Striving for self-sufficiency: isn't it time to restart the UK Coal Industry?

Saturday, Jan 15 2011 by
11
Striving for selfsufficiency isnt it time to restart the UK Coal Industry

All the talk has been of late upon the mass spending cuts and the possibility of QE mark 2.  Why? Because the UK needs to cut its deficit, and because the financial based UK market appears to be starting to struggle once again.  But are spending cuts and QE2 the only options to help bring the UK’s balance sheet back into order and return the UK to growth? 

Well I say no, as though spending cuts are needed, I feel that there is an option available that could aid these cuts that should have been taken advantage years before now.

The UK North Sea production has been falling year upon year, and the UK coal production has been steady at a very low rate since 1992 when the UK coal industry was basically ended by the UK government.  This means that the UK must import all its commodities, oil, gas, copper, iron, diamonds, coal etc.  This amounts to a large amount of money leaving the UK every year via imports, with UK exports not anywhere near making up for this deficit.  Worse, as the North Sea begins to dry up this deficit will only grow, but it does not have to be this way, as if the government were willing, the UK could become so much more sufficient, and get much more resources out of the ground.  To explain, it is possible with government backing that the UK could substantially increase oil and gas, and coal production.  In terms of where this money could come from, why not use the tax money earned from the North Sea which is a mere US$2.5-$5bn a year depending on the oil price, thus unlikely to make much difference to the coffers when considering the benefits it will bring.  To explain:

UK Coal industry

The coal industry died in the UK in the early 1990’s, to explain why.  Initially in the 80’s the government wanted to close some non-profitable mines, and whether they were right to do this or not (I am abstaining from any opinion on this matter as it is not the point), the fact remains that the unions went too far in fighting this, and in the end forced the government to fight so hard that there was no real coal industry left in this country.  The final act of this war came in 1992, when Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade (Industry minister) decided that coal mining in the United Kingdom had no future.  This meant that in an instant 30,000 jobs went, with 31 coal mines being closed (more than half the countries).  This came at a terrible time for Britain, sending the country into an even deeper recession, and brought the country up in arms.  The move also led to the British mining unions launching legal action against the government, this was a battle in which they won, with the High Court ruling that the decision to shut the mines was an unlawful breach of both British and European employment law.  But though the unions won the court room battle, they lost the war as what the High Court actually ruled was that the manner in which the pits had been closed was illegal (they found that the government had broken a consultation agreement with the miners that placed decisions about closures at the discretion of an independent review), but the scale of the closures were ruled perfectly legal, meaning that the government had finally won its war against the mining unions.  So the reason that the coal industry ended up being shut was a mix of fighting between the unions and the governments, and the governments short sighted view that the North Sea would provide much better for the UK than the coal industry (the less said on this view, the better!).

In terms of what remains of the UK coal industry, in 2009, of the 60m short tonnes of coal the UK used, 40m short tonnes were imported.  The UK’s production of approximately 20,000 tonnes of coal a year has been pretty much flat for years now.  But this does not need to be the case, because the UK has enough coal reserves to last for 200 years, and these reserves could be produced economically, albeit most at low margins.  Therefore with government backing the UK could restart the coal mining industry, and thus end its reliance on imports, and in the process, not only create jobs, but stop £4bn needlessly leaving the UK economy every year, therefore boosting consumption, tax receipts, and lowering the trade deficit.

To explain a little further with an example, over the next twenty years, if the coal price remains static with demand (both unlikely), £80bn will be lost over this period to other countries.  But if the UK invested in the coal industry, even if the coal mines cost £20bn to come online, and only ran at break even, the UK economy would still be £60bn better off over the twenty year period.  Therefore the only way for the UK not to be better off would be if the mines were loss makers.  But if the government decided to take ownership of the mines, they would literally only need to break even for the government to be better off (they may even be able to be better off if they are run at a loss).  To explain the economics of this, £500m is spent bringing a 5m tonne per annum mine online, net the UK government would have spent likely approximately £400m (any wages paid, equipment purchased would all be taxed, thus they would get the money back).  Next let’s assume the mine only breaks even in net profit terms, meaning with a coal price of US$100 per tonne, revenue would be US$500m per annum.  This would mean that the UK would be saving $US500m a year from leaving the economy; the government would be earning higher tax revenue from the workers at the mine, and from the purchase of any equipment, petrol, diesel etc.  Also let’s say that there are 800 employees, these workers would have cash which they could inject back into the economy, boosting both tax receipts and business.  Meaning over the life of the mine, let’s say its fifteen years, for a cost of £400m, the UK would be $US7.5bn (£4.4bn) better off with a self sufficient mine operation in place (net profit break even does not mean cash flow break even, with the assumption being that the mine can run itself via the cash flow earned each year), now that looks like a good use of money to me.

UK oil and gas (North Sea)

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The UK oil and gas sector peaked in the late 1990’s and has been dwindling at a substantial rate since, with production now less than a third of the peak, with the UK now actually being a net importer of oil and gas rather than a net exporter.  In 2009 the UK used approximately 3,088 bcf a year of natural gas, of which it imported 1,450 bcf, against production of 2,058 bcf (this number continues to fall year upon year – in 2005 it was 3,115 bcf).  This leads to a short fall of 420 bcf, meaning that £420m leaves the economy every year, and this number will only rise if something is not done.  In terms of oil, in 2009 1.7m bopd was used, whilst production was only 1.4m bopd, this means that every day US$22.5m leaves this country, and every year US$8.2bn leaves the economy with the oil price at US$75 (All production and usage figures come from this link).  Does it have to be this way, possibly, as the UK reserves are limited, but that still does not mean that the UK cannot improve its level of sufficiency in the oil and gas sector.   

To explain at current estimates, the North Sea has an estimated 20bn+ in reserves left, but this number could be increased.  An example of how the UK could do this would be by investing in the North Sea would be using Carbon Capture, the way this works is by squirting surplus CO2 from factory chimneys down into exhausted fields, so forcing more oil up the wells (click here for more on this).  A low ball estimate of how much extra oil this could bring from the North Sea would be 3bn barrels (better still this oil would be near carbon neutral).  This would mean that with an oil price of US$80, US$240m (£170m) could be saved from leaving the economy over a twenty year period.  In terms of the tax received, if you just consider income tax and possible corporation tax, its amounts to a possible £60bn being added to the UK’s coffers over this period, that is £3bn a year (assuming 20 years).  But this does not take into account the effect that the job creation would have (increased consumer spending), and the increased cash in the economy (increased business and consumer spending), all of which would help the UK GDP and deficit.

In terms of the cost of this, as it would likely be a private and public backed venture, making value for money should not be an issue.

Also in case anyone is worrying about the validity of the venture, this technology is proven, and dates as far back as the 1970’s when it was first introduced in Texan oil fields.  Also the technology was meant to be used in this country, but the UK government took a very short sighted view (a common occurrence it would appear), as Alistair Darling in 2007 allowed the deal for the technology to be introduced in Scotland to fall through, even though they had the backing of majors like BP and Shell (click here for more on this).  Also the technology is being taken up in the Middle East, further proving its viability.  Though unlike the UK coal industry, there is a very short timeframe available for action, as if action is not taken soon, it will be too late as all the infrastructure needed to make this work around the North Sea will be gone, and once it is gone there is no way back.

Conclusion

To conclude, if you assume that the UK just does the things that I have mentioned (i.e. the coal and North Sea), with the benefits starting to flow from 2015, over a twenty year period, the UK could save £250bn from leaving the UK economy, this equates to £12.5bn a year, with the tax benefits likely being at least £4bn a year.  Thus for an outlay of likely less than £40bn over a 20 year period, they would earn £80bn in tax and keep £250bn in the economy.  Just to note, of course the figures mentioned are just guesses, but I can see no reason why the coal industry with government backing could not be viable, nor can I see why the carbon capture could not be, with the backing of majors proving it.  Therefore in my view things like this should really be looked at, as energy self sufficiency is only going to become more important in the future, and at current the UK is looking like it is going to get left behind.


Filed Under: Oil And Gas, Politics, North Sea, Coal,

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33 Comments on this Article show/hide all

marben100 18th Jan '11 14 of 33
1

In reply to Mattybuoy, post #12

On the more general point, if we don't try to use coal again in the UK just how exactly how are we going to keep the lights on?

Easy Mattybuoy: get them nuclear plants built! [it's a darn sight safer and less polluting than conventional coal mining & burning] :0)

It certainly works for France.

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muckshifter 18th Jan '11 15 of 33
1

In reply to marben100, post #13

Mark,
"PPS just to clarify the point Muckshifter made in the passage that I quoted, CMM is essentially the same as CSG - except that fraccing of the coal seam has been done for you by the act of constructing the mine, whereas CSG production requires other (relatively expensive) methods to frac the coal seam, releasing its gas."

But my main point, which I'm sure most here understood anyway, is the difficulty of keeping the "well" in the centre of a coal seam of probably marginal thickness in economic terms when plagued with geological faults.

Wrote that so I could respond to your PS without being completely off topic!
Unfortunately, I missed Renew. I was giving it some serious thought with a view to buying, when suddenly the price shot up and escaped me!
Regards.

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jonnyt 18th Jan '11 16 of 33
1

France uses 80% Nuclear, thats a model we could easily follow, especially with the new breed of Chinese pebble reactors though no doubt we will go with the more costly French models that produce 10 times the waste....

However Europe is likely on the verge of major unconventional Gas discoveries that could meet the continents demand for several decades.

In my view Coal likely will never be mined again in Britain other than in the currently open pits.

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newbonic 18th Jan '11 17 of 33

In reply to marben100, post #13

To Marben100. Thanks for the really useful summary of the Alkane presentaion (and to muckshifter for his input from the quarry face). A 15% decline rate and 10-15 year life etc. is useful intel.

Your comment about "and not be tied up for years in planning delays and be subject to countless ill-founded objections from the "green lobby". "
In my experience in South Yorks and North Notts, as many objections to coa/gas/wind/anything come from people concerned about their property prices and the view from their windows, as from the green lobby.

The UK govt really must get serious about making it easier to implement temporary energy generation sources such as CMM and opencast - we have a looming energy gap that these would help to bridge.

Incidentally, I've seen British Geological Survey (available from their website) maps that indicate large potential for UGC and CBM in seams below places like Lincolnshire. These are basically the same seams that were mined in Yorks and Notts that get too deep to mine conventionally as they slide ever deeper the more east they are. They comprise the vast and thick coal seams deep under the North Sea.

Website: http://www.j31.co.uk/thepub/index.php/board,2.0.html
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marben100 18th Jan '11 18 of 33
1

In reply to jonnyt, post #16

Hi JT,

Whilst I completely agree that the UK should get on with building nuclear plants, I wouldn't believe everything you read about China's nuclear technology (China has recently been putting out come highly implausible propaganda in this area).. Most of their current reactor building (and fuel cycle work) is being done with the assitance of international parters, including the French specialist, Areva.

To meet our future electricity needs, we need to invest in ALL forms of electrical generation. Wind, tidal energy - and modern coal plants all have a role to pay. The biggest prolem is the interminable delays we suffer from in getting major projects started., We need an efficient and independent .national level permitting process for strategic projects, where the nation's interest is weighted off against local vested interests and, where applicable, fair compensation is awarded to local residents for e.g. loss of value of their properties.

Cheers,

Mark

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Gray Woods 18th Jan '11 19 of 33
4

This gives an interesting write up on the valiadilty of the Chinese claims (that the tech is possible, but it is years away, and likely will cost more than normal uranium):

http://www.minesite.com/nc/minews/singlenews/article/chinas-announcement-of-a-technical-breakthrough-in-nuclear-fuel-reprocessing-technology-looks-prema/1.html

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newbonic 19th Jan '11 20 of 33
3

As a footnote to this discussion I opened a copy of Monday's (17/1) Metro that was picked up on a train between Leeds and Sheffield. This paper must be read by millions of commuters and is basically the same story that was run by Radio 4.

In the Business and Finance section there was the big heading "Shale gas drilling must stop, demans co-op"! The article said "Campaigners are calling for a ban on the extraction of shale gas in Britain until potential health risks from it are looked at." It mentions burning water from taps in the US and that "The Tyndall Centre for the Co-op says information about the chemicals used is not publicly available but data on what is stored in the US indicates harmful chemicals are used.
'It's like tar sands in your backyard in terms of local pollution and carbon emissions are concerned' said Paul Monaghan of the Co-op."

There's obviously a lot of public concern about this, which will affect their implementation. Let's hope for an informed discussion that doesn't tip into hysteria ('burning water' 'tar sands in your backyard' etc.)

Incidentally, there was also an inset panel on the same page with the headline "End coal power investment, bank told - World bank funding for coal power plants must stop, says the Christian Aid agency..."!

Website: http://www.j31.co.uk/thepub/index.php/board,2.0.html
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marben100 19th Jan '11 21 of 33
1

In reply to newbonic, post #20

Hi newbonic,

For those that may not be aware, AIUI the truth of the matter is:

a) Most gas shales are thousands of feet below the water table, so the risk of cross contamination between the shale and ground water is minimal.

b) Modern fraccing fluids are available that are entirely non-toxic.

Some of the scare stories relate to very early trials of shale fraccing, done in a rather cowboy-ish manner. With proper regulation and permitting, the health risks of shale gas/oil extraction will be minimal.

I guess it won't be until the power cuts start happening that the British public will wake up to the need for investment in hydrocarbon extraction and power generation.

Cheers,

Mark

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thegreatgeraldo 19th Jan '11 22 of 33

I guess it won't be until the power cuts start happening that the British public will wake up to the need for investment in hydrocarbon extraction and power generation.

...& it won't be until the North Sea is peppered with marine reserves full of windmills the that same public start asking why their power bills have shot up, IF shale gas is the nuclear power we'll have wasted upwards of £100 billion on offshore windmills, although cod stocks may have improved.....

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ohisay 20th Jan '11 23 of 33

In reply to marben100, post #21

Nothing minor then ....?!
Cuadrilla Resources said it believed there could be enough gas in Lancashire to supply about 10% of Britain's future needs.

http://www.energy-pedia.com/article.aspx?articleid=143802&editionid=100582

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jonnyt 20th Jan '11 24 of 33
1

The new Chinese breakthrough in waste is not related to the Pebble Reactors I mentioned earlier.

I do agree we need diverse sources but the cost of green energy is huge, Solar, Wind etc take 20 years to payback no one in there right mind would invest in these.

JonnyT

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Gray Woods 20th Jan '11 25 of 33
5

'I do agree we need diverse sources but the cost of green energy is huge, Solar, Wind etc take 20 years to payback no one in there right mind would invest in these'

And yet our government seems to think them an excellent investment.......

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SW10Chap 22nd Jan '11 26 of 33
6

Gray,

Tax handouts
I have to say that my knee-jerk reaction to any proposal to give an industry "government backing" is to oppose it. More often than not, the backing is needed because the industry (or even the company) is not efficient or competitive enough. Companies or industries in that situation do not deserve our taxes to prop them up.

Do we need to be self-sufficient?
Having said that, your argument is about what you call "self-sufficiency." I don't really understand the need for this. Should we also be self-sufficient in tomatoes, iPads and bicycle tyres? Obviously not - and I know you're not calling for that - and clearly there wouldn't be very many of any of those if we were to have that aim!

I'm not sure if you're calling for self-sufficiency in coal, or energy as a whole. Either way, it seems as if your principle argument revolves around the UK's balance of payments, which is an argument that I believe is flawed. And this is why:

When money "leaves the economy" - what are the benefits?
The phrase "leaving the economy" crops up throughout your article, and demonstrates that you are only looking at one side of the equation. What happens when money "leaves the economy" as you put it? The economy gains something in return; whether it's coal, tomatoes, iPads or bicycle tyres. Somebody, somewhere has decided to allocate that money in exchange for a product or service because they believe it is generating a positive benefit for them.


Boiled beef and carrots

Using your argument, if I decided to spend £2 on carrots at a supermarket, the people who live with me may complain that £2 has "left the household budget." I could show them the carrots and explain that this wasn't the case, and that we were going to enjoy a fabulous dish of beef-and-carrots that evening, and they may continue with your argument to say: "Why spend £2 on carrots, when you could produce carrots in the garden?" Of course, it's likely that spending £2 on carrots is more efficient use of my resources (including time) than growing my own.

Energy use is an intermediate step - and should be price-competitive
But let's get back to your original case, which I think is about energy. Most energy consumed in countries like the UK is used by enterprises rather than consumers. It is a means of production rather than an end-product in itself and so even if I agreed with your "leaving the economy" argument (which I don't, but that requires a whole treatise on economics and free trade which is best left for another article) you may simply endanger other enterprises.

As I said earlier, somebody, somewhere has decided to allocate that money in exchange for that energy because they believe it is generating a positive benefit for them. Buying "foreign" energy allows UK companies to produce products or to provide services at a lower price than buying "local" energy. That means that these companies are then able to export their products or services, thus reducing the "deficit" which concerns you.

Distort energy markets and prices, you will create distortions and knock-on effects which will affect far more employees than those you cite in your example.

SW10

Note
As someone who knows a little bit about sources of energy in the UK, I am not saying there isn't room for improvement in some of the existing tax regimes in force in the UK today, particularly when it comes to getting oil and gas out the ground...

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Gray Woods 23rd Jan '11 27 of 33
4

My article was actually aimed at a number of point 1) too improve our energy self sufficiency which is important considering how nations like China are buying up all the worlds natural resources at a fast pace, 2) too look at ways of creating jobs and reducing our trade deficit, and 3) to look at ways of boosting innovation and industry (i.e. new technology use, like coal mining tech, carbon capture, places where the UK could do what it does best then sell its expertice abroad, places where it could get in first).

Now to point of your comment, I understand the point you are trying to make, but I disagree with the emphasis, to explain using your example:

Lets say the UK economy is worth £10. Someone buys a carrot for £2 from China, £2 leaves the UK economy, once eaten that carrot has zero value, as its gone, that £2 is now in China, and the only way it can return is if they buy something from us, therefore the UK economy is now worth £8. Now here's the problem, what will they buy from us?? Hence why we have such a large trade deficit. Though we are able to make up for this substantial trade deficit via three methods 1) the sale of government bonds to foreign investors, 2) the banking sector (Basically London), and 3) the sale of our companies and properties to foreign investors. Therefore the UK is able to slighlty grow its GDP still thanks to this investment from abroad, but it is not a very good way of doing this, as the previous crisis has shown, and with the continued attacks on the banking sector, which we rely so much on, I was merely proposing another option. Also remember the banking sector et al is not exactly a good way of boosting jobs and innovation, as their are not that many people needed to create mega returns, also the banking sector has a tendancy to bring in people from all over the world. Hence even though the banking sector, as much as it pains me to say, is a great asset to have, it would be nice to where we can look at other industries, and give them a chance to shine, even if it is through tax breaks and government backing. Because as far as I can see, if jobs are created, innovation boosted, industry boosted, then as long as the ventures are not loss making economy wise, then as far as I can see they are worthwhile at least looking at.

To give an example (very basic just too highlight the point) of what I mean using the coal industry, lets say a mine was opening, it makes £10m a year in turnover selling its coal at market price to the energy industry. But total cost of sales was also £10m. Therefore it has only broken even. As a private venture this is terrible. But if government owned. For no extra costs, they have a running mine which is keeping £10m in the economy each, year, it would be keeping a few hundred people employed, it would be boosting tax receipts. Therefore the economy is better off, as there is more jobs, more money in the economy (thanks to the jobs, the money that has stayed in the country, and the likely jobs created from purchases of equipment and other services for the mine), the governments tax reciepts would be boosted i.e. income tax, VAT etc etc (here is the payback for the initial investment by them to set it up). Therefore to the government and the economy the mine has done a lot more than break even.

Moving on again:

"As I said earlier, somebody, somewhere has decided to allocate that money in exchange for that energy because they believe it is generating a positive benefit for them. Buying "foreign" energy allows UK companies to produce products or to provide services at a lower price than buying "local" energy."

That is incorrect, if UK energy companies could buy their products from here it would make no difference, and the only reason that they do not purchase all their resources from the UK is because the UK does not produce enough. And you say produce products at a cheaper service.... If the UK could produce its own, they would still pay market price, hence it would again as I said make no difference. Thoughj the one benefit would be the UK could not be held to ransom on prices, therefore if they rocketed, like many countries do (China, Russia, Argentina to name just a few), as the UK would have access to its own resources, prices could be kept to a lower level, therefore not hurting the economy, and all the people in it via extortionitly high prices.

"That means that these companies are then able to export their products or services, thus reducing the "deficit" which concerns you."

Energy industry exports = Nil
Iron industry exports = very little
Car exports = small but falling
And though do not get me wrong, there are a few industries that are still decent in this country (food surprisingly, as I believe we are near break even on that, maybe 10% out...), there are not many, hence why we have such a large trade deficit.

"Distort energy markets and prices, you will create distortions and knock-on effects which will affect far more employees than those you cite in your example."

Totally incorrect, again lets have a look China: sets its own in country prices, Russia: sets its own in country prices, Middle East nations: (Where they can as most are unable to refine) set their own in country prices. And there are many others who are net exporters that do exactly the same (like as I said earlies Argentina). Also OPEC has control of the oil price (not as much as they once did, but they still have control), therefore they can and do distort prices when they want.

Also 'in country' gas prices are different all over the world, and the above shows that the market is already greatly distorted, with different prices paid in many a place, normally with the benefitters being the exporters to the cost of the importers.

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SW10Chap 24th Jan '11 28 of 33

In reply to Gray Woods, post #27

Grey,

There are still a couple of fundamental flaws in your analysis and argument. We have to remember that:

  • Most transactions exchange cash for something of value (excepting the odd scam and rip-off)
  • Trade between countries doesn't have to be equalized
  • Economies don't consist of fixed lumps of cash

This is all encapsulated in your statement here:

Lets say the UK economy is worth £10. Someone buys a carrot for £2 from China, £2 leaves the UK economy, once eaten that carrot has zero value, as its gone, that £2 is now in China, and the only way it can return is if they buy something from us, therefore the UK economy is now worth £8. Now here's the problem, what will they buy from us?? Hence why we have such a large trade deficit.

Someone buys a carrot for £2 from China, £2 leaves the UK economy, once eaten that carrot has zero value, as its gone

Firstly, to be valuable, a transaction does not have to be for a tangible asset. When you say that once eaten that carrot has zero value you're skipping over the fact that it did have value as a food. If I stopped eating then my productivity would tail off pretty quickly, and so I see it as a worthwhile investment to make - much as companies decide to invest in energy.

that £2 is now in China, and the only way it can return is if they buy something from us,

Absolutely not. That money can come back in a million different ways -and it certainly it doesn't have to come back from China. I could buy carrots from China, beef from France and potatoes from Belgium and then cook them all up into delicious shepherd's pies to sell to the Norwegians at a handsome profit. That would still generate benefits for the economy.

therefore the UK economy is now worth £8.

The size of the economy is defined by simply by inflows and outflows of trade. What we need to focus on is prductivity and doing things which others believe to be of value. Taking my example above, I don't even have to sell my Shepherd's pies to the Norwegians, I could just as easily sell them within the UK and still generate benefits for the economy.

 

Consider the position most of us find ourselves in. By your analysis, I am running a huge deficit with the supermarkets, bars, cafés and other service providers in my town. The answer is not for me to go my local café owner and demand that he buys my expertise to balance my books!

Fortunately, powered and inspired by the good things I buy from these places, I have some capabilities that my employers are happy to pay me for. As long as I ensure that I don't spend more than they give me, I don't run into a deficit on my household accounts.

  • Trade between countries does not have to be equalized;
  • Transactions exchange cash for something of value - even if it is not tangible;
  • Economies are not of a fixed size;
  • Government subsidy and intervention of the kind your article suggests is uncompetitive, resulting in inefficiency and higher prices.

SW10

 

SW10

 

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Gray Woods 24th Jan '11 29 of 33
3

I think you have slightly misinterpreted my example, if the £2 leaves the economy my point was how was it going to make its way back into the UK, as we have very little anymore to export. Hence as I said why we run a massive trade deficit (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=199). But as I said we are able to make up for this deficit via the banking sector, which brings in enough money to make up for this deficit.

Now to your points:

"Trade between countries does not have to be equalized"

That is true, but no matter what you say, you cannot deny the fact that if money leaves one country for another, then one has gained at the others benefit, unless that money somehow makes its way back into the economy in which the money has left (In the UK's case this happens, as said, via the sale of government bonds, our assets and the banking sector).

"Transactions exchange cash for something of value - even if it is not tangible"

True, but that does not change the fact that if money leaves the economy buying something that has once used has no value, if that money does not return in a similar transaction then that countries economy is worse off.

"Economies are not of a fixed size;"

Again you are right, hence why inflation exists, but here is the issue again, the UK's inflation is running much higher than its GDP growth, hence in real terms the economy is falling, not growing. Hence why unemployment is so high, and people are able to by less, as there is less actual money available. One way to fix this, boost jobs, boost industry, and boost exports, therefore making more free money available, bringing more money into the economy (which will mean less leaving via the trade deficit). Hence the economy could actually start to grow properly again, making people better off.

"Government subsidy and intervention of the kind your article suggests is uncompetitive, resulting in inefficiency and higher prices."

I fail to see how a government intervention in the case I mention could result in inefficiency and higher prices, as if they did not sell the coal and oil (via carbon capture) at market prices, or below, then the companies that required the commodities would simply go elsewhere, therefore there would be no inefficiency or higher prices, and in fact if the government wished there could be lower prices.

Just to note also, you say government help is uncompetitive, the nuclear industry relies on government help, the green industry does, from your orginal post:

"have to say that my knee-jerk reaction to any proposal to give an industry "government backing" is to oppose it"

So do you oppose these, which need government help just to make them viable, as these industries require government help and offer very little payback (not the nuclear industry as much, as there is a payback here, it just takes a long time), if any in many of the green cases. Whereas what I am proposing could potentially offer excellent paybacks, especially in my opinion the carbon capture technology, as the inductries would create jobs, spur innovation in extraction and efficiency techniques which could quite easily be sold abroad, and if the coal price keeps going in the direction everyone thinks, by the time the mines come online, they could actually turn out to be quite profitable ventures (unlikely ever vastly - as for that coal would need to pretty much reach a unviable price that would likely see buyers look elsewhere - if the can. But then again you never know what technology is round the corner, as remember Shale Gas and deep sand oil where unprofitable but a few years ago. And that is just my point, it cannot help to look).

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thegreatgeraldo 24th Jan '11 30 of 33
3

Surely the argument about energy self-sufficiency is a trade off between cost & security? IF you believe Nohotair ,amonst others, it is utter madeness to spend £100 billion plus to stick windmills in the middle of the North Sea, we should stick with gas as our primary enegy source & seek to expand it by the use of GTL technology. On the CO2 front, what the UK does is not releevant on the global scene, we could go back to the Stone Age & scientists would sttruggle to measure the miniscule beneficial impact on global warming. Much more important would be the US, China & India giving up using coal to generate electricity & switching to usng gas.

The Nohotair pres from this month's Oilbarrel. Ignore the smug preseter & concentrtate on some of the numbers



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iox39-hW5xA

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newbonic 28th Jan '11 31 of 33
2

This report from Process Engineering (http://www.theengineer.co.uk/channels/process-engineering/comments/uk-shale-gas-report-lacks-scientific-evidence/1006922.article) basically rubbishes the CO-OP report and also contains the para:

"One of the companies mentioned in the report, IGas Energy is developing coal bed methane (CBM) resources, and also has some shale gas acreage in its licence areas – but has no immediate plans to develop this at present.

CBM, it emphasies, is extracted by a completely different process to shale gas and doesn’t involve the same complicated fracturing techniques and mix of chemicals as shale gas extraction."


I do have some shares in IGAS, primarily because of their CBM potential, but if shale gas takes off then they could have an alternative revenue stream.

Website: http://www.j31.co.uk/thepub/index.php/board,2.0.html
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Gray Woods 28th Jan '11 32 of 33
4

In reply to newbonic, post #31

Newbonic, good find and this artcile just shows exactly the type of thing any business in the UK has to put up with. I must say, there are the bits I like best:

Manchester, UK – Researchers at the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester claim to have demonstrated how the extraction of shale gas risks seriously contaminating ground and surface waters – without providing any scientific evidence to back their claim

However, rather than present any evidence on the health risks associated with shale gas extraction, most of the researchers’ case against shale gas focused on climate-change arguments.

Prof Kevin Anderson at the Tyndall Centre and the University of Manchester, commented: “Any new fossil fuel resource will only lead to additional carbon emissions. In the case of shale gas there is also a significant risk its use will delay the introduction of renewable energy alternatives.”

It is statements and attitudes from the people mentioned above that is causing the UK to spend over £100bn investing in innefficient green technology that is hardly going to make much difference to our energy needs, as green tech is just not ready.  I still believe it is best to try to make the fossil fuels we use at current as efficient and enviromentally friendly as we can, while money is spent on trying to make green tech actually capable of providing us with energy.  As imagine if half of that £100bn was used on say the coal, nuclear and gas industries, with the target being efficiency and making them as enviromentally friendly as possible.  Our energy future would be secure, and innovation and all that would be sparked in likely profitable industries.  Of the remaining £50bn, the government could spend that on investing in green tech like wind, solar, electric engine, hydrogen, fusion, and of course water (tidal power etc - the best energy provider known, but not he most enviromentally friendly as it blocks off rivers etc), with the goal being to make them ready (not installing them freely blighting our seas and country side before they are ready), at which point they could slowly begin to be installed as they become ready taking over from the fossil fuels.  Again though likely a pipe dream, as that would involve looking at the greater long term picture, something our governments have continually proved they are unable to do.

P.S. this is an interesting article from Fiona Bond on the UK coal industry - http://www.iii.co.uk/articles/14071/uk-coal-industry.

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Gray Woods 6th Mar '11 33 of 33
2

For anyone interested, due to the large interest in the subject in this article, I have set up a facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-UK-energy-Future/199652826729222#!/pages/Save-UK-energy-Future/199652826729222?sk=wall

To save people clicking on it, below is what I have written on the page as the description:

I have set up this group for people to join if they would rather see the UK invest in securing its energy future through proven methods, and profitable methods, rather than the at current plan, which sees them pinning all their hopes on the £100bn wind farm project, that will only power at best 20% of our energy needs, with experts putting the figures much lower:

While experts have suggested that the wind farms could generate 3GW, the firms involved have pledged to produce 25GW of electricity. (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/163100bn-wind-farm-plan-heralds-green-energy-era-1862392.html)

Worse the main reason that companies plan to invest this much is due to the very generous government subsidies in place, meaning not only will the technology blight our countryside and ocean way, we will have to pay for this unproven technology through not only higher energy bills, but through taxes. And this does not even consider the further vast investment needed in ports and infrastructure to allow the electricity onto the grid.

Just to note I am not an expert on this, but surely it is not wise to invest in something that damages the appearance of our environment (Also there is no telling what putting them in the sea will do to sea life), is very expensive to build and run to the point that it is not profitable without high prices and government help, and worse does not even provide much energy. Meaning we are paying a fortune for it and getting near nothing in return.

Now before people talk about the environmental benefits, true if it ran at its full, an estimated 40m tonnes carbon emissions could be saved a year by 2020 (If for once the unlikely happened and it was on time... unlikely). But would it not be best to invest in improving the efficiency of our current technology, like coal fire power stations, working towards producing more energy for more emissions. As doing this would for example, if over 10 years, a 20% improvement was made, as 70% of emissions at current come from fossil fuels, emissions would be reduced by 14%. Also other ideas are using things like carbon capture technology, which sees carbon captured from power stations, and pumped down into oil fields producing more oil, further securing out energy futures, and helping the economy (This is a proven technology, that for some reason, even though the major oillies were involved, the UK government pulled the plug on at the last minute - http://www.stockopedia.com/content/striving-for-self-sufficiency-isnt-it-time-to-restart-the-uk-coal-industry-52581/).

To finish, I am no expert on this subject, and there is no question that emissions need to be reduced, but surely there must be better ways to do it than to risk investing in an unviable, inconsistent, expensive, ugly potential damaging technology, that could potentially if it does not work out, put the UK's energy future at risk, and even if it does work out, would cost the citizens of the UK a fortune to run. For example I feel it would be much wiser for the UK government to be investing money making green tech viable, whilst focusing on doing what they can with the current technology that they know is viable.

If you agree this this rhetoric then please join, as if enough people join then maybe the government may take notice, and not blight our oceans and countryside with eyesores that provide little but very costly energy.

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About Gray Woods

I have worked at NICO (aka the Inland Revenue), in the promo industry, and manage an investment portfolio. In 2009, I graduated with a first degree in BA (hons) Finance and Investment Management; in 2014, I graduated with a 2:1 in BA (hons) English Literature & Creative Writing.I have followed the markets since 2002, when I was sixteen, and have been a Private Investor since late 2008.  To date, I have beaten the market every year, with my most proudest achievement coming in 2008, my first year, where I ended the year 12% up.  In my follow up year, 2009, I finished 99% up, and my best year to date came in 2010, where my portfolio finished the year 111% up.Rather interestingly, for the period 2008 to 2011, I posted my trades online via my investment blog (Gray's Investment Blog), so my best yearly returns to date have come in front of the world.  During those years, my blog had a following in the thousands, with sites like Stockopedia being a great help in boosting those numbers.  My goal for the blog was two fold, one, by writing of the stocks and shares that interested me, I found it easier to get my head around them, and come to more informed decisions; for two, I think private investors need to stick together, and I felt by sharing my research and thoughts, I could help towards that goal.A change in career direction saw me close the blog down in 2011, but I still write on here (Stockopedia) now and then, offering my thoughts on the financial world, and any companies that interest me.  However, due to my involvement in the creative writing world, where I am working with award winning novelist Daren King on my first novel, my time is limited. more »


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