I am a DECC sceptic. Since I've been an MP, my confidence in the Dep't of Energy and Climate Change has collapsed. I no longer believe a word that emanates from anyone with any connection with DECC. And I do not think this will change until the whole wretched department is abolished. Until today, I thought I was a lone outrider in this opinion. But Peter Lilley almost matches my disillusionment in today's Telegraph - and he's a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee!
Peter has based his article around the attitude of DECC to shale gas. The shale gas debate took off after what happened in the US following development of huge supplies, and then the discovery of massive reserves of the stuff in N E England. Inevitably, anyone interested in the 'energy' question began asking questions about whether the same sort of price fall could happen in the UK - or at least a significant reduction in dependency on gas imports. All I've heard from DECC is discouraging noises, playing down any possibility of significant benefit. Leaves people like me, who have no confidence in anything DECC says without much idea of what the true position is. At least Peter Lilley is challenging the cosy consensus. I'll add a few quotes from his article;
" Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary was so upset by the British Geological Survey's new estimates, which show there may be 250 times as much shale gas as previously thought, that he told them to go and redo their figures. That means a delay of several months - on top of the 18 month moratorium previously imposed on drilling." Mr Lilley describes this as reprehensible. He suggests that anyone involved with DECC is desperate for shale gas to be a failure. Certainly looks that way.
Speaking of all witnesses called by the Energy and Climate Change Committee he said "They assured us that previous reserve estimates were too high, that little of it would be recoverable, that the cost of extraction would be far higher than in the US and that planning problems would prevent its development" If any of this is true, why should they be bothered. It just would not happen. But of course the reality is that probably none of its true.
"Fracking is a tried and tested technology which has been used since the late Forties. Hydraulic fracturing simply involves pumping water under great pressure into shale beds several kilometres underground until tiny fissures open up...so that the gas can flow out. Over 100,000 wells have been fracked in recent years. Not a single person has been poisoned by contaminated water, not a single building damaged by the almost undetectable seismic tremors sometimes released. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded unequivocally that any health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively in the UK..." And there's a whole lot more besides.
Now I've not yet been myself convinced that 'fracking' is going to deliver the bonanza we would all like (except DECC of course) but every time I hear the case against being made by exaggeration and embellished by plain untruths, the more I feel inclined to support it. Peter Lilley, is undergoing a resurgence in his political influence - and interestingly has just been appointed a member of Jo Johnson MP's policy committee reporting to the Prime Minister. He will not remain quiet. Hydraulic fracturing has a clear-thinking and redoubtable champion.