Category Archives: sustainable energy

Farming, the utilities and UK economic life

Dom Arnold’s JCB Fastrack and 360 excavator on its way to assist in laying cables from the North Sea wind farms under farmland in Norfolk to the National Grid to supply the economicm life of the UK.

Farming is not just food production, it is the back-bone of the economic life of the UK. It is not just the food chain which is integrated with so much of UK industry, it is the land itself.

The land is what the whole lot stands on, even the City of London and all its financial activity. It is the land across which we travel and which carries the life blood of economic activity.  It is the land across which the water, electricity and gas are channelled to carry energy to the people and their businesses.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ld. 7th June 17













Sustainable farming

According to UN sponsored research, I tonne of N nutrient, made in a modern, efficient USA fertiliser factory, typically takes 21,000 (yes, twenty one thousand) kWh to manufacture and deliver to farm. Yet, we lose around half to groundwater with rain or irrigation. This will dramatically affect how we farm.  Part of the answer is to recycle waste to farm land.  How to do this safely and how doing this can also reduce irrigation need by up to 90 % is detailed in a referenced work on sustainable agriculture.  All these and how the global population  will reach crisis, and when, can be downloaded for free on the Sunday 12 Feb.  Search  Survival” by Bill Butterworth Amazon.


Welcome to Followers and Visitors from We shall be posting items here on shale gas, mainly Sundays and sustainable land management on Wednesdays.

For those who have visited this site in the past, but not Safe Shale, and are interested in shale gas exploration and production in the UK, you might like to see past blog entries at

The circular economy: 4. Tipping point ignorance




World population and food

I have used this before on this blog and repeat it because it is a very significant concept. Courtesy of “The Furrow”, journal of John Deere.

We are loosing bio-diversity.  Estimates vary on how many species become extinct every day but is hundreds, even many thousands every year. Does it rally matter?  Similarly, we are damaging the environment we live in very significantly.  How many bricks can we pull; out of the bridge before it collapses?  Could we reverse these changes and are we likely to even try?

The science: The inescapable logic is that, at some point, the changes become irreversible.  That is an over-simplification; if we allow a species to become extinct, that is in reality, irreversible. However, the truth is that it is much more complicated than that.  There will not be a single point, as if a gun was fired.  What will happen is more like a gradual starvation to death. We really do not know how rapid that will be and it will vary according to circumstances. Without any doubt, our environmental destruction is already in progress. It will progress like an exponential population growth curve upwards – except this one is downwards.

The bad news: We really do not know if we are already on the really slippery and steep part of the decline, if that is tomorrow morning or next year.  However, on the information we have now, it is very unlikely to be 10 years.  So it is no good leaving it to our kids.

The good news: it does appear that we are still on a gentle slope and that we still have time to avoid the really catastrophic decline in our environment. BUT, not much time.

Bill Butterworth 6th March 16

PS, I have used this Figure in the introduction of my latest book due out in April, “Survival! – Sustainable energy, waste, shale gas and the land.”

Shale gas is BEO



Do you heat your home by gas? How long would it take to change your house and several million others to renewable electricity – if we had it? (Which we don’t.)

Why is shale gas BEO (Best Environmental Option) and an environmental necessity in the UK? There is a stark choice looming.  Solar and wind turbine farms do not produce gas. Around two thirds/ three quarters of UK homes are heated by gas. Just suppose we had the renewable energy capability which was also sustainable (you get more out then you put in), which we do not have yet, but even if we did, how long would it take to change all those domestic properties to renewable and sustainable electricity?  Never mind the cost (which would be substantial), how long would it take to change several million households? Without any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, several generations.

A significant proportion of our gas is imported.  No other country in the world has technology as good as the UK drilling industry.  No other country in the world is as well regulated and inspected as the UK.  There are British drilling fluids you can drink. (Not too much at once – you would get constipated but not poisoned.)  Logically, if we have a higher degree of environmental friendliness, have our shale gas not someone else’s.  Shale gas is a clean burn “transition fuel” which will buy us the time and give us the cash to develop sustainable renewable energy – provided we do not squander the cash on something else. (Not to mention North Sea oil?) Keeping jobs here is a bonus and not an insignificant one.

Want some more figures?  Go to

Bill Butterworth 6th February 2016



Gas v. Electricity


The clock is ticking,



We have so far been able to generate electricity by a variety of “renewable” energy sources. That is all in the right direction in terms of trying to reduce global warming. However, most UK homes are heated not by electricity but but gas and we do not get gas from solar or wind turbines.  That is where shale gas fits in; as a short term measure to buy time to develop truly sustainable energy supplies right here in the UK.

For more information, also see last 2 posts at

Bill Butterworth 24 January 2016


Uplands farming and lowland floods


There is an opportunity in the uplands to help flood control lower down.

Few in the UK can be unaware of the flooding in many parts but dramatically in the North West. What follows are discussions of why and who to blame, mixed with theories which are often held passionately as the silver bullet to cure it in future. The truth is that the solutions are complex and a belief in a single solution indicates a lack of understanding of the natural environment.

No doubt, the dredging of water escape routes, of the building of “sacrifice” areas, building of new extra drains, and all the other construction possibilities are part of the defence for future urban protection.  The holding of water in the uplands in order to give slower release is the subject of what follows here.

Firstly, the farming of the area is the key to the management of the uplands, not the cause of lowland problems.  More specifically, if any change is not economic for the farmers involved, then either the taxpayers come up with the cash, or it will not happen at all.  So, finding a development which slows run-off and is financially attractive for farming to produce food is the only acceptable way forward that has a chance of working. There is a way to do this and it has already been done.

We already know that high organic matter soils hold water better.  To put figures on it; sand will hold its own weight of water, clay twice its own weight but composts will hold 5 to 16 times their own weight. We also know that bare soil (without an established crop on it) erodes easily.  So, enabling farmers to develop high organic matter soils and grow crops with a minimum of bare soil will improve matters in the lowlands.  We already know much about composting urban wastes and about forestry and other crops which can reduce erosion. Composting wastes can be very profitable but there is always an assumption that compost from wastes will be spread on food-producing land.  There is always a lot of paperwork, some of which may be a bit counter-productive.  Suppose a group of farmers were to get together with the Environment Agency and develop an area plan to maximise the volume and type of “wastes” which could be composted and spread and, instead of lots of individual applications to spread, a Code of Practice for food and forestry land?

Bill Butterworth

30 December 2015

Also see

Book cover