studies. The climate change debate is relevant to shale mining inasmuch as it is claimed by big oil and gas that a change from coal to shale gas will deliver a great reduction in carbon emissions. Avoiding a discussion around the merits of shutting down a global coal industry and the naïve assumption that unburned and accessible coal will be left in the ground, and referencing again the claim of cleaner burning shale gas lowering overall emissions, consider this report by the Guardian quoting BP chief economist, Christof Ruehl: “Shale gas – previously inaccessible because the exploitation of these resources requires technology only recently perfected(sic)– will account for a rising proportion of the growth in energy in the years to 2035, but its use will not cause a decline in greenhouse gases.” Prefacing the report is the astonishing strapline: “BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years – Energy firm’s analysis finds switch to other fuels like shale gas will do little to cut carbon emissions.”

Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Ian Rutherford Plimer, credits the greatest carbon emissions as emanating from Australian brush fires and active volcanoes. Denouncing efforts to address anthropogenic causes of global warming – and in fact the holistic concept, Plimer gives the idea that there is little that we can do except sit back and enjoy the ride.  ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is ostensibly of the same mind about the outcome in his statement, “What good does it do to save the planet if humanity suffers?” Tillerson is reported to have said, “We can’t pull up, we’re going in, brace for impact” – an analogy of the language that would be used by the captain of an airliner in a terminal dive. Making Tillerson’s statement even more baffling are reports that ExxonMobil as an organisation has invested heavily in climate change denial. Asserting that nine out of ten ‘top’ climate change deniers are or alleged to be linked to ExxonMobil, the report reviews the efforts of big industry, including the Koch Brothers to cement climate change denial.

Pointing to 938 papers cited in an article by Carbon Brief , the text reveals that 186 of the articles were written by only ten men, and foremost among them was Dr Sherwood B Idso, who personally authored 67 of the articles. Idso is the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. The second most prolific was Dr Patrick J Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who receives roughly 40% of his funding from the oil industry.

Whatever the ultimate conclusion of the climate change discussion, two facts are undeniable – one – climate change is a convenient issue for both sides of the shale gas debate to use to their advantage; and two – big industry can throw tens of millions of dollars at it as long as it suits them to do so.

Science

Granting the last two points, (economics and climate change) are grounded in science, it is necessary to examine the term ‘science’ holistically, and with specific reference to shale gas in South Africa. An assessment of the shale gas debate in South African media will establish that both sides make use of ‘scientific’ reports that suit their viewpoint. Plato, in Republic wrote, “When the mind’s eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions.” The nexus with shale gas in South Africa is evident: the world’s scientific community cannot reach consensus on the claims raised by both sides of the shale gas argument. AGreen Paper on the importance of “scientific evidence-based policy-making” published by Janez Potočnik; Commissioner for Science and Research at the United Nations describes a resilient method for approaching policy decisions, especially on large scale. Potočnik writes “… ’Bridging the gap’ between science and policy is not a technical issue. It is a political, economic, social and cultural issue. It is about an encounter between politicians and scientists, often with the necessary help of citizens themselves.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency affords scientific policy appropriate gravity in its ownScientific Integrity Policy affirming, “Science is the backbone of the EPA’s decision-making.” The EPA also describes ‘science’ as an expansive term that references the full spectrum of scientific endeavors – basic science, applied science, engineering, technology, economics, social sciences, and statistics.

I don’t believe that South Africans can, at this juncture, be shown that the government policy on shale gas has been scientifically informed to the extent that a decision on a technology of the scope and scale of shale gas ought to be. Writing on the claims of climate change believers, a local journalist pronounces “This is simply bad science, conducted by scientists whose careers are on the line, paid for by investors with a stake in the outcome and politicians who want the moral cloak of playing saviour in a crisis. Clinging to received (sic) dogma, by repeating hoary arguments unilluminated by new facts demonstrates an abdication of critical thought that is not conducive to credible science.” On the basis that this statement applies equally to climate change deniers and their allies in governments – I agree wholeheartedly.

Politics and corporate goals

Gore in his book The Future writes “The idea of making truly meaningful collective decisions in democracy … is naïve, even silly, according to those who have long since placed their faith in the future not in human hands, but in the invisible hand of the marketplace.” He continues, “By tolerating the routine use of wealth to distort, degrade, and corrupt the process of democracy, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to use the ‘last best hope’ to find a sustainable path for humanity through the most disruptive and chaotic changes civilization has ever confronted.” Of the US Congress, he says, “Its members are still ‘representatives’, but the vast majority of them now represent the people and corporations who donate money, not the people who vote in their congressional districts.”

According to the SA government, shale gas extraction can be done safely and economically, will bring great riches and prosperity to South Africans, and concurrently solve our energy and carbon emission challenges. I don’t believe that our leaders have properly discharged their duty to the citizens of this country in arriving at their public decision on shale gas – and I submit that in election year it is time for you to think critically about whether to pick more fruit off the poisoned tree – or stop watering it. DM

IPCC backing for anthropogenic climate change up to 95%


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UN Chief Scientist Urges Action On Climate Change: ‘We Have Five Minutes Before Midnight’

BY KILEY KROH ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 AT 8:59 AM

Rajendra PachauriCREDIT: AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

Rajendra Pachuari, head of the United Nation’s group of climate scientists, said on Monday that humanity can no longer be content kicking the can down the road when it comes to climate change. “We have five minutes before midnight,” he emphasized.

“We may utilize the gifts of nature just as we choose, but in our books the debits are always equal to the credits.

“May I submit that humanity has completely ignored, disregarded and been totally indifferent to the debits? Today we have the knowledge to be able to map out the debits and to understand what we have done to the condition of this planet.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which Pachuari heads, is slated to release its long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) later this month. Drafts of the report seen by Reuters point to an even greater certainty that humans are the primary drivers of global warming, “It is at least 95 percent likely that human activities — chiefly the burning of fossil fuels — are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.” This is up from 90 percent in the 2007 report, 66 percent in 2001 and just over 50 percent in 1995, “steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame.”

Other leaks suggest the report will address the coming threat of sea-level rise and refute recent claims of a slowdown in the pace of warming, a notion that has been seized upon by climate change skeptics.

However, as Joe Romm explains, IPCC reports can only be considered a partial assessment of the true magnitude of climate change impacts because they represent “an instantly out-of-date snapshot that lowballs future warming because it continues to ignore large parts of the recent literature and omit what it can’t model.”

AR5′s shortcomings aside, Pachuari is clear that governments worldwide can no longer defer their responsibility to address climate change. He told the crowd on Monday that reining in greenhouse-gas emissions was still possible if countries, including in the developing world, rethought their approach to economic growth, reported Agence-France Press — a shift that would boost energy security, cut pollution and improve health, and also offer new job opportunities.

“We cannot isolate ourselves from anything that happens in any part of this planet. It will affect all of us in some way or the other,” Pachauri said.