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TRANSITION Issue No. 2 Summer 2013



Stratford Transforming finance Page 3

NEWS: Greek crisis Hope rises from the ruins Page 7


Thackara Re-wilding the city Page 14




water swimming; Scuba wombles Page 23

Gas bubble coal trouble by Jason Heppenstall With the coalition government ready to allow fracking companies to quite literally blow up Britain’s countryside in search of a replacement for dwindling North Sea resources, the evidence from the US is increasingly that shale gas is a bubble about to burst rather than a magic bullet. The first comprehensive study of US shale gas production, Drill Baby Drill by the Post Carbon Institute, appears to lay to rest the notion that shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels will solve the world’s energy problems. “The best fields have already been tapped,” says report author, David Hughes, “and no major new field discoveries are expected.” “At best,” Hughes concludes, “shale gas, tight oil, tar sands and other unconventional resources provide a temporary reprieve from having to deal with the real problems.” The report argues that three factors make it highly unlikely that shale gas will be anything more than a short interlude in the hydrocarbon era. First, is the rate of flow. Unlike the monster oil fields of Saudi Arabia, which

have gushed under their own pressure for decades, shale gas fields require a huge technological effort to bring up a relatively small amount of usable fossil fuels. Second, the depletion rate of those shale fields is extremely high, with up to 80% of the ‘prize’ remaining in any given well. This means that thousands of new

“Put simply, the shale gas frenzy is a pyramid scheme“ wells are being drilled all the time in order to maintain production levels. Finally, the net energy return from shale gas – energy recovered minus energy extracted – is tiny. The report comments: “Shale gas production has been on a plateau since December 2011 – 80% comes from five wells, several of which are in decline. The very high decline rates of shale gas wells require continuous inputs of capital – estimated at $42 billion per year to drill more than 7,000 wells – in order to maintain production. In comparison, the

Coffee grounds are gourmet fungi gold by Alexis Rowell It’s a grubby business hunting around behind cafes for coffee waste, but Fungi Futures, a social enterprise in Totnes, have struck gold in the search for a sustainable economic future. The company turns waste into

food by using coffee grounds as a growing medium for gourmet mushrooms. And they have ambitious plans to set up the UK’s first urban mushroom farm in Exeter, and to involve Transition Initiatives around

India is the third largest producer of coal in the world. Contract workers face appalling conditions. Photo by Srinivas Kuruganti

value of shale gas produced in 2012 was just $32.5 billion.” Wall Street valuations of fracking companies appear to be based on the quantity of shale gas being extracted right now – 40% of US domestic gas supply – rather than looking at the huge number of wells being drilled, the high depletion rates and the vertiginous cost per unit of

energy recovered. “Put simply,” says Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything, “the shale gas frenzy is a pyramid scheme. It’s a mark of desperation, not the sign of new dawn of hydrocarbon-fuelled economic growth. Far from being a ‘fuel of the future’, shale is already looking like a fuel that is nearing its use-by date.”

Ironically, the US shale gas bubble has depressed the price of coal, the original fossil fuel that powered the industrial revolution and launched humankind on an arc of development unparalleled in history. Because shale gas is being used in US power stations, cheap US coal has been flooding on to world markets. Coal is one CONT. PAGE 3

the UK in the coffee-waste-togourmet-mushrooms trade. The founder of Fungi Futures, Adam Sayner, left Sussex University with a degree in ecology and conservation, determined not to join the rat race. He moved to Totnes because of the Transition movement and, within days of arriving in Devon, took part in an event called ‘Can Totnes Feed Itself?’. “I was so inspired to be around a group of people who were asking the sorts of questions I’d been pondering,”

he says. “But they weren’t just thinking about them; they were really looking in detail at the practicalities of how a proper localised food system could work, and drawing up plans to go about making it happen. After all the talking, reading and theorising of university, I was so pleased to be in a movement that valued getting on and making things happen.” At university a corner of his room had been given over to a makeshift laboratory with strange looking petri dishes and bags

of mushroom spawn growing on shelves and under his bed. A passion for foraging had become an obsession about fungi. Little did he know then that his obsession would become a career. “Fungi are the great recyclers of the earth,” Sayner enthuses. “They recycle waste. They take it in its complex form and break it down into more simple forms. Some even produce delicious gourmet fruits along the way. Morel, Shiitake, Wine Cap, Oyster CONT. PAGE 2

NEWS pages 3-7 PEOPLE page 12 REVIEWS page 13 ARTS page 16 FOOD pages 18-19 WELLBEING page 21 PRACTICAL page 22 SPORT back page

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16/04/13 5:10 PM

Transition Free Press (TFP2)  

Transition Free Press Issue 2 Summer 2013

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