Who blew up ‘the bridge to the future’?

And more to the point – why?

We should applaud the views of progressive environmentalists, according to 6000 miles… commenter stickman:

Monbiot’s been giving it to fellow greenies on this particular issue for a while. Google his comments on Fukushima, for example.
Actually, the good news is that there is an increasingly vocal environmental contingent that is embracing the science on things like nuclear and GM crops.

and he’s probably right. But what happens when they are persuaded to go back to the dark green side?

An article by Jon Entine – visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – investigates one such occurrence – whereby the views of the progressive environmental lobby have turned, for no good scientific reason, on the subject of shale gas – a potential energy source close to our hearts (although not nearly so close to our surface as the Karoo aquifers) in South Africa.

Natural gas was seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism—a fossil fuel, whose reserves would gradually diminish, as the price of alternative energy became cost competitive.

Now… inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?

It’s certainly not the science. Nor does it relate to any genuine concerns based around environmental issues involved in getting the gas out of the ground. So perhaps it’s the fact that the once-heralded ‘bridge to the future’ actually seems to be just too good:

while we are awash in natural gas, skepticism over the mass scale feasibility of alternatives has escalated. Overflowing supplies destroy Big Green’s argument that fossil fuels will get more and more costly till even wind and solar power are competitive. That undermines the argument for massive subsidies of alternatives that may never deliver competitive bang for the buck. No longer is natural gas a bridge to the alternative energy future. Much to the chagrin of energy activists, natural gas now is the future.

The result of this realisation is an almost desperate propaganda war by the green lobby – well funded by certain individuals through certain academic institutions, and faithfully reported via certain news sources. Entine goes into great (and well referenced) detail over how Cornell University professor Robert Howath and his wife have manipulated the debate over fracking and how it has been lapped up by the press, while criticism of Howath’s methodologies, rationale and conclusions are not reported;

The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the same data, concluding that natural gas, even from shale, results in far less emissions than coal. But that study did not make it into the NYT.

Whatever your take on fracking, Entine’s essay is well worth a read. His exposure of what he describes as the “media-philanthropy-university complex” and the “web of connections” in the anti-fracking lobby should sound warning bells for those looking for objective research into the subject – it seems that while environmentalists (probably rightfully) bemoan “Big Oil” spinning stories to support their work, “Big Green” is just as adept at managing the media. And, after all, as Entine says:

What if wealthy donors are deploying their money to manipulate public opinion and support research whose conclusions often conflict with science? That in a nutshell is the media rationale for scrutinizing public relations efforts by Big Business.

So why aren’t people looking with more scepticism at what they hear from all sources, rather than just those whose views disagree with their own?

That’s just human nature, I guess, but as I’ve said all along when blogging about fracking, there’s no point in relying on subjective data or unscientific rhetoric. Entine’s piece is a well-researched lesson for us all in that regard.

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