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UK parliamentary committee calls for fracking ban

26 January 2015

A committee of MPs in the UK’s parliament has called for a moratorium on fracking on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change.The government's drive for shale gas should be put on hold because it would lead to more reliance on fossil fuels, the Environmental Audit Committee said.

A shale exploration rig in West Sussex: Image - Cuadrilla
A shale exploration rig in West Sussex: Image - Cuadrilla

The cross-party committee also said in their report there were "huge uncertainties" about the environmental impact of fracking and said shale fracking was incompatible with UK carbon targets and could pose health risks.

"Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate-changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely," said committee chair Joan Walley MP.

"There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health."

Regardless of any moratorium, there should also be a ban on fracking in protected areas, the MPs added.

Previously, the main focus of environmental concern has been on the risks of pollution rather than climate change.

Responding to the report, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said it disagreed with the findings. Ministers said shale gas development would not detract from cutting emissions. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the government is "going all out" for shale gas, claiming it could create jobs and reduce reliance on imported gas.

Professor Quentin Fisher of the University of Leeds said the committee was putting the "ill-informed views of anti-fracking groups" ahead of evidence-based scientific studies.

"Gas will be a significant part of the UK's energy mix for the foreseeable future and it is preferable that we are as self-sufficient as possible," he said.

"UK shale development is compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and does not detract from our support for renewables, in fact it could support development of intermittent renewables. To meet our challenging climate targets we will need significant quantities of renewables, nuclear and gas in our energy mix."

"Hopefully, MPs will reject the findings of this report and allow UK citizens to receive the economic and social benefits that shale gas extraction could bring."

And Tom Crotty, director of the INEOS group, which wants to invest up to $1bn in the UK shale industry, said gas would be needed for the next 20, 30 or more years in the UK as a back-up for renewables.

He told the BBC: "The net result of a moratorium on fracking will be - we will import more and more gas - within 15 years we will import three quarters of our gas into this country."

INEOS said it thought the EAC report is a missed opportunity. It was “partial, partisan and had deliberately focused on the potential risks rather than the benefits of fracking”, the group said in a statement.

“Over 1 million wells have been drilled in the USA and this has led to a manufacturing renaissance which has bought jobs and prosperity to the country. INEOS believes that fracking can be done safely in the UK and that the rewards will benefit the entire country,” the statement said.

This comes a week after planning officers at Lancashire County Council said plans for fracking at two sites near Blackpool by Cuadrilla should be rejected owing to "unacceptable" increases in noise and heavy traffic.

And in a parallel development, Oil & Gas UK said a planned amendment to the Infrastructure Bill, backed by the Environment Audit Committee, could jeopardise future investment in the offshore oil and gas sector.

Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, said: “The passing of the Infrastructure Bill is crucial.  It is extremely regretful that an ill-informed amendment, backed by the Environment Audit Committee, is being used to derail industry and cross-party efforts to maximise economic recovering of oil and gas from the North Sea, a principle that has cross party support.

“If this amendment is successful the future of the North Sea will be put into serious jeopardy, placing at risk our indigenous energy supply and leaving us more reliant on imports. Hundreds of thousands of UK jobs and the country’s place as a global leader in offshore engineering and technology would then also be in peril.”


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