Shale gas is a real Scottish green alternative

Gary Haywood, Chief Executive, INEOS UpstreamBy GARY HAYWOOD

WE believe Scotland and the rest of the UK could be heading towards an energy crisis unless we come together and agree a practical strategy for the future. 

As the UK and the world tries to cut dependence on coal to reduce carbon emissions, alternative energy sources must be found. Nuclear energy is one, while renewables will play an increasing role.

However, in the short to medium term, natural gas is the only alternative to coal that can provide the energy we need with reduced CO2 emissions.

The fact is that the UK currently imports around 50% of its gas from overseas due to the decline in production of gas from the North Sea. This figure is forecast to continue to rise.

This means that every pound the UK spends on imported gas leaves the country and does not return. 

It’s important to say that indigenous shale gas would not compete with North Sea gas; rather, it would reduce imports, which would reduce emissions, and would provide the UK with a secure supply that is produced under the strict HSE standards we employ in the UK – as well as providing jobs in the UK and taxation to the country.

And in answer to those who pose questions about the economic viability of developing a shale industry in Scotland, it should be noted that INEOS is prepared to take the financial risk of finding out if shale gas is viable by gaining an understanding of the shale layer in Scotland (and England) through the thoughtful application of science.

Despite years of scaremongering, Friends of the Earth did not bring any evidence forward at the public inquiry into the coal bed methane development at Airth.

Instead they chose to focus on climate change, leaving the by-now terrified communities to argue the unarguable and pick up the legal bill for their trouble.Friends of the Earth Scotland should make submissions to the various experts gathering evidence and justify their assertions with real evidence.

All professional and scientifically robust studies in the UK have concluded the same as the previous Scottish Independent Expert Panel’s Report on Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction – that shale gas can be extracted safely if a robust regulatory regime is in place.

Finally, it is also worth mentioning that this is not a gas versus renewables debate. Renewables must play an increasingly large part in providing energy to our homes and lives, as technology improves and the investments are made. 

However, there is no credible scenario where gas does not provide a large part of our energy needs for decades to come. Eighty-four per cent of UK homes are heated by gas and it has the lowest greenhouse gas impact of any fossil fuel, and hence is the ideal bridging fuel

Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Scottish Greens should provide a credible scenario to the evidence gathering that shows we do not need gas in these timeframes. They have so far failed to do so.

We believe it is now time that Scottish Friends of the Earth and the Greens acknowledge that Scotland needs gas for decades to come, that an indigenous supply from under our feet is better for both the climate and the economy and that shale gas can be extracted safely within the UK regulatory environment. 

For the good of Scotland, they really should.

GARY HAYWOOD is Chief Executive of INEOS’ Upstream Energy Division.

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