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UK to provide more encouragement for fracking

Despite widespread public opposition, Teresa May’s new UK government looks set to be even more pro-fracking than her pro-fracking predecessor, according to Kelly Gilblom at Bloomberg:

“While May hasn’t directly addressed U.K. shale gas in any major speeches, she heads a government stacked with fracking supporters. Rudd, who was appointed Home Secretary July 13 after serving as Energy Secretary for about a year, has pushed to spread the practice.

“Greg Clark, now head of the newly formed department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was in charge of fracking applications in his previous role as Secretary of State for Communities. He said he would take away the power of local county councils to make fracking decisions if they were unable to stick to agreed-upon timelines because shale gas development was a matter of national importance.”

This said, there are still questions about the economic viability of UK shale.  In the USA – where both the geology and the regulatory framework are favourable to fracking – energy company bankruptcies are accelerating on the back of low prices and high costs.  Whether it will be possible to recover gas from UK shale deposits is a moot point.  Britain’s geology and geography are far less favourable than the shale formations in the USA.  Moreover, at present nobody knows whether there is any technically recoverable gas in UK shale deposits; still less whether these can be profitably recovered.

The decision to move energy policy to the business department might yet turn out to be a smart move if more hard-headed business analyses prevent government sinking money into what may well turn out to be largely a white elephant industry.

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