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Hamish Champ is the editor of PRW. When not doinghis day job he finds time to ride his motorcycle, listen to Deep Purple and take his 12 year-old son to the cinema/park/football/pub...

Fracking heaven or hell?

Posted on 27 January 2015

Many in energy-hungry industries will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning, while green campaigners will have been left gnashing their teeth.

Yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons to reject a moratorium on fracking in the UK was hardly a close-run thing: 308 against the move and only 52 supporting the proposal.

Environmental campaigners vented their collective spleens the direction of the Labour Party, which declined to support the moratorium call after securing a number of amendments designed to beef up regulation.

Meanwhile energy exploration firms and other associated outfits were expressing themselves satisfied, relieved even, that the hurdle to developing the UK’s shale gas reserves had been removed from the track and stored in the shed where they keep the lawnmower and the thing that paints the white lines.

The thing is, will shale gas (and oil, of course) be the panacea to the UK’s energy situation? Those looking to frack ‘n’ crack clearly think so.

Ineos, which has staked a considerable amount of potential investment – and not a small amount of its reputation – on the potential for shale gas exploitation in the UK, is just one interested party which believes that unless we go for what is said to lie in the earth beneath our feet we will all be in serious trouble in the not-too-distant future.

Reliance upon energy imports is already reaching critical levels, shale gassers argue. Better to be able to rely on our own stores of gas and other cheap-to-produce energy goodies.

But herein lies the rub: there appears to be little consensus as to the scale of deposits and quite how much can be accessed and produced in enough quantity to provide the cheap energy that both industrial and domestic users will need.

Fracking supporters argue we can learn from the lessons of the US, where shale gas development has transformed much of that country’s manufacturing activity.

Others posit that the wide open spaces where US frackers can freely frack cannot compare with the relatively cramped locales under which shale gas here in the UK is reported to lie.

At the end of the day, gas exploration could ultimately benefit the vast majority of people in the UK, notwithstanding that the commercial benefits of shale will be set against the impact of its extraction on the environment.

Such a balancing act will require safeguards being in place that can accommodate both the needs of energy users and those who want avoid ruining the land on which we live.

Recent Columns

23 January 2015

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