Saturday, December 15, 2012


On the stupid Lefty Luddites, green ideologues and Guardianista pillocks opposing our glorious shale gas revolution…

Lord Justice Leveson has been in Australia giving the locals his tuppeny ha'penny's worth on press regulation. Given how gagmakingly PC they are over there these days, I'm sure they lapped up every word. The bits that most interested me were his views on the differences between the print media (or as Richard North calls it the "legacy media") and the blogosphere.
During a speech at the University of Melbourne, he insisted there was an important difference between mainstream journalists with "a powerful reputation for accuracy" and bloggers and tweeters who were "no more than electronic versions of pub gossip".
Who are these mainstream journalists with a "powerful reputation for accuracy", you wonder? (Well clearly he hasn't read much of the output of Fairfax Media, recently.) Maybe someone from somewhere like the Observer, I'm guessing, for I wouldn't have Lord Justice Leveson down as a Telegraph or Mail man and I doubt he touches the Murdoch press. In fact, I'd lay money that Leveson is a great admirer of the Observer's chief political writer Andrew Rawnsley. Many people are. Even I once quite liked the idea of him. He's the kind of political commentator you see on TV, looking quite cuddly and sounding quite reasonable, and mutter to yourself, "Well he seems an all right sort of fellow, that Andrew Rawnsley."
But is he?
Since Shale Gas is very much the topic de la semaine, I thought I'd treat you to Rawnsley's insights on the subject from his Observer column last weekend. (Note to younger readers: The Observer used to be Britain's pre-eminent serious newspaper). Here's a flavour:
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.
Now, speaking as a polemicist and a troll-baiter, I have a sneaking admiration for Rawnsley's style here. It's colourful, it's rude ("frack-heads" sounds a bit like, oo-er missus, something else, doesn't it?), it's combative, it's provocative and it's seething with but-barely-contained righteous rage. Problem number one is Rawnsley is not a blogger – he is the Chief Political Correspondent of Britain's once most-revered serious newspaper. Problem number two is that every word he has written here – including all the ands and buts – is total, abject, weapons-grade toss.
Fortunately, we have a journalist on hand to explain why it's a load of toss. No, wait. This guy's not a professional journalist at all – he's one of those dangerous blogger fellows Lord Justice Leveson warns us about: the type whose opinions are no better than an "electronic version of pub gossip."
Still, let's give him a fair hearing, eh? His name is Nick Grealy and he does seem to know quite a bit about the subject. For example, he has some facts and figures which would appear to make a mockery of the Great Rawnsley's Olympian scepticism and Ozymandias scorn.
The bit that particularly exercises Grealy is Rawnsley's claim that Britain's shale gas plays are thin and feeble:
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.
It exercises him because this ludicrous claim is about as far the opposite of true that the opposite of true can be. Here are the DECC estimates:
So we've all heard of the Bakken and Marcellus Shales – the ones which have transformed the US economy, brought natural gas prices down by two thirds, etc. Well our own Bowland Shale, under Blackpool is up to 40 times thicker.
The depressing thing is that in a decade or so's time when the shale gas revolution has really taken off in Britain – bringing prosperity, jobs and dramatically cheaper energy – no one is going to remember the names of that rag bag of ideological greenies, wind turbine scamsters, ill-informed celebrities, enviro-loon activists and Guardianista pillocks who fought so hard to stop it happening.
But I wish they did. If there were any justice Cuadrilla would erect a huge statue of Andrew Rawnsley in Blackpool for dogs to urinate on and for shale industry workers to throw rotten fruit at and their privately educated offspring to laugh at. "This man tried to keep you poor," the plaque below would read. "This man tried to deny you jobs. He tried to make it more expensive for you to heat your homes. He tried to hold back the economic recovery. He tried to ensure that more of your countryside was obliterated with wind farms."
Maybe if they could find space for it, they could put up another statue to the lefty Twitter pontificator, anti-shale-gas campaigner, and occasional comedy writer Graham Linehan. Maybe there could even be a blue flame emerging from his posterior – in order to symbolise the origins of his political insights on shale, the NHS, climate change and other matters….

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