Delingpole on Friday: The End of Rationalism!

Did you hear the one about the shale gas miracle which was going to transform the UK economy?

Yeah. I fell for it too for a while.

But it’s not that I’ve altered my view on the fundamentals. Yes, I still believe we’re sitting on loads of the stuff. Yes, I believe that the Bowland Shale (below Lancashire) is even deeper and potentially more superabundant with gas than American counterparts like the Marcellus. Yes, I still believe that shale has worked wonders in the US, making it more energy independent, bringing the price of gas down to around a third what it costs in Europe, benefitting businesses and consumer alike. Yes, I’m sure one day it could do the same for Britain.

All that’s changed is that I’ve become a lot more realistic about the length of time we’ll have to wait before the miracle begins to happen. [see http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84410] We’re talking mid-2020s at the earliest. Don’t know about you, but to me that sounds a fuck of a long way away. I’ll be almost sixty by then. Almost-sixty is OLD. That’ll give me – what? – thirty years of my life at best (the least fun years) to enjoy the alleged fruits of the greatest free gift to the UK economy since North Sea oil.

So why isn’t this more widely known?

Why is all current discussion of fracking divided into two main camps? They are:

The Cornucopians – led by “Rational Optimist” Matt Ridley and definitely including me – which bangs the drum for shale at every turn and time and again tells us jollily what a wondrous and life-affirming thing it is.

The Doommongers – comprising everyone from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth through the BBC the Guardian – who want fracking killed stone dead because it causes “earthquakes”, curdles milk, makes baby kittens weep as heartless fossil-fuel executives in hard hats cackle mercilessly and prod them with sharp sticks coated in endangered tree frog poison.

Now I’m not saying the debate offered by each side isn’t important and – in the case of all that greenie doom propaganda – worryingly influential. Merely that it constitutes a lot of noise and chatter which runs the risk of distracting us all from the key point above, so important that it needs repeating.

To whit: whatever you think about shale gas, positive or negative, fracking ain’t going to happen on any scale in Britain for at least another decade and quite possibly, if the eco-fascist commissars at the EU get their way, even further hence than that.

So again, why is this key fact – which has such vital implications for the future of everything from the state of the UK economy to the rate of inflation to the cost of living to the nature of our relationship with the EU – not more widely promulgated?

It’s a question which has been exercising the indefatigable Richard North, who has been blogging this issue longer than anyone. [see blogpost above http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84410]

His conclusion? That most people aren’t really interested in the truth; rather they use their news media a bit like personal therapy sessions – in order to have their self image (aka their bundle of prejudices) validated by people they can trust to tell them what they want to hear. The scientific term for this is “confirmation bias.”

If North is right, then we should all be very depressed. Especially those of us like me who have long been arguing that the internet is the medium which is going inaugurate a New Enlightenment of rationalism and empiricism. Presented with lucid arguments well supported by facts on the one hand and tendentious, emotive, manipulative bollocks on the other, I’d always thought – for such is my faith in humanity – people will naturally gravitate towards the true over the false. Sadly, though, I’m now beginning to realize that TS Eliot was nearer the mark with his “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

One obvious example of this is the current “debate” about climate change. I cannot tell you how often I get superior emails from people of an alarmist persuasion accusing me of being a “denier”, part of a well-funded campaign by Big Oil to discredit “the science” which has been validated by a 97 per cent “consensus” of experts in the field.

Every one of the assumptions in those emails is false – and demonstrably false, as we climate sceptics (or “realists” as we prefer to term ourselves) are forever painstakingly explaining in our extensively cross-referenced articles and blogs. Why, even now, are we failing to get our message across to the other side? Because the other side aren’t interested, that’s why. When you’ve got RealClimate and the Guardian environment pages and the BBC churning out scary stories which seem to validate your hair-shirt, anti-capitalist, misanthropic, control-freak vision of the world, why discomfit yourself with counterarguments which might challenge your smug Weltanschauung?

Not, I must admit, that I’m un-averse to seeking a bit of confirmation bias myself now and again. Because I have quite a bit of my meagre savings in gold at the moment, for example, I find myself naturally gravitating towards gold-bug-ish commentators like The Real Asset Company, Jim Rickards, Zero Hedge, Max Keiser and Peter Schiff. Sure I also like these people because we share the Austrian view of the economic argument and because we’re all very skeptical about the money-printing experiment and about the authenticity of this economic “recovery” we’re supposedly experience. But, part of me, definitely is drawn to the fact that they tell me what I want to hear about gold: that against all current evidence it’s going to rocket any second…

“In a time of universal deceit telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act,” said Orwell, God love him, I certainly do. Free spirits like Orwell are my inspiration. But the thing I have to remind myself whenever I get too puffed up about what an outspoken hero, I am, cutting through the crap, telling it like it is, and enjoying a truly clean conscience as a result is that that’s it, that’s the reward. There are no special bonuses where you get enjoy the freedom of being all devil-may-care contra mundum AND enjoy all the fruits and trappings of our decadent, depraved and utterly dishonest civilization. It’s an either or. Yeah, yeah, we all like to claim Orwell as one of our own now – lefties, righties, everyone. But it wasn’t like that when he was alive. Orwell had a shit life and died in misery and penury. Such is the lot of the prophet without honour. Such are the wages of truth.

11 comments on “Delingpole on Friday: The End of Rationalism!

  1. Honey Badger
    October 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    If the market was allowed to operate bills would likely be coming down. What I mean is that coal is getting cheaper (probably because the USA has switched to gas so is using less of it and most of Europe is also closing coal-fired power stations) so in a rational market we would try to produce more of our energy by burning it.

    We also need to cut green taxes and green energy subsidies. All of those things would bring bills down.

    While I am here, we should eliminate foreign aid and all contributions to the EU. That should narrow the deficit by around £22Bn a year without cutting a single damn thing!!

    • kevinsmith2013
      October 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      You could easily add another £10 Bn at least with your choice of cuts. Green taxes alone account for at least £20 billion a year, Foreign Aid is almost £10 billion and our nett contribution to the EU is about £5billion.

      Take an axe (metaphorically) to govermnet departments and QUANGO’s and truly cut wastage in the NHS and elsewhere and you could add another £50 billion easily, mainly by shrinking government. Some suggest up to £200 billion a year could be saved by business not having to comply with EU regulations, and we have something like a £50 billion trading deficit with the EU.

      • Ian W
        October 19, 2013 at 10:09 am #

        There is a double win with removing over-regulation of small business, not only do the businesses save money but they become more efficient and profitable and start employing more people.
        Cutting regulation does not ‘cost’ money at all and it immediately starts paying back. But politicians love regulation and bureaucrats never let go of regulations as enforcing regulations keeps them in employment – at a significant cost to the country.

  2. therealguyfaux
    October 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    As to the future of fracking, and the price of gold:

    It was said (and I believe, though I’m not sure of this, by Damon Runyon, as it’s the sort of thing he’d say), “When one is betting on a sure thing, it is never a bad idea for one to hold out car fare home.”

    As many a betting-shop and race course punter has discovered…

  3. right_writes
    October 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    The reason that I have always held libertarian views, and believe in minimal government is due to the following.

    Individuals have a lifespan of between (on average) 70 and 90 years…

    Corporations are immortal. To them, a year is a mere trifle, to me and you, that year is one of around thirty of active political concern.

    Example; as Richard North and Christopher Booker discuss in their book “The Great Deception”, the EU project effectively began in 1923 when Monnet and Salter decided that the old European countries should mimic the USSR and build a technocratic federal state controlled by bureaucrats in order to end the silly wars forever.

    I reckon that the reason that we make very little headway in obtaining freedom, is that we think in human life years, whilst the bureaucracy thinks in centuries, our bureaucracy is still enacting the ideas that Monnet and Salter drew up all those years ago. Around four human generations have passed during this time.

    Richard North himself makes a similar mistake when he routinely criticises the only plausible organisation that might be able extract us from the EU… Namely, the UKIP… What has actually happened is that the UKIP has become a corporation, and at times, as Richard never tires of pointing out, travels up far too many dead ends…

    It has gone from being a couple of blokes in a pub, to a corporation that keeps ploughing ahead, immune to what are frequently valid criticisms and complaints.

    Anyway, at best I have twenty to thirty years left in me, so who cares what I think? 🙂

  4. silverminer
    October 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    We’re all pissing into the wind until we first expose and then deal with the Banksters and their fiat money, fractional reserve scam. Watch this and spread it far and wide:-

    A good many of the people suspect they’re being shafted but they have no clue how or who to blame for it. This battle has to be fought or any temporary improvement in our circumstances will be just that. In a nutshell:-

    “The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks”.

    Lord Acton

  5. udontknowme
    October 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be managed, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” – Cicero , 55 BC

    So, Apparently ….we’ve learnt bugger all over the past 2,067 years.

  6. Simon Roberts
    October 19, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    I’d be a little wary of paying too much attention to North’s view on this matter.

    He’s a great investigator but an appalling communicator.

    Walls of dry text are fine for those of an academic bent or who are used to absorbing information in this way, but most of us don’t fit that description. We want short, concise pieces with bullet points. Additional or supporting information can come below.

    Confirmation bias certainly exists, but I would suggest that the reason that North’s work doesn’t get the attention it could is because of its readability, not its content. I’ve tried reading his work but I always find myself thinking “for God’s sake, get to the point!”.

    I would be happy to admit that I have the attention span of a goldfish but I’m certainly not the only one and if you are going to try to persuade people you have to do it in way that meets their needs.

    When people avoid poor communication it’s the fault of the communicator. Unfortunately, it is common for the communicator not to see this and to blame the recipient for their stupidity/attention span/prior bias etc.

    On the business of fracking, the current challenge isn’t to get thousands of drilling platforms up and running immediately – it is to get over the hurdles to the idea itself. That’s why we are still in the “is it a good or bad thing” phase rather than the “it isn’t coming quickly enough” phase.

  7. Lord Lunatic
    October 19, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    As we plunge ever further into an unlight doublepluscold era which energy supplier will the idiotic Ed Davey suggest we switch to after the unsmall six have all unsubtracted another 10% to their wholesale profit margins (remember they are not just the retailers as their PR spokespeople like to pretend, vertical integration equals same business). Perhaps he’ll advise us all to invest in the new to market Eco Green Equality and Bio Diversity Personal Propulsive Dynamo System complete with National Grid compatibility. Thus empowering those of us unable to afford solar panels and personal Cameronesque windmills to benefit from the generous feed in subsidies, the only requirement being a not insignificant small personal tax deductible capital investment (easily recouped over several decades) and bags of individual energy.

  8. shorelark
    October 19, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    I’m no spring chicken either, but I think we can safely rely on the entrepreneurs to pick off the low hanging fruits as quickly as possible. There is going to be a problem in the 2020’s if the re-development of Hinkley Point nuclear reactor park goes ahead. That electricty will have to be sold, no matter what the cost. Still, the most productive stage of shale gas extraction would largely be over by then.

  9. viffer
    October 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    James, speaking of “rationalism and empiricism” …

    There is a smoking gun hiding in plain view in one of the UNIPCC’s favourite graphics. I refer to the Kiehl-Trenberth energy budgets cartoon:

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Topics/energybudgets.html

    The number with smoke billowing from its pants is the 161 W/m^2, which the luminaries Kiehl & Trenberth tell us is the value of solar flux absorbed by the earth’s surface. The Stefan-Boltzmann equation is a means of converting energy flux to temperature. When this equation is transposed for temperature, it yields a value of -18C (rounded).

    Just think about that. Sunlight, they say, can only heat the surface to -18C. You are therefore asked to believe that sunlight can not melt ice nor evaporate water. UNIPCC says the global average surface temperature is +15C; it follows that a mechanism has to be invented to heat the planet by +33C. That mechanism is the atmospheric GHE. It doesn’t matter that everyone understands that sunlight isn’t cold, that feet get burnt on hot sand, eggs get fried on cars and that sunbathers suddenly feel markedly cooler if a little cloud drifts between them and the sun.

    The UNIPCC says that 0.0004 of the atmosphere can heat itself up and then warm the surface of the entire planet by +33C. Our mouth breathing PPE fuckwits in charge of our energy policy, and our vastly overpaid Chief Scientific Adviser, accept this unquestioningly.

    They will keep this fraud going until, they hope, a global carbon tax is put in place. That will take money from us all, hurting the poor the most, and give it to governments, the banks and energy companies, yet the planet won’t notice.

    Bollocks to rationalism and empiricism.

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