In taking on the anti-fracking movement, Minister of State for Energy, Andrea Leadsom has highlighted just how bad Britain’s energy predicament is. In a briefing note on the Politics Home website she states:
“As things stand, we have 40% of our gas being supplied from the North Sea basin and that’s reduced from what used to be almost all of it. In the next 15 to 20 years that will reduce to 25%, so the difference is made up of imports from Norway and largely Qatar.
“There’s the ridiculous argument that somehow we don’t need gas, we can just do it with windfarms and solar. Of course that’s absolutely implausible. 85% of us use gas for heating and cooking, so we’ve got to have it. Gas is absolutely essential to the UK’s energy security and we’d be mad not to look at what we can do at home.”
These are points that I fully agree with. The only difference I have with Mrs Leadsom is the conclusion we take away from them. Unable to draw the obvious conclusion, Leadsom and her government reach desperately for anything – no matter how implausible – to allow them to continue with business as usual. Hence the government’s dash for (fracked) gas.
There are good environmental reasons for opposing fracking. But won’t wash with the current government, so let us be a bit hard-headed. The hard truth about fracking is that not a single British thermal unit of hydraulically fractured shale gas has been profitably extracted anywhere in Europe. Indeed, the most promising shale plays – in Poland, Denmark and the Baltic States – have been abandoned because they are unprofitable. Britain’s geology is much less favourable, suggesting that UK fracking is even less likely to be profitable.
The four studies that have been carried out into the cost of UK shale gas all show that even on the best case, world gas prices will have to rise significantly to make fracking possible. And at the worst case, any gas that is recovered is likely to be too expensive to sell:
So here’s a home truth for the UK government and its supporters – it is indeed true that we cannot “just do it with windfarms and solar”; but we are not going to be doing it with shale gas either. And the question we really need to be asking at this point is just how much of our way of life we want to save. Because without energy a great deal of it is going to have to go. If we want to continue to have things like hospitals and schools, we had better work out just how many wind turbines, solar farms, tidal lagoons and hydroelectric dams we need to build in the short time that we have left. Because if we carry on with business as usual, our way of life is toast!