Not convinced? The gas well requires no subsidy – in fact it pays a hefty tax to the government – whereas the wind turbines each cost you a substantial add-on to your electricity bill, part of which goes to the rich landowner whose land they stand on. Wind power costs three times as much as gas-fired power. Make that nine times if the wind farm is offshore. And that’s assuming the cost of decommissioning the wind farm is left to your children – few will last 25 years.
Decided yet? I forgot to mention something. If you choose the gas well, that’s it, you can have it. If you choose the wind farm, you are going to need the gas well too. That’s because when the wind does not blow you will need a back-up power station running on something more reliable. But the bloke who builds gas turbines is not happy to build one that only operates when the wind drops, so he’s now demanding a subsidy, too.
The best thing about cheap gas is whom it annoys. The Russians and the Iranians hate it because they thought they were going to corner the gas market in the coming decades. The greens hate it because it destroys their argument that fossil fuels are going to get more and more costly till even wind and solar power are competitive. The nuclear industry ditto. The coal industry will be a big loser (incidentally, as somebody who gets some income from coal, I declare that writing this article is against my vested interest).
Little wonder a furious attempt to blacken shale gas’s reputation is under way, driven by an unlikely alliance of big green, big coal, big nuclear and conventional gas producers. The environmental objections to shale gas are almost comically fabricated or exaggerated. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking uses 99.86% water and sand, the rest being a dilute solution of a few chemicals of the kind you find beneath your kitchen sink.