Saturday, March 04, 2017

Letters from my Postbag - 3

Over last couple of years, I've had lots of emails and letters objecting to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas in the UK. Still receiving them. Expect a few more following today's news that Shell is bringing in shale gas 'fracked' in the Peruvian Amazon - an environmentally important site. Shale gas 'fracked' in the US is already coming into Grangemouth in Scotland. This makes no sense at all to me - from any standpoint, the environment, the economy or energy security.
My view on recovering shale gas in the UK has remained the same since we first realised there are trillions of cubic ft under our feet. I am supportive of developing a shale gas industry in Britain, if it can be done safely - but it's far too early to know whether this new industry is viable. At present we have no fracking in the UK - one well is currently being constructed in Lancashire and another with planning permission in Yorkshire. It cannot make sense to import shale gas in giant tankers from halfway across the world, including the environmentally important Amazon basin, when we have so much of the stuff under our feet. But of course it must be done safely. Internet based stories about gas leaks are not about the fracking process deep down in the earth, but the transportation of the gas to the surface.
The most authorative voice on environmental impact in Britain is the Committee on Climate Change. It's chaired by the much respected Lord Deben. This body is independent of Government, and is charged with holding the Government to account. The CCCh makes the judgement that well regulated domestic production of shale gas actually has a lower carbon footprint than imported liquified natural gas. The CCCh expects gas to be a major source of energy til 2030s and for heating until 2050s. It's the only way we are going to stop burning coal which the CCCh tells us is 50% more damaging to the climate than gas.
There's been, and remains a great deal of opposition to establishing a shale gas industry in the UK. Local Planning Authorities have been faced by protests which understandably have made them reluctant to grant approvals. The consequence has been that the Government has resolved to fast-track applications to avoid Councils delaying decisions.I still have no idea whether a shale gas industry is viable in the UK.

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