Andrew Rawnsley is the Chief Political Correspondent of the Observer, so what he says today about fracking will be read by many people who know little or nothing  about it. They won't be educated by this and I'll only refute the main premise here:

Frack-heads talk feverishly about the reservoirs of shale gas being the equivalent of Britain's share of the original North Sea oil reserves. If that were to prove true, this would indeed provide a rich source of energy for Britain and a big boost to tax revenues for the Treasury. Some Tories even believe that shale gas could do for David Cameron what the black stuff did for Margaret Thatcher. The shale deposits under Lancashire alone, so they claim, could power the country for more than half a century. When they get really carried away, they reimagine Blackpool as the "Dallas of the North" with kiss-me-quick hats swapped for stetsons. Climate-change deniers are prominent among the frack-heads. Yet it also seems to offer something to greens because shale gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal.

Well, it is only human to dream and the temptation to fantasise about miraculous treasures is all the greater if you are a politician looking for relief from many more bleak years of austerity. The trouble with their dream is that it is very risky for Britain.

We can very easily knock the do we, don't we argument on the head by simply releasing the BGS for DECC estimates. The reason for not releasing them is so hilarious I'm saving it for my book, but the general point to consider here is that the resources, having been under the ground for 450 million years, aren't going anywhere. What is a fact, because the Chancellor tell us so, is that we have years of austerity ahead. It would be only human to dream, but what if there actually are miraculous treasures? Rawnsley tells not us, who knows better, but unfortunately several hundred thousand readers who don't, that shale is a mere illusion:

Shales in Europe are generally thinner and deeper, and therefore much more expensive to tap, than those that have been successfully exploited in the United States. And Britain looks likely to be one of the less promising prospects in Europe because its shales are typically among the thinnest.

That's a very sweeping statement. Where's the proof?  What if we could have an independent estimate if not of resources, then of the thickness of shales?  There are a number of geological factors that are used to assess shale plays, but among the most important is the thickness of the shale. Andrew Rawnsley says they are thin - and worthless.  Here's what DECC say:


As I've noted recently, the Bowland shale is actually one of the worlds's largest gas fields, easily in the top ten and possibly as high as three. It's so big that it's size one way or the other is meaningless. If I tell you it's number four, we can rest assured Damian Carrington will write a story talking about the defeat  for frack heads if we only make it to the top 12. 

We need to cut  the bureaucratic log jam over the resource estimate. Ed Davey could release it tomorrow. The fact he isn't shows the internal battles still raging.

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