The government recently awarded 159 new fracking licenses just days after a bill was pushed through commons that amounted to a direct about turn on Amber Rudd’s earlier promise to wholly forbid fracking under national parks and sites of special scientific interest in the UK.
A spokesman for Rudd’s Department for Energy and Climate Change described the production of shale gas by fracking as “a fantastic opportunity for the UK”, pointing to the estimated 60,000 jobs it would create, as well as the extent to which it would support Rudd and the DECC’s long-term goal of energy security.
Despite the DECC’s claims about the positivity of fracking, the passing of the bill, and the granting of the new licenses, has incensed the already vocal anti-fracking lobby, and they have now been joined by local bodies like the Lancashire County Council as the debate gets ever more heated.
The government has made it’s position clear and has used recent studies like former climate change advisor Lord Smith’s report on the fracking industry as evidence.
Smith’s study concluded that, if performed carefully and with due care and, most importantly, if supported in tandem with various green initiatives, then fracking could be considered a plausible solution to our country’s ever growing energy crisis.
The fracking industry and government alike ran with certain aspects of the study that pointed towards the job creation as relatively clean energy that we’d get from fracking and producing shale gas but somewhat glossed over Smith’s criticisms of the government’s lack of an “even handed” approach to the energy crisis, citing the scrapping of various green initiatives as problematic.
Proponents of fracking and shale gas production in the UK have pointed to various environmental safeguards and guarantees that local communities will not be adversely affected in their support of the now-controversial form of energy production.
Ineos, an Anglo-Swiss group who won 21 of the fracking licenses awarded, have, in an attempt to console the communities likely to be affected by their future work, offered to share 6% of their revenues with landowners (4%) and with the wider communities (2%).
Shale gas production has been cited as essential to our independence in terms of energy production, reducing our reliance on imported oil, for example.
Ken Cronin, CEO of UK Onshore Oil and gas (UKOOG), made this point, saying that: “at the beginning of this century, we were energy independent, producing enough oil and gas from the North Sea to provide for everyone in the UK.
“Today” he went on, “we are dependent for nearly 50% of our oil and gas from overseas and that is going to rise to over 75% in the next 15 years without further onshore production.”
The issue is that in statements like this, the road to energy independence is treated as unilateral, i.e. via shale gas production.
And in the short term, this is arguably accurate, but critics point to short-sightedness on the part of Amber Rudd and the conservative government in their cancelling of various green schemes, from the installation of solar panels in social housing; to mandatory insulation schemes; to the carbon capture competition; the list goes on.
Again, we come back to Lord Smith’s calls for an “even handed approach.”