Private Eye on shale gas

South Africa isn’t the only country to have potentially economy-changing amounts of shale gas underneath it. The UK has some too. According to the usually politically-left In The Back section of Private Eye magazine:

Cuadrilla, the gas exploration company drilling for shale gas in Lancashire, has announced its discovery of 200 trillion cubic feet of gas – a seriously big find.
If only a tenth of that were to be produced, it would still make it far larger than any gas field discovered in the North Sea, with the added benefit of it being accessible from dry land.
It represents a potential lottery win: not just for Cuadrilla, but for UK plc as a whole.

And here we are talking about 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas.
South Africa’s shale gas deposits are estimated to be at least 450tcf. That’s 450 000 000 000 000 cubic feet of gas. Putting that into some sort of perspective, Mossgas, the successful refinery in the Southern Cape, was built on the assumption that there was just 1 (one) tcf in deposits under the seabed.

The article continues:

Recent shale gas discoveries in the US have already transformed the North American gas market, changing it from a net importer to a net exporter in just two years, and significantly lowering gas prices there. If the Lancashire discovery turns out to be even remotely as big as has been announced, the UK will be in a position to keep its lights on cheaply – and cleanly – for a very long time to come.

Yes – locally produced shale gas means cheaper, cleaner energy.

The technology for shale gas production is controversial [including] the alleged – but disputed – potential for contamination of groundwater. Again, if the amounts of gas are as large as stated, the highest environmental standards could be imposed on its production and it would still be profitable.

Because abundant shale gas undermines the case for subsidising nuclear and renewable power generation, it faces a well-funded hostile lobby, keen to play up any negatives it can find.
Lurid films of gas-flames shooting out of bath-taps in America have comprehensively been shown to have nothing to do with shale gas production (it is a naturally-ocurring phenomenon in part of the US) but they capture the public imagination.
We can therefore expect largescale anti-shale gas protest from a range of vested “green” interests.

Indeed. I wonder if the British-born Lewis Pugh will take time out from poking his nose into other country’s affairs for long enough to “save” his homeland from an economic boom and cheaper, greener energy like he is trying to do here in South Africa.

Out of the bad

Out of the bad, and it is bad – ridiculously, stupidly, embarrassingly bad – comes some good.

Step forward, photoshoplooter, whereby images of heinous acts committed over the last few days are turned, via the medium of Photoshop, into embarrassing identikits of the guilty parties.


I could do stuff like this. All I need is Photoshop.

As I write, it seems to be spreading: Manchester, Salford, West Midlands, even mention of Milton Keynes and Mansfield. Looking for positives in all this, Wolverhampton may actually be improved by some violent redesigning.

The Last Hurrah

With the World Cup over (feel eet, eet is gone), it’s time to move on to other things and I need a project to keep myself occupied now that there isn’t live football available 24/7 (at least, until the new football seasons start in a couple of weeks).

So I’m turning my attention to my little end of year jaunt to the Northern Hemisphere and I have decided that this one will be entitled The Last Hurrah: after a-ha’s final single and in keeping with the bittersweet purpose of the trip. There will be tears.
Given that there will be just 180 hours between my outbound flight touching down at T5 and my inbound flight leaving the same – and with approximately a million people to see in the UK plus 3 blokes in Norway – this will be no holiday and organisation will be key.

There are some obvious items that are set in stone and flights and hotels need to be booked for those (cough, Big Ant, cough), but the rest is all just in my head. The only issue is that in there, it finds itself competing for space with thoughts of lobsters, christmas trees and external hard drives (don’t ask) and thus requires documenting here in some sketchy form or other.

Cape Town | Sheffield | (Newcastle) | Sheffield | Gloucester | Oslo | London | Cape Town

Obviously, these are just the bare bones. You can’t fly directly from Cape Town to Sheffield (nor from Gloucester to Oslo) and there will be no overnight stop in Newcastle – but it will be visited.

The emphasis (indicated above by the use of italics) in the case of Newcastle is important because it will be my first trip back there since leaving University back in 1995. I’ve often promised myself that I would get back up to The Toon, but either money, time or (now) distance has prevented it. On this trip, I’m determined to make a day of it up there – if only to see what remains of my old haunts.
Sadly, as far as they go, I suspect there won’t be much left to see: 15 years is a long time when you’re considering cities in Northern England and the throes of rejuvenation.
I hope that green bridge is still there.

So anyway – there they are – the best laid plans of me.
And surely the only things that can ruin them are a BA strike or an errant Icelandic volcano.

There’s talk of emigration in the air

Remember when we used to hear that at all the dinner parties, the braais, on the television and in the papers?
The ZumaRumas™. The dangers of another ANC government. Chasing the whites out of the country. Murdered in our beds. How South Africa was going to become “another Zimbabwe”.
I never did get a firm date for any of those unfounded scare-mongering stories.
When I asked, I usually just got a hard stare over my wors and some mumbled excuse about needing another Castle Lite.

Sure, South Africa does have its problems. Many of them, in fact. Which is surely all the more reason for not adding more silly ones that you made up on the way to the party.
But why the exceptionalism? Because nowhere is perfect and everywhere you go, you’re going to face challenges. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. And if it is, it’s probably because of all the s**t that’s around over there.

So – back to the talk of emigration in the air:

There’s talk of emigration in the air. It’s everywhere I go. Parties. Work. In the supermarket.

That’s Jeremy Clarkson in this week’s Sunday Times. He’s fed up with the UK – particularly the way it’s being run – and he wants out:

It’s a lovely idea, to get out of this stupid, Fairtrade, Brown-stained, Mandelson-skewed, equal-opportunities, multicultural, carbon-neutral, trendily left, regionally assembled, big-government, trilingual, mosque-drenched, all-the-pigs-are-equal, property-is-theft hellhole and set up shop somewhere else.

The rest of the piece is a wonderful rant about the amount of control and red tape that is exerted over those in the developed world. And a highly amusing list of the problems with each individual country that he considers emigrating to. And – while it is, of course, written with tongue firmly in cheek – at least Clarkson acknowledges that it doesn’t matter where you go, things won’t ever be perfect. Because that’s really not how life works.

I often think that immigrants to a country are better at seeing the good in it. I certainly think that I have a much more positive opinion of South Africa than many of those who have lived here all their lives. And that goes for a lot of the other ex-pats I’ve met here, too.
I’ve done my best to educate myself on the substance behind the stories, taking opinion from all sides – like The Political Analyst and The Guru amongst others – and I’m finding it easier and easier to recognise nonsense emails and stories earlier and earlier, because – like all lies – they really don’t stand up to any degree of scrutiny. I now regularly have friends emailing me with stories of crime and politics and the ANC, with online petitions and the like, asking me if they are true.
And they never are.

And while I’m happy to set records straight, I find it sad that people still willingly believe all that they read in their inboxes and in the newspapers. And sadder still that there are individuals who will prey on this gullibility to push their agenda across. Thabo Mbeki did some things right and he did some things wrong (and this really isn’t a post about that), but he hit the nail on the head with this line:

It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.

Ironically, it now seems that he was behind some of the propagation of those deliberate falsehoods, no matter how unacceptable he found the practice. But it’s still a great quote.

What I’m saying here is that you can’t allow yourself to be dragged down by only seeing the negative side of things and you have to make the best of what you’ve got.
Because you’re never going to have it all.
A lot of people in South Africa fall into that negativity trap and their lives, their outlook and the mood of whole country in general are detrimentally affected because of it.
Positivity costs nothing and it makes you feel a whole lot better.

As for Clarkson – his column has now been removed from the Sunday Times website – probably something to do with his plan to strap Peter Mandelson “to the front of a van and drive round the country until he isn’t alive any more”.
Fortunately, I got there first and have a nice small (35kb) PDF of it for you to read. Enjoy!

The Dangers of Wind Power

I’m not sure how much I believe in the global warming/climate change argument.
However, I do recognise that pollution is a bad thing and therefore that reducing pollution would be a good thing. Thus, I find myself in cautious favour of any steps being taken towards the reduction of pollution.

Wind power is one of those steps. Good old renewable energy.
Less dirty than coal, less challenging than solar, less dangerous than nuclear – or is it?

Take for example, this NY Times article in which it is stated that Britain could become a global leader in electricity production from offshore wind farms by 2020:

Britain could become the largest producer of electricity from offshore wind by the end of the next decade, according to the Carbon Trust, a group funded by the British government.
With carefully targeted subsidies and regulations, Britain could build 29 gigawatts of capacity compared to a global total of 66 gigawatts by 2020, giving it 45 percent of the offshore power market, said the Carbon Trust. By comparison, Germany would have 12 gigawatts by 2020, the group said.

All sounds very promising – even if Vestas is about to go under. But have these sort of plans really been thought through thoroughly? Not according to concerned, angry and apparently terminally stupid commenter Lyle Vos:

I am very concerned that these wind farms will affect the natural wind patterns thereby affecting weather patterns. A consensus of my friends who are scientists believe that a wind farm of this scale will shift the earth off its rotational axis and send it hurtling toward the sun in a matter of decades. Who stupid are these Brits? Don’t they realize that human actions on such a scale have worldwide consequences? Such an attempt to destroy the planet should be considered an act against humanity and declaration of war. Where is the condemnation from the UN?

Where indeed? What are the UN doing ignoring this blatant act against humanity and declaration of war against the entire planet?

As a scientist, I’d like to meet with Lyle’s “friends who are scientists”, partly to discuss with them their hypotheses regarding the shifting of the planet from its rotational axis due to the suddenshift of meteorological patterns, but mainly just to see if they exist.
And of course, hurtling towards the sun will also probably make the world hotter, thereby negating any of the positive effects of reducing the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Which won’t help either.

Having given the matter a lot of thought, I think that the only way to combat these terrible implications is to build an equally big wind farm on the other side of the world and have it running the other way.