Energy campaigners have called on the British government to “realise” at least one shale project in the UK, to prove the technology’s worth and to prevent investors drifting away to projects abroad.
“The most important step now is to kick-start one shale development so that communities around the country can observe how safe and beneficial fracking is,” Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation told Anadolu news agency.
The Chancellor George Osborne and his Conservative colleagues have backed shale gas technology, otherwise known as fracking for some years now. In 2013, Mr Osborne said “I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution – because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people,” as he pledged one of the most generous tax breaks on shale in the world.
And again in June of this year, while standing in for David Cameron at Prime Ministers Questions he urged Britain not to “turn its back” on shale exploration, telling colleagues in the Commons:
“Frankly, I do not want to be part of a generation that says, ‘All the economic activity was happening somewhere else in the world, and was not happening in our country, and was not happening on our continent.’ So we should get on with the safe, environmentally protected exploration of our shale gas resources.”
Yet just days later Lancashire Council ignored the advice of its own planning and legal departments as well as the Department of Energy and Climate Change to block an application for exploratory drilling lodged by Cuadrilla.
At the time, a spokesman for David Cameron stated: “We respect the planning process. The Government has been clear that we think shale has got huge potential and presents us with an opportunity to develop a new energy resource and create jobs. We will continue to look at how we can develop this industry in the UK.”
But Peiser has said that the government must get more involved to ensure that at least one fracking project comes to fruition, paving the way for more to follow and keeping investors interested in the UK market.
“Unless the government takes urgent action to accelerate shale applications and development, shale companies and investors will reassess their projects in Britain.”
Other shale opportunities exist around the world, and investors looking to finance such projects “will not wait forever for Britain to get its act together and get fracking,” he added.
He added that communities affected by shale must have a share of the rewards of fracking, saying: “It is essential that local communities share the significant economic benefits of shale extraction. He added that the north of England especially would reap huge rewards “once the shale revolution takes off.”
His comments were echoed by Paul Ekins, director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London who noted that “If the sum of money to go to local communities is large enough, some local people might support shale gas development,” although he added that generally he expected opposition at a local level would continue.