Anticipating major debate over next few months about extraction of shale gas in the UK. Note the certainty which is held by many significant persons, but I sense its too early to fully commit. but it does seem to me that establishing the potential is a no-brainer. Which is why I met with Cuadrilla, the shale gas developer this week. Would like to visit the Balcombe site in West Sussex to see what's happening, but Cuadrilla have only a couple of weeks left on site - and the drilling there does not involve hydraulic fracturing anyway! Looks like lots of noise and wrong target!
Lets start by considering what we know about potential benefits. Developing UK-sourced shale gas as a major part of our energy mix would create between 50,000 and 100,000 direct jobs, create thousands more jobs in the wider UK manufacturing sector, provide massive tax revenues to the Exchequer, reduce dependency on imports from unstable regions of the world, reduce carbon emissions in several different ways and spread prosperity within the UK from the South East to the North of England. Rather a good CV I'd say.
Major issue for me will be impact on landscape/environment. How much unsightly disturbance will be caused. It seems that the great thickness of the shale seam (far greater than in the US) will allow several wells to be clustered on the same site. I'm told that a site of just two hectares could incorporate 10 wells, creating around 1000 jobs. Compared with onshore wind, the impact on landscape would be small - and the gas would be moved by pipeline rather than pylons!
Hoping that the any opponents of shale gas and 'fracking' will comment outlining the downside. What are the negatives? Those sometimes used are just not credible after minimal research. There is no evidence whatsoever that 'fracking' causes earthquakes. And this stuff about shale gas coming out of taps with the drinking water has been shown to be total nonsense. But we do need to have a regulatory regime in place to ensure o threats to water tables, and that water supplies are adequate.
Not sure how much on an issue this is going to be in Wales. Should find out when the Welsh Affairs Committee look at 'Shale Gas in Wales'. The Bowland Basin comes South as far as Cheshire, but not into Wales at all I think. Its going to be a big, perhaps transformative issue.