The ‘Tragedy’ in Iran and the future for fracking

I missed a recent Guardian article by George Monbiot, expressing ecological despair, but advising readers to vote Green. The following two FT links show how right he is to worry.

In case the links don’t work, the first is a devastating account of water mismanagement in Iran. The FT link was ‘Iran dried up’ (21st August). It is a classic account of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’: decisions at a local, national and international level all made with a view to short term advantage in a context of economic and population growth. Although crass decisions were made, these would not have come home to roost quite so quickly or massively if climate change was not such a hard reality, which brings me to the second FT article, a discussion of the prospects for hydraulic fracturing.

Published as an FT link on 26th August,. ‘Shale gas: What lies beneath?’ this article takes no account whatsoever of the ecological realities as they affect Iran, or indeed any aspects other than the likely cost of extraction. The oil companies would no doubt be bemused by the notion that they were in any way responsible for the facts outlined in the earlier article. The latest IPPC report, reported in the New York Times on 26th August, emphasises the connection. But this can be discounted by the oil companies, though not by the rest of us. There is a well organized chorus dismissing the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), which was set up to warn governments of the facts, as a bunch of politically motivated zealots.

The hard fact underlying the FT article is that there is to all intents and purposes limitless oil under the ground. It all depends on the price of energy as to whether it is commercially viable to access it. The article discusses different scenarios in detail, acknowledging that most current ‘unconventional’ oil extraction will be short lived, but nevertheless envisaging at least the possibility of a prosperous medium term for the industry, taking technological innovations for granted. For example, Conoco has increased the output of each well by using more ceramic propellant – a sand-like material – to force open the cracks in the rocks where oil and gas is trapped.

We eco-freaks have a problem. We keep banging on about renewables. But renewables are hog-tied to fracking. Their viability also depends on the price of energy rising relative to everything else. How can we unpick this unholy link? Can we? I share George Monbiot’s pessimism. Vote Green? Well yes, if the Green Party can get back to the ‘Limits to Growth’ reason it was founded, and tie the Universal Income, (aka citizens’ basic income),now to be featured prominently, firmly to Green issues.

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