Nick Grealy explains how those who oppose fracking are unwittingly shifting their energy burden onto the backs of others.
Here’s a story based on cultural anthropology, the study of human cultures. Culture is bottom up. The story of man is from individuals to families, to bands, to groups, to villages, to tribes, to cities to countries – and today to the world.
Deep in the Amazon rain forest there still remain uncontacted tribes, humans who, by choice or geography, have no contact with the outside world.
Some are near natural gas reserves:
The Peruvian government has approved plans for gas company Pluspetrol to move deeper into a supposedly protected reserve for indigenous peoples and the buffer zone of the Manu National Park in the Amazon rainforest.
A subsequent report by MINCU requested that Pluspetrol abandon plans to conduct seismic tests in one small part of the reserve because of the “possible presence of [indigenous] people in isolation,” but didn’t object to tests across a much wider area. In addition to the seismic tests, the planned operations include building a 10.5km flow-line and drilling 18 exploratory wells at six locations—all of them in the reserve which lies immediately to the west of the Manu National Park and acts as part of its buffer zone.
Meanwhile, there is another uncontacted band in another forest:
The National Trust is continuing to refuse access for seismic surveying at historic Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, despite threats of legal action.
The Trust has said it is opposed to fracking and won’t allow surveying for fracking purposes.
INEOS Shale wants to carry out seismic surveying in the exploration licence area which covers the 3,800 acres of Clumber Park.
Its Operations Director, Tom Pickering, has said if INEOS cannot get access by negotiation it will use the courts.
But the National Trust is standing firm. A spokesperson said this afternoon:
“We have been contacted by INEOS Shale with regards to carrying out investigative surveys relating to gas and shale extraction on National Trust land at Clumber Park.
“The Trust is opposed to fracking on its land and will reject any fracking requests or inquiries. Consistent with this, we will always say no to surveying on our land for fracking purposes.”
In this globalized world, it’s sometimes difficult for people to make connections between their choices and the impact they have on the rest of the human tribe. The connection here has been made by LNG markets. Very shortly the UK will get an LNG cargo, from Peru, produced using Amazon Rain Forest natural gas.
That a South American supplier beat the U.S. to Britain’s energy market highlights changes in the way gas is being shipped and traded worldwide. While Peruvian LNG has a more natural home in nearby markets, it now has to compete with fuel from the U.S., which is expanding its export capacity. At the same time, an expansion of the Panama Canal means the shipping distance to Europe has shrunk.
There’s more here at ICIS on the economics.
Mexico is issuing spot tenders for LNG after Shell stopped shipping Peruvian cargoes to the country because of a pricing disagreement. Peru has been trying to adjust the terms of its supply contract with Mexico to take into account prevailing market conditions, but has run into resistance in Mexico. Shell is supplying Mexico with US cargoes instead.
No Peruvian LNG has left for Mexico since 21 October last year. Peru exported 13 cargoes to Mexico’s 3.8mn t/yr Manzanillo terminal in the equivalent period between late October to early February a year earlier.
Shell is diverting Peru LNG cargoes to higher-priced markets. It has shipped 13 cargoes to Spain, two to Japan, two to South Korea, one to China, and one to the UK since the last cargo loaded for Mexico.
The Readers Digest version is that Mexico can now get cheaper US shale by pipe as well as LNG. So, LNG sloshes around the world and goes to places like the UK, who still use gas but can’t be convinced the national interest would be to choose low carbon high tax gas produced under their backyards. In short, the question should be:
If not here, then where?
The National Trust, and its 4 million plus members, don’t realize they have this choice, simply because they haven’t had it pointed out to them.
The ship, the Gallina is chugging along with 68,000 tons of LNG. That’s quite a small cargo, but still enough to supply a quarter of the UK’s gas for one day. Or, all of London’s for two days. The cargo translates into roughly 94 million cubic meters. At the average UK system price so far in February of 1.81 pence per cubic meter the cargo has a value, even after 5% of the cargo has boiled off in route, of roughly £18 million or $22.5 million dollars.
The same volume of gas produced onshore UK would have enriched the UK government to the tune of roughly £8 million or, as I prefer to think of those taxes in more noble purposes, to provide a year’s worth of 300 nurses, teachers or police. Or, even officials for the understaffed Oil and Gas Authority. (That wouldn’t be produced every day, but then LNG carriers don’t show up every day either, this being only the third this year.) By the way, all this hard work produces at least a 25% higher carbon footprint than producing gas locally. It’s higher carbon, zero tax gas.
Another use for £8 million would be to make 3000 homes better insulated or give them 2,000 solar panels or 8,000 homes a (small) wind turbine, about 25MW of installed grid wind capacity onshore. But that’s all rather academic because some people in the UK don’t want their local area disturbed by the production of the very resource they heat their own homes with. So, as the Gallina story demonstrates, they make it, unknowingly, someone else’s problem.
The Gallina’s cargo will be put into the National Grid and then comfortably heat places like The Clumber Park Hotel. Although there is no legal connection to the National Trust, I imagine the hotel depends on the National Trust’s park as a draw. After a hard day, admiring the unspoiled countryside, a guest can soak their aching bones in a nice hot bath, produced next week via the added benefit of rain forest natural gas.
It’s a bit more comfortable than the rain forest, which is someone’s home too:
The issue here is not one of affected piety on the part of the National Trust, even though there is certainly some virtue signaling in how NT members can feel in some way that they are preserving the earth, or at least their corner of it by opposing fracking. Instead, they are shifting the burden of their energy consumption onto the backs of others. Let me point out again, they are, arguably, doing so unwittingly since no one really points it out to them. They could well be horrified.
In short, the National Trust may object to shale because they, too, are an uncontacted tribe. No one comes to them and explains why using natural gas from under our feet is a low carbon and high tax way of helping the local and the global community.
Ineos prefers to see them in court. That will be time consuming, expensive, and damages the reputation of the shale industry everywhere else in Europe and may not even work. Apart from anything else, the National Trust has over 4 million members. The shale industry has no need to alienate 4 million people, especially if 85% of them are potential customers.
Back in the forest, one could go into the forest with guns blazing, clear the indigenous out and produce some gas. The state owned gas company Pluspetrol, who sell the gas to Shell, isn’t that stupid though. They work around the community. They hire anthropologists. Those specialists in turn go into the forest, wave at people hiding in the trees and possibly leave some beads or trinkets in a clearing. It might take a few months, but it pays off. Then they meet one person. They talk to them. They tell them about the outside world and how important their role is in it. They flatter. They learn their language. One day perhaps, they get introduced to the local big man. They certainly don’t bring a lawyer -or a PR team – with them.
The end result is they get to do some seismic and no one gets killed by a poison arrow.
It’s a lesson Ineos should learn. Ineos could explain how the natural gas under Sherwood Forest belongs to everyone, not just them. They could explain to the National Trust, its members and perhaps to the hotel, that even in this little corner of the world, everyone’s choices are important.
Seeing them in court won’t help anyone. Most of all the planet.
Editor’s Note: While I wholeheartedly agree with Nick’s strategy of making National Trust members first understand the choices, I am less convinced than him they’ll listen. One thing we’ve learned in the fracking wars here is that gentry class warriors don’t care much about philosophical consistency of their positions or the collateral damage they impose on others for whom they condescendingly deign to speak and shower with their token acts of giving in support of their own special interests.
Some might listen and, therefore, the effort is justified, but it’s more important to educate others about the shallowness of the Trust position, something that might make others less likely to join in the future. That would get their attention. It’s also important, if you’re INEOS, to not put your faith in education alone. Speaking softly, carrying a big stick and going to court sooner rather than later all have their virtues.