Opinion: David Cameron and shale gas

By Anders Lorenzen

It seems the UK Prime Minister David Cameron is finally giving in to the anti-wind power and the pro-fracking part of his party, lead by Chancellor George Osborne, as the fracking debate is getting hotter.

With recent remarks stated by Cameron that Britain can’t afford to miss out on shale gas, and communities just have to bear the brunt, while at the same time attacking wind power. Cameron advocates that no more onshore wind turbines should be built in the UK, and delivers a complete u-turn from his previous statements. He is also going against what the majority of analysts are saying that shale gas won’t lower energy bills, he insists they will.

As the row is escalating, embarrassing remarks were made by Lord Howell, saying that fracking should only take place in the desolate North East (he later corrected that to North West), Cameron has seen it necessary to take the promotion of shale gas into his own hands, something that so far has been left to George Osborne.

Meanwhile Labour (the opposition party, in case anyone had forgotten) are completely quiet on the issue of fracking, letting anti-fracking campaigners guess that they might support it. It’s remarkable, since the fracking debate really flared up around three weeks ago, when protesters were gathering in the Balcombe, West Sussex to protest against Cuadrilla’s move to drill for oil, Labour stayed in the background. Labour are losing popularity, at a time where they ought to to extend their lead over the Tories. Labour could, with a strong statement against fracking, regain the lead they had on the Tories as they would no doubt capture a stream of new supporters; many of them fleeing from Conservative constituencies threatened by fracking.

Cameron needs to get away from the fantasy that fracking would lead to lower energy prices and stop using the US as an example. He should know that the gas market on the other side of the Atlantic is different than in Europe. Even if the UK was to extract large amounts of cheap gas from fracking, it would not lead to cheaper energy bills, as UK gas prices are based on the European market. If suddenly the whole of Europe started to frack like there was no tomorrow and surge of gas was extracted, then it might, but that’s extremely unlikely. As I have previously written, apart from the UK, Poland is the only country European where fracking is taking place, but even there investors are fleeing. Editor of Business Green, James Murray, makes the point perfectly in a recent published letter to David Cameron, asking how his shale gas plans would work as he has not given any details on that matter.

The public are being misguided to believe that we need fracking to keep the lights on, but that simply is not true. By dealing with energy efficiency and upgrading an ageing grid, we could quite likely recoup the shale gas bonanza advocates are dreaming about. By fully relishing our renewable energy potential that we have in the UK, and still remains largely untapped, we could go a long way towards becoming energy independent in renewable energy. Again it’s simply extraordinary to say that we should not build anymore onshore wind turbines to protect communities (even though in those communities only a minority are opposed to it) and then on the other hand impose fracking rigs in communities where the majority are against it. Instead of handing out large tax breaks to shale gas companies, the government could hand out tax breaks, for instance, to the UK’s promising wave and tidal industry to really get that industry off the ground. But instead this government who refuses to invest in new and modern renewable technologies are locking themselves further and further into the old fashioned fossil fuel industry, trying to suck the very last drop out of fossil fuels that we all know will eventually run out.  

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

Cross posted with Huffington Post.

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Categories: energy, Windpower

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