As the government gives fracking the go-ahead, will shale be the energy game changer for the UK that it’s been for the US?

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Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota
Shale oil and gas has changed the economic landscape in the United States (Source: Getty)

Steve Elliott, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association, says Yes.

Concerns that UK energy is expensive, and may be insecure, undermine investment. We need firms to invest in the UK, and fracking for shale will help. The UK chemical industry supports the development of unconventional gas (including shale gas) while protecting the environment, public health and ensuring that communities receive associated benefits.

Extraction of shale gas will create skilled jobs, directly increase GDP and help to reduce our trade deficit. It is likely to bring downward pressure on energy prices, and lead to further gains in output in the rest of the economy – as in the US – which is seeing a $150bn boom in petrochemicals investment.

Shale gas producers will pay substantial taxes to the Treasury on their production income, and will also provide benefits to local communities. Investment in shale gas production could reach £3.7bn a year, supporting 74,000 new jobs. Moreover, global chemical company Ineos has pledged 6 per cent of gas revenues to landowners and communities.

Michael Bradshaw, professor of global energy at Warwick Business School, says No.

The shale gas revolution in the US did not happen overnight; it has been 30 years in the making. Moreover, it has not just been about the technology. There are a host of reasons why, once proven, the industry in the US developed at great speed.

These have to do with geology, with regulations, with public attitudes, with private ownership of sub-soil rights, with access to finance, to mention but a few. Furthermore, many of the practices in the US, though not permitted in all states, are not permitted in the UK. This is largely due to UK and EU legislation.

And finally, the scale of public opposition – see Third Energy’s failure to obtain a social licence from the local community in Ryedale, for example – and the complexity of the planning process means that drilling hundreds of wells a year will be challenging to say the least. As a result, it is highly unlikely that there will be a US-style shale gas revolution in the UK.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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