I was delighted to hear David Cameron offer his cautious backing for shale gas production. The reserves will primarily be used in electricity generation, meaning we can decrease carbon emissions while cutting energy bills. This must be an attractive option for a country that’s been told the two are mutually exclusive. At the moment, 30 per cent of UK electricity is from coal. A switch to shale is the reason US emissions have hit a 20 year low. Prices are cut in two ways. First, fracking is much cheaper than importing foreign gas, oil and coal – the process consists of pumping pressurised water and detergent into a hole not much wider than your hand. Second, it’s not subject to currency fluctuations or price fixing by foreign cartels. Fossil fuel will eventually be phased out in favour of low carbon technologies such as nuclear. But in the meantime, if we turn our back on shale we will pay more and do more damage to the environment. David Morris is Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale.
Basing his outlook on the US shale gas boom, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the economic benefits of fracking could “very quickly” unfold in the UK as well. Should first estimates of UK shale gas reserves prove correct, development could certainly have positive implications for the country’s economy. But the UK has a much smaller resource base than the US, and only a fraction of the estimated reserves are likely to be economically recoverable. Until reserves are confirmed by further exploration drilling – currently slowed down by strong local opposition – UK shale gas estimates remain educated guesswork at best, regardless of incentives for drillers and communities offered by the government. Thus, the Prime Minister’s hopes for a US-style energy revolution with the same scale of associated gas price and labour market effects are at best premature, if not entirely unrealistic. Claudia Belahmidi is an energy analyst at IHS Global Insight.