Part of the marvelous power of the state is its ability to stop things it doesn’t like in the absence of any formal directive, a magical power is known as bureaucracy. The UK has a fine example in its domestic shale gas industry, or rather lack of one: although legal on paper, the development of UK shale for energy purposes has been effectively killed off by impossible regulatory demands. In the most recent turn of events, the head of the civil service organ in charge of overseeing the non-industry resigned in a fit a pique, saying one particular environmental requirement – a mandate to keep all tectonic disturbances resulting from fracking to less than 0.5 on the Richter scale – makes the entire enterprise impossible.
- Natascha Engel threw in the towel last week after a mere six months on the job, telling the BBC that the the Richter scale requirement, which sets the standard at a level far below human detection, is absurd and constitutes a “de facto ban”: “If you applied the same standards to anything else, you wouldn’t build another school or a hospital, you probably wouldn’t have any buses or lorries on the roads.”
- Perhaps most damningly, as the Adam Smith Institute points out in a blog post, the UK already permits much more disruptive drilling, producing seismic vibrations of up to magnitude 4 and above, for the politically-approved practice of geothermal drilling.
- Engel also questioned politicians who claimed to be swayed by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, wondering “why politicians would listen to a teenager who tells children not to go to school.”
- The political trend was indeed clear enough, with British pols of all stripes stumbling over themselves to burnish their climate credentials: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both called for the declaration of a climate “emergency.”
- Former Labour person Ed Miliband joined progressive colleagues calling for a “Green New Deal,” equally vague in scope and authority.
- German still-chancellor Angela Merkel is also said to be considering new carbon taxes in categories like building and transportation, currently excluded from the EU’s carbon trading system. But skeptics say the economic cost on Germany’s industrial sector may be too much to bear (German companies were apparently caught unaware by the proposal).