Shale gas downsides must be explored properly, says Green MP

Shale gas has been attacked as a publicity stunt by the coalition, whose environmental impact, risks, level of public support, and actual economic benefits have not been properly explored.

Heading up a debate in Westminster Hall, Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas said her opposition was not just environmental - quoting a statistic from the Environmental Audit Committee that energy from fossil fuels costs six times more than that from renewable sources. She added that tax incentives for shale extractors need to be properly examined, as she believes they amount to a fossil fuel subsidy.

She attacked comparisons with the US often used to justify estimates of extraction potential, saying the American regulatory system, export market and geology is different. For example, Western European geology has a higher clay content, she says, which would make extraction more difficult.

Lucas added that the government was not listening to opposition to fracking. She said she is "concerned" policy making is being skewed in favour of the likes of energy companies like Cuadrilla & Centrica at the expense of constituents, who will be hit by falling house values and lower water quality. It was pointed out that there could be some benefits on employment, noting the three regions with the lowest unemployment levels in the UK all centre around Aberdeen.

The debate comes as a government commissioned report shows UK gas prices could fall by up to a quarter if the country successfully exploits its shale gas reserves. The government response to the report can be read here.

The debate continues and can be watched live here.