THE Government has given its strongest indication yet that it wants to approve a shale gas boom on the Fylde coast.
Substantial investment in new gas power plants in the UK is “completely consistent” with targets to cut emissions, Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted.
And he also said he hoped it would be possible to give the go ahead to shale gas, which is extracted using the controversial process of “fracking” – as long as it was properly regulated.
Cuadrilla Resources is hoping to cash in on the Fylde coast’s rich shale gas potential at sites in Singleton, Weeton and Anna’s Road, Westby.
The fracking process – which uses high pressured water and chemicals to break up or fracture shale deep underground to release gas – was put on hold after two earth tremors on the Fylde coast last year.
But now it appears clear the Government wants to tap into an important new source of gas.
Mr Davey told yesterday’s GasTech industry conference in London the UK was “good at gas – we like gas”.
He said: “I see unabated gas playing a very significant role throughout the 2020s, and, increasingly as back-up or with carbon capture and storage, through the 2030s and 2040s.”
He added: “A substantial investment in gas generation and gas import infrastructure here in the UK is completely consistent with Britain’s plans to cut carbon emissions, set out in our carbon plan.”
Mr Davey did sound a note of caution over shale gas, a major industry in the US but one which raises concerns over contamination of water supplies.
He said questions about regulatory oversight and the involvement of local communities needed to be answered, not simply dismissed, and any new energy source must be consistent with efforts to cut carbon emissions.
He said: “In the context of the Government’s green light for carbon capture and storage of fossil fuel plants and in the light of evidence of the best regulatory regime, I hope it will prove possible for me to give a green light to shale.”
Mr Davey’s comments came as businesses lined up to warn the Government that support for future gas power and a failure to sign up to targets to slash emissions from electricity generation are undermining needed investment in the power sector.
At the Tory Party conference in Birmingham, Chancellor George Osborne said the Government was consulting on a “generous new tax regime for shale” so the UK was not left behind as gas prices fell in the US, where shale gas is being widely exploited.
The Treasury said a targeted tax regime would help unlock investment in shale gas, which had the potential to create jobs and support energy security.
But Jim Footner, head of Greenpeace’s energy and climate campaign, said: “Osborne needs to stop giving handouts to his mates in the gas industry and instead back his Lib Dem coalition partners and the CBI by supporting investment in renewable technologies that will help stabilise bills, reduce our reliance on energy imports and boost the economy.”