Shale gas is an environmental and political hot potato. This article studies how the country’s feelings towards shale gas have evolved.
It’s probably the hottest topic in energy at the moment – ‘fracking’ for shale gas. As with any new source of energy, it has drawn protests from hard left groups at exploratory drilling sites and the HQ of energy company Cuadrilla Resources.
It has also been hailed by many as a solution to our currently sky high energy prices and future energy security. Even the Church of England said there is “a danger of viewing fracking through a single-issue lens and ignoring the wider considerations” such as fuel poverty.
David Cameron laid out his views as to why we should not miss out on fracking in the UK in an article last week.
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So what is ‘fracking’ and what are the issues?
Hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) is part of a process where gas wells are drilled to a greater depth than usual, because the gas is stuck in tiny pockets inside deep shales. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is then injected into the rock at high pressure to crack it open and let the gas rise out, then it is captured as it comes to the surface.
This process has been underway for many years already, in the US and other countries, and all of the evidence points to it being completely safe if managed correctly. Indeed, the process of hydraulic fracturing has been around for over 50 years.
If we can extract only 20% of our estimated reserves, it would be enough to power the whole country for 100 years. Surely that’s worth exploring?
At the start of 2013 I wrote an article called “A 2013 UK Shale Gas Revolution? Unlikely.” which detailed the main barriers we faced as a country to bringing shale online and getting our crippling energy bills down so we can get the economy going again.
The article concluded discussing the two main barriers to shale gas: Social Acceptance and The UK Planning & Regulatory System. It seems like since then some progress is being made in both areas:
- Social Acceptance:
- Estimated shale gas reserves doubled by BGS – A colossal amount of gas surely makes any environmental damage more worthwhile.
- Ofgem report warns of blackouts by 2015 – Serious warnings that if we don’t do something soon, we just won’t have enough energy to power the country.
- Fracking is safe – A joint report by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society stated that fracking was safe to go ahead.
- The UK Planning System:
- Fracking ‘could be fast tracked’ – News that the government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill is moving to decrease the planning application time for shale gas drilling in the UK.
- 2013 budget announces shale gas tax breaks – Not a subsidy, just exclusion from taxation. Great news for companies wanting to get going in the industry.
I’m not saying shale gas is all good. Everything has its downsides, but with fracking they seem relatively small compared to the massive pay-offs.
If we can extract only 20% of our estimated reserves, it would be enough to power the whole country for 100 years. Surely that’s worth exploring? We could see our energy bills slashed in half!