Secretary of State Ed Davey today made the case for the safe and responsible exploration of shale gas in the UK, in line with the country’s climate change targets.
In a speech to the Royal Society, Mr Davey said that if shale gas could be developed in an economically viable and environmentally friendly way, it would benefit the UK - increasing energy security, providing more jobs and tax revenues.
Davey was responding to the findings of a new report by DECC chief scientific advisor Professor David Mackay FRS and Dr Timothy Stone, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State, which estimates that the carbon footprint of UK produced shale gas would likely be significantly less than coal and also lower than imported Liquefied Natural Gas.
Mr Davey said: “Gas, as the cleanest fossil fuel, is part of the answer to climate change, as a bridge in our transition to a green future, especially in our move away from coal.
“We have to face it: North Sea gas production is falling and we are becoming increasingly reliant on gas imports. So UK shale gas could increase our energy security by cutting those imports.
“UK shale gas production must not be at the expense of our wider environmental aims – indeed, if done properly, it will support them. I am determined to make that happen.”
However, his comments have been attacked on the Fylde. Mike Hill, from Defend Lytham, said: “As Mr Davey is fully aware, the regulations on shale gas exploration have been significantly cut back over the last six months – starting with the scrapping of the Offshore Safety Division of the HSE.
“Subsequent to this he has overseen the cutting back of the time to issue permits for waste from the present three to six months to 14 days by February 2014.
“The right safeguards are not in place. They are being removed by the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil – his own department. It is total spin.”
He added that methane was 20 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and any escape from drill sites such as had occurred at times in the US would make shale gas more dirty than coal.
Philip Mitchell, of the Blackpool Green Party, said: “In trying to sanitise the climate risks of his stated ‘love’ for shale gas Ed Davey and his government scientists are playing a dangerous game in which the losers will be billions of ordinary people facing the unbearable existence that climate scientists have been warning about the need to avoid.”