The head of the GMB – the union for energy workers – has strongly criticised claims by the British Labour party that it would ban fracking for shale gas in UK if it were to win the next general election.
The minority-led SNP government in Edinburgh imposed a ‘temporary’ ban on all planning applications for shale exploration in Scotland in January 2015, despite its own earlier report – and all independent scientific studies saying shale gas drilling can be carried out safely in Scotland and the UK.
Earlier today, Labour MP Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Energy Minister, called for an end to fracking< in the UK> at his party’s English conference in Liverpool.
But Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said: “Britain needs gas. The first fracked gas from America arrives tomorrow at Grangemouth., but carting gas across the Atlantic ccean is not good from the environment and not good for security of supply in the UK.
“Given we will need gas to heat our homes and power industry, the question is therefore where are we going to get our gas from.
“We are increasingly going to be dependent on regimes fronted by henchmen, hangmen and headchoppers for the gas we need. That isn’t ethical and is surely an abdication of our environmental and moral responsibilities.”
Stuart Fegan, GMB National Officer, added: “It is a nonsense that any political party serious on forming a government after the next planned <UK> general election in 2020 could promote a ban on shale gas extraction outright.
“With our national dependency on gas consumption set to increase in the immediate future, ruling out the possible use of a natural fuel that exists beneath our feet in parts of the UK is ridiculous.
Everyone wants to see the development of renewables and understands the contribution they make towards our energy mix but when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine we need other secure forms of energy to power the sixth largest economy in the world.
This industry is a source of premium, high skilled jobs and supports thousands more as well as the sub-regional economies of the areas where shale is found. More investigatory work needs to be allowed by decision makers so that the industry can ensure we can ‘Frack’ as safely and as respectfully to local communities as possible in the UK.”
The GMB comments came on the eve of the arrival in Grangemouth today (27 Sept) of the MV INEOS Intrepid carrying the first super-tanker load of shale gas from the USA to the company’s refinery on the Firth of Forth.
Chris Lewis, Energy Advisory Partner, EY, commented: “Securing the UK’s future energy supply requires exploring different options and their viability.
“Producing gas at home can reduce the UK’s reliance on imports and help bring energy bills down. We should not hamstring ourselves by dismissing the development of shale gas in the UK without first fully exploring how it can work and the potential economic prize on offer.
“We need to address the concerns of local communities and build a domestic industry that can provide local employment and ensure the process is safe and minimises local disruption.
“Countries such as Norway have established models that have allowed local economies to prosper from gas extraction. We should be properly considering all of the evidence and looking to build on that best practice.”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG, the onshore oil and gas trade body, added: “We import over 50% of our gas usage today and that is set to rise to 80% while at the same time 84% of our homes use gas for heating, 61% for cooking, up to 50% our electricity comes from gas and a large number of everyday products use gas as an integral feedstock.
“Imports of gas as LNG are 15% more carbon intensive than locally produced shale gas. If we want to maintain the right of the general public to access heat and power securely, manage climate change, create UK based jobs then we need to develop renewables, nuclear and natural gas from shale.
“To go for a narrow one size fits all approach will lead to more imports and a detrimental impact on the environment and economy.”
Jesse Norman MP, UK government minister for industry and energy, criticised Labour’s plan to ban fracking, saying it showed the party was “not a credible alternative government”.
He said: “As Labour themselves have said, the safe development of shale can create jobs and improve our energy security – that’s why the government supports shale and will ensure local residents benefit from the proceeds.
“Labour are totally divided over how to provide the energy our country needs, and even Labour-supporting unions say their plans ‘will not keep the lights on.”