British MPs declare shale gas drilling safe
Shale gas drilling has been given the go-ahead by members of the UK parliament who have insisted that the process is safe.
An inquiry by the Energy and Climate Change committee concluded that fracking, the process by which gas is extracted from shale rock, poses no risk to underground water supplies as long as drilling wells are properly constructed.
Therefore a moratorium on drilling in the UK would be inappropriate, the committee said, as long as it is monitored closely by government.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo MP said: "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 government's regulatory agencies must of course be vigilant and monitor drilling closely to ensure that air and water quality is not being affected."
According to the British Geological Society the UK's onshore shale gas resources could be as much as 150 million cubic metres, worth £28bn and equivalent to one-and-a-half years of total gas usage. But even that could be dwarfed by offshore resources.
The report says that although exploiting shale gas would reduce the UK's dependence on gas imports, there would be little impact on domestic energy prices.
Yeo added: "Offshore reserves may be much higher and, while more costly to recover, could potentially deliver self-sufficiency in gas for the UK at some point in the future."
The report adds that using shale gas could encourage a movement away from using coal – but might also take investment away from renewable energy sources. Yeo said the emergence of shale gas "increases the urgency of bringing carbon capture and storage technology to the market and making it work for gas as well as coal".
Concerns have been raised about the safety of the chemicals used in shale gas extraction, while in the United States footage appeared of people setting their water supply alight – apparently because of the high quantity of methane emissions produced by fracking. Yeo accepted that those concerns were understandable but said regulations were much tighter in the UK.
Writing for PublicServiceEurope.com earlier this month, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation Dr Benny Peiser highlighted the Europe-wide potential for a shale gas "revolution".
"Poland, France and the Ukraine alone may have supplies sufficient to last for 200 or 300 years. No wonder then that many European countries see shale as a golden opportunity to generate cheap energy as well as reduce their reliance on imports from Russia and the Middle East.
"Already, Germany is set for the conversion of its energy mix away from nuclear and towards gas. Berlin announced only last week that its new energy policy will now focus on building more gas-fired power stations to fill to looming gap caused by Germany's accelerated nuclear phase-out," he wrote.
EU-Canada trade agreement threatens European fracking bans
As European member states consider the implications of environmentally risky shale gas development, the proposed EU-Canada trade agreement could give energy companies new powers to challenge fracking bans through the back door – claims Pia Eberhardt