Having a few emails condemning my support for shale gas. Which is interesting in that I've not declared any such support. Its true that I do think no UK Gov't can avoid establishing what the potential of this energy source is, and whether it is recoverable at acceptable financial and environmental cost. I do try to base my judgement on evidence, and assessment of benefits or otherwise. So lets consider some of what we think we know so far.
There is a lot of shale gas under the UK. The Bowland Basin, an area covering much of Lancashire, Cheshire and an area to the East contains enough gas to supply the UK's gas needs for 50 yrs, even if only 10% of is accessible. This is a bigger deal than North Sea oil. And it seems there may be another massive resource in the Weald Basin as well. And we haven't looked everywhere yet. We also know that the exploitation of shale gas has transformed the US economy, and is making the US independent of energy supplies from the the Middle East. However we do not know how accessible or recoverable this amazing resource is - or how much of it can realistically be recovered. But already we know shale gas has the potential to transform the British economy, and in particular create a wealth boom away from the South-East.
It does seem that the Coalition Gov't is becoming increasingly enthusiastic. I've felt that George Osborne has been supportive for some time - and Owen Paterson - and Michael Fallon. But now the Prime Minister has come out with all guns blazing as well. And even Lib Dem Energy Sec. of State is in favour. But there are also opponents, particularly on the Lib Dem benches. Not sure whether this is driven by a genuine concern about 'fracking' or a fear that their beloved wind turbines will become obsolete.
Anyway, I need to learn a lot more about shale gas. Are the scare stories just scare stories, or does the opposition have genuine substance. How intrusive are the wells in the open countryside. Similar oil wells have been accepted with little fuss. And I need to talk through the business case and the practical difficulties with people who know. So I have a meeting with Cuadrilla arranged soon after Parliament resumes in Sept.. And I intend to arrange a visit to an existing well site to see for myself. We are facing what may be a transformative economic opportunity, acceptable in environment terms, which we would be deeply unwise to ignore. We (and I) need to decide.