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House of Lords Push for Fracking

The House of Lords economy committee published a report last week calling for Britain to get “fracking faster for shale gas”.

Despite numerous setbacks at the hands of environmentalists and growing public opinion, the House of Lords’ report calls for a central role for shale gas in future UK energy scenarios.

But the Lords’ warned that yet another spectre is causing obstacles to the new dash for gas, EU environmental regulations.

We’ve dealt elsewhere with the various arguments for and against shale, whether it be the abundant untapped sources or concerns over private land rights or earth tremors, there is little room for sitting on the proverbial fence when it comes to fracking.

That said, in taking a mature, open-minded approach to tackling energy security and climate change, all energy sources, including shale gas, have to have a part to play, however small or niche.

To this end the Lords’ report calls for drilling permits to be granted more quickly and more widely in order to understand the true potential of shale gas before any long term decisions on its position in the energy hierarchy can be determined.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep underground, which then fractures, releasing its reserves of gas and oil.

Domestic objections to this process are however only one element challenging the potential ascendancy of shale gas as a future mainstay of the UK’s energy mix.

According to the industry, the UK’s onshore oil and gas businesses are already subject to 14 separate EU directives.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson have been trying to head off attempts to load up new EU directives on fracking, which they view as surplus to requirements.

Cameron opined:

“If the European Union or its member states impose burdensome, unjustified or premature regulatory burdens on shale gas exploration in Europe, investors will quickly head elsewhere”.

Regardless of your personal position on the merits or otherwise of shale gas and the process of fracking, it’s difficult not to have sympathy with those tasked with tackling energy security of supply whilst faced with increasing volumes of hurdles to even get feasibility studies established.

One way or another we need to rule in or rule out each energy source, but that needs to be done in an objective way with appropriate pragmatism that current reality demands. The chances of that happening appear slimmer by the day.

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