The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has called on the government to do more to develop Britain’s shale gas and oil resources, saying it fully supports the government’s commitment to “go all out for shale”. It adds that fracking will bring “substantial economic benefits”, but complex regulations are holding the industry back and should be swept away.
The committee’s report says the benefits from using shale include reducing energy imports – especially from Russia and the Middle East – the creation of new jobs, keeping major petrochemical firms in the UK and increased tax revenue from the industry.
Using shale gas would even help the UK keep to its climate change commitments, as the “carbon footprint” of shale gas extraction is half that of traditional coal and liquefied natural gas extraction. “Shale gas has an important role to play in the transition to low-carbon energy,” the committee says.
The UK is “exceptionally fortunate” to have substantial shale resources and urgently needs to begin exploration to establish their potential economic benefits. However, the committee adds, this is not currently happening on anywhere near the scale required.
The committee says that since lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in 2012, the Environment Agency has not received or approved a single application for the permits needed to begin exploratory drilling.
The UK needs much simpler and clearer regulations on shale drilling, the committee adds, expressing its “concern” that complex regulation may be causing unnecessary delays.
Lord MacGregor, the committee chairman, said: “A successful shale gas industry in the UK would be good for our economy and energy security. The United States has raced ahead with the development of shale gas and oil in recent years, with enormous benefits to US industry and the economy generally.
“The Committee strongly supports the Government’s decision to go ‘all out for shale’. But here in the UK we have not yet left the starting gate. Developing a successful shale gas and oil industry in the UK must be an urgent national priority.”
Lord MacGregor adds, however: “…there seems to be a regulatory logjam; the Environment Agency has not received or approved a single permit application to undertake hydraulic fracturing since 2012.
“The Government has made attempts to simplify the regulatory regime for development of shale but these measures have not gone far enough.”