Britain’s Minister for Climate Change tells Energy MPs that English fracking ban would be ‘irresponsible’

CGI image from UK Govt. on typical shale gas well - showing Big Ben clock tower to scale (pictured bottom left).
CGI image from UK Govt. on typical shale gas well – showing Big Ben clock tower to scale (pictured bottom left).

The British Govt. minister for climate change has told MPs that it would be ‘irresponsible to future generations’ to ignore the potential economic and environmental benefits of  recovering shale gas by fracking in the UK.

Nick Hurd told follow MPs on the Westminster parliament’s Business and Energy Committee that exploring for shale gas is ‘consistent’ with the government’s commitment to tackling climate-change.

He added: “I look at shale gas through the lens of energy security. We import a lot of gas. If we have got the capacity to generate our own gas in this country and we can do it cost-effectively while reassuring people about the impact on the environment, we should.”

Hurd’s comments follow the recent anti-fracking campaign disaster for Friends of the Earth, which was ordered to withdraw false claims it made about onshore shale gas drilling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority.

See also:

Fibbing by Friends of Earth with false fracking claims will make Scot-Govt’s final public consultation on shale gas worthless

In total contrast to England, the minority SNP-led Scottish Government is maintaining its ‘temporary’ moratorium on shale gas drilling – which it imposed in Jan 2015 – despite reports by two sets of independent scientists it commissioned twice concluding that onshore fracking can be safely carried out – in line with public evidence already published independently by Public Health England and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Nick Hurd, MP
Nick Hurd, MP

Hurd added: “Because we have seen the impact on the United States <of fracking>, we have seen what it is capable of doing. We owe it to ourselves to find out whether something similar can happen in the UK”.

As a result of the SNP fracking ban, INEOS – which has UK exploration licences to drill for on-shore shale gas by hydraulic fracking around its massive petro-chemicals plant at Grangemouth – is now instead shipping Titanic-sized tankers full of shale gas into Scotland from the USA.

These issues have already been dealt with in the United States – where the success of its shale gas sector has transformed the American economy by enabling substantial cuts in domestic energy prices.

The ‘environment v the economy’ debate has been succinctly summed up by a recent leading article in The Washington Post – the paper which broke the Watergate Scandal and an exemplar of fact-based reporting.




Don’t shut down fracking – regulate it instead

By Editorial Board

Washington DC

December 16, 2016

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING — also known as fracking — has been a roiling issue over the past several years. For much of that time, (USA) Environmental Protection Agency experts have been studying the practice, used to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations, at Congress’s behest.

The agency released its final report Tuesday, and the conclusion the findings support is inescapable:

Fracking should not be shut down — it should be well-regulated.

Various players in the fracking debate reacted to the EPA’s work, which focused on fracking’s possible effects on drinking water, by claiming some degree of vindication. The report backed off controversial language included in a draft that suggested no “widespread, systemic impacts,” and underscored that there is still some uncertainty about fracking’s impact. Environmental activists played up the report’s finding that it is possible for fracking operations to harm drinking water in certain circumstances. Industry boosters noted that, despite the shift in wording, the EPA found only scattered and anecdotal records of any kind of harm.

In fact, the report’s findings help neither the activists who want to end fracking nor the industry that wants unfettered drilling. This should be unsurprising to reasonable observers following the issue for the past several years; the facts have never supported either side’s radical position.

Of course there is potential for fracking to affect drinking water. This can occur because of poor drilling jobs, drilling too close to old wells, injecting fracking fluid at the same depth as water resources, mishandling fracking chemicals, improperly collecting flowback water, carelessly disposing of wastewater, failing to seal spent wells properly and using up scarce water resources in drought zones. The EPA found real-world instances of harm, including a 30-foot geyser of brine and gas that shot out of an old well in Pennsylvania after a nearby frack job forced drilling fluid into the ground at high pressure.

But, the agency also noted, the number of fracked wells in the country has been astonishingly high in recent years, and there is only sparse and isolated evidence of real harm. Meanwhile, drilling for gas has provided jobs and helped displace dirty coal as an energy source.

This is not to say the EPA documented every instance of harm — it did not. The agency stressed that there is still uncertainty about how often fracking affects nearby water. But in documenting the ways in which fracking might contaminate water, the EPA provided a road map for minimising the potential for harm. Regulations should do things such as require solid well casings, prohibit injecting water too close to the water table, demand that drillers account for nearby wells and force operators to take care in handling chemicals and wastewater. Even as fracking continues, regulators should ensure consistent and careful monitoring of nearby water resources.

With the Trump administration poised to ramp up drilling across the country, officials should keep the EPA’s balanced report in mind. A host of fracking regulations are justified — not in the interest of punishing industry or asserting federal control, but of public health and environmental responsibility.

With smart state and federal rules, the country (USA)  can reap big economic and environmental benefits with far lower risks, more local acceptance and a cleaner conscience.

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