Steps in the right direction seldom cover much ground.
To call something a step in the right direction is to spray cheery paint on disappointment.
Ineos musters no more applause than that for the UK government’s new measures to promote development of natural gas in English shale.
Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy told Parliament on May 17 the government would streamline applications and help local governments.
In a press statement, Ineos Shale Commercial Director Lynn Calder called the move, sure enough, “a step in the right direction” and added, “There is much more that needs to be done.”
Much more, indeed.
Ineos Shale has licenses in northern England and wants to test shale gas potential. Its work meets regular and stubborn opposition.
The press statement says environmental activists target UK planning, “leaving local planning authorities reluctant to allow any shale-related activities, even when council officers have recommended they should be approved.”
It says “the vast majority of applications” are rejected.
And it compares UK with US administrative conditions.
Acquiring permission to drill a test well in the UK, which once took 3 months, now requires up to 3 years. The US process takes 4 weeks.
And the cost of acquiring permission for a test well can reach £1.5 million in the UK, compared with £20,000 in the US.
“That is why America has a thriving shale gas industry and is close to energy independence, whereas the UK has none and is increasingly reliant on imports for our power,” the statement says.
Ineos further quotes Calder to assail the notion that fossil fuels can be abandoned in favor of renewable energy: “Some environmentalists inhabit a la-la land where renewable energy is a magical force that is always available. In the real world, that simply isn’t the case.”
The best part of the UK’s step in the right direction might be the opportunity it gives an affected party to say things that need to be said.