Banning the use of shale gas in the UK is not necessary, finds a new report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee.
A boom in the use of shale as a fuel in the United States over the last decade has led the UK Government to consider it as an alternative to oil and coal, because the UK has large beds of shale that some figures suggest could supply 10% of our current gas needs.
However, the possibility of a moratorium on shale had been floated, because the environmental impact of extracting it was unproven.
Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Committee said these concerns were unfounded: “There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling, but our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern – that UK water supplies would be put at risk.
“There appears to be nothing inherently dangerous about the process of ‘fracking’ itself and as long as the integrity of the well is maintained shale gas extraction should be safe.”
The MPs’ report concludes: “On balance, we feel that there should not be a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing in the exploitation of the UK’s hydrocarbon resources, including unconventional resources such as shale gas.”
Cuadrilla, the first company to explore drilling in the UK and contributor to the Westminster inquiry, welcomed the emphasis on “stringent standards”. Mark Miller, Cuadrilla’s CEO said: “We have always supported the case for maintaining the present stringent regulatory standards in the UK to continue to provide clear precautionary safeguards against the concerns which have been highlighted and much debated in the United States, where regulatory standards differ.”
The news wasn’t so well received by environmental campaigners, who worried that shale was a “dangerous distraction” from renewable options.
Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK said: “Even if local environmental issues could be addressed, the important point is that shale gas is a dangerous distraction from the urgent need for us to tackle climate change.”
Craig Bennett at Friends of the Earth agreed: “Instead of seeing shale gas as a miracle fix, the Government should focus on developing the clean, safe energy alternatives at our fingertips like solar power and wind.”
Focus should be on efforts to research carbon capture and storage technology, added Mr Alliot: “Efforts to demonstrate carbon capture and storage have suffered from repeated delays – and the Government should press ahead urgently with renewable energy, rather than encouraging investment in new gas capacity in the hope that it will be feasible to fit CCS at some later date.”