Workers exploring a potential shale field in Pennsylvania. Photo: AFP
Courtesy of Tim Morgan @ The Telegraph:
Public opinion has been divided very starkly indeed by the government’s invitation to energy companies to apply for licences to develop shale gas across a broad swathe of the United Kingdom.
On the one hand, many environmental and conservation groups are bitterly opposed to shale development. Ranged against them are those within and beyond the energy industry who believe that the exploitation of shale gas can prove not only vital but hugely positive for the British economy.
Rather oddly, hardly anyone seems to have asked the one question which is surely fundamental: does shale development make economic sense?
My conclusion is that it does not.
That Britain needs new energy sources is surely beyond dispute. Between 2003 and 2013, domestic production of oil and gas slumped by 62pc and 65pc respectively, while coal output decreased by 55pc. Despite sharp increases in the output of renewables, overall energy production has fallen by more than half. A net exporter of energy as recently as 2003, Britain now buys almost half of its energy from abroad, and this gap seems certain to widen.
The policies of successive governments have worsened this situation. The “dash for gas” in the Nineties accelerated depletion of our gas reserves. Labour’s dithering over nuclear power put replacement of our ageing reactors at least a decade behind schedule, and a premature abandonment of coal has taken place alongside an inconsistent, scattergun approach to renewables.
Those who claim that Britain faces an energy squeeze are right, then. But those who claim that the answer is using fracking to extract gas from shale formations are guilty of putting hope ahead of reality. Continue reading