A double benefit from shale gas mining

Keith Hudson

Thank goodness the scientifically-illiterate UK government — hitherto overcome with the hysteria about the man-made origins of the present warm period — has finally come to its senses and has now decided to slash . . . the subsidies given to those who’ve installed solar panels on their house roofs.

Solar cell technology will continue to improve no doubt over the coming years but it will be a very long time, if ever, that it would be anywhere near economically viable.  In due course, solar technology will some into its own when either hydrogen gas or electricity directly will be generated by bacterial methods similar to those that have already evolved over billions of years and which take place in the top millimetre or two of all ocean surfaces.

This new ecology, involving thousands of micro-organisms new to man, has only been discovered in the last 15 years or so, firstly by Craig Venter, one of the original trail-blazers in the elucidation of the human genome early this century.  So far, these micro-organisms are proving to be impossible to keep alive in lab conditions so the understanding of their very complex physiologies will probably take many decades yet.

Meanwhile, we have an excellent fuel, shale gas, which, when incinerated in power stations, can generate electricity more cheaply than coal or oil and releases about half the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that worries so many people.

Unsightly though shale gas wells are, they each demand no more than a few acres and could easily be camouflaged with new trees.  When local authorities are considering giving planning permission to gas miners, they might consider imposing an obligation on them to plant as many (or twice as many) acres of trees around them.  In that way, soils which have been severely denaturalised by farming can be restored also, thus giving us a double benefit.

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