Tuesday, 9 July 2013

LET'S IMAGINE IT'S 1781

 
The following is an article written by Roger Helmer MEP and it is such a good illustration of human progress applied to energy that I produce it below.

We’re sitting around in a London Coffee Shop and talking about these new-fangled factories and steam engines.  James Watt has just patented a practical steam engine that delivers continuous power.

Problem is, that’ll mean we need coal.  Lots and lots of it, if all these iron founders and steel masters and factory owners have their way.  But there’s clear evidence that coal mines can produce localised earthquakes (or at least, tremors).  There’ll be pit heads despoiling the countryside, and slag heaps, and open-cast mining, and railways built across the country to deliver the coal and the factory products.  There’ll be air pollution and smog and “pea-soupers”.  There’ll be miners condemned to a working life underground in difficult conditions.  Mining through or near aquifers could contaminate the water supply, never mind the run-off from the slag heaps.

So of course we decide that we simply can’t face the environmental consequences of coal mining, and we’ll stick to water wheels, and wind-mills, and horse power, thank you very much.

Imagine the consequences.  Britain today would be a poor, agrarian society, rife with hunger and poverty and disease.  Every man with an acre and a cow (if he’s lucky).  Of course many of the problems we anticipated in our Coffee Shop did indeed come to pass, and we should be grateful that now in the 21st Century we have a better understanding of our environment, and that we have proper controls over industrial activity that potentially leads to pollution (even if the regulation is sometimes over-the-top).

And what if we had ignored the possibility of North Sea Oil?  We could have predicted that there would be oil rig catastrophes, lives lost, pollution incidents -- as indeed there have been.  But does anyone today seriously think that we should have ignored the North Sea?  Of course not.  It played a dramatic role in economic development in the UK, and we should all be poorer today without it.

All these arguments are deployed today against fracking.  Earth tremors.  Contamination of aquifers.  Well-heads despoiling the countryside (though a lot less intrusive than wind turbines).  But in this case we have decades of experience of fracking in the USA (and to an extent in Germany).  We know that the risks are small, we know how to manage them, and we know that they have been greatly exaggerated (though for different reasons) by both Green NGOs and by existing gas interests like Gazprom.

It would be downright irresponsible to turn our backs on fracking, just as it would have been in 1781 to turn our backs on coal and steam and the Industrial Revolution.  Or to turn our backs in the 1960s on North Sea oil and gas.  We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by Grim Fairy Tales from Greenpeace.

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