Thursday, December 22, 2016

Frack On! UK High Court Gives Fracking Green Light

At Last: UK Fracking Expected To Start Within Months


Britain’s High Court ruled on Tuesday that a fracking permit awarded by a local council to developer Third Energy was legal, after it was challenged by environmental campaigners, opening the way to shale gas extraction in the UK. Substantial amounts of shale gas are estimated to be trapped in underground rocks and the British government wants to exploit it to help offset declining North Sea oil and gas output, create some 64,000 jobs and help economic growth. The contested permit in Yorkshire, in the north of England, was the first approval for shale gas fracking since a moratorium was lifted in 2012. “The substantive claim for judicial review is dismissed,” Justice Lang said in her written verdict on the case, ruling that the permit remains valid. --Reuters, 20 December 2016

Fracking is expected to start within months in North Yorkshire after the High Court rejected a legal challenge by residents and environmental campaigners. Mrs Justice Lang ruled against Frack Free Ryedale and Friends of the Earth, who had argued that North Yorkshire county council failed to consider properly the contribution of fracking to climate change when granting permission to the fracking company Third Energy. The judge also rejected a claim that inadequate provisions had been made to protect the community from future detrimental impacts of the industry. She said that the terms of the council’s approval in May gave a “considerable degree of protection to residents”. --Ben Webster, The Times, 21 December 2016

The U.K.’s renewable and low-carbon energy sector shrank by 8.7 percent last year, partly because of cuts to subsidies. --Jessica Shankleman, Bloomberg, 16 December 2016

President Obama today used his pen to withdraw hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned land in the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean from new offshore oil and gas drilling. Obama acted pursuant pursuant to something called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The White House described its prohibition on future oil and gas exploration and drilling as indefinite, and it claimed that the ban cannot be undone by an incoming president. “There is a precedent of more than half a century of this authority being utilized by presidents of both parties,” a White House aide said. “There is no authority for subsequent presidents to un-withdraw.” I have no view on the merits of Obama’s withdrawal of the offshore waters from consideration for drilling. However, the claim that Trump can’t reverse this strikes me as questionable. David Rivkin argues, plausibly, that the power to withdraw entails the power to un-withdraw, especially if circumstances change. --Paul Mirengoff, Power Line, 20 December 2012

The Obama Administration has given Donald Trump an early Christmas gift, in the form of a punitive 11th-hour regulation on coal. Issued by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), the rule takes effect Jan. 19 as a classic example of the job-killing rules that Mr. Trump has vowed to overturn. Though issued Monday, the Obama Administration has been working on the Stream Protection Rule for six years. Ostensibly it’s about keeping American waterways clean. In reality it’s a power grab aimed at giving federal regulators more authority to make coal too expensive for anyone to mine or use. The good news is that the change of power in Washington makes this regulation not long for this world. Mr McConnell has already announced that early next year Congress will use the Congressional Review Act to bury the new rule. --The Wall Street Journal, 21 December 2016

As all champions of cost/benefit analysis understand, it is a mistake to look at costs in isolation from benefits, or benefits apart from costs. Yet that appears to be the approach taken in these reports. In essence, the benefits from present or future CO2 emissions are not part of the SCC story. Yet a truly neutral account of the problem must be prepared to come to the conclusion that increased levels of CO2 emissions could be, as the Carbon Dioxide Coalition has argued, a net benefit to society when a more comprehensive investigation is made. The good news on this point seems to be that the increase in CO2 has led to about a 14 percent increase in green vegetation on earth over the past 30 years, as Matt Ridley reported in a 2016 lecture. It is the best of all possible CO2 worlds if the level of arable land increases with minor temperature changes and there are no appreciable changes in ocean levels. Put these numbers together and a revision of the SCC must be made, as it now appears that the net costs of carbon are negative. Further, the revised projections have only strengthened the lower estimates of global warming from elevated CO2 levels. --Richard Epstein, Hoover Institution, 20 December 2016

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