Tom Bawden: The energy revolution that may be on shaky ground

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The Independent Online

With energy prices expected to keep soaring, and declines in UK consumers' real income set to continue, the temptation to tap into a cheap, secure supply of power is politically hugely attractive.

Shale gas really could have the potential to revolutionise the UK energy market, reducing our reliance on the kind of unsavoury regimes that seem to hold most of the power cards.

The experience of the US demonstrates that revolution is possible. In the past five years, as energy prices in the UK have soared, domestic gas bills there have fallen by a fifth. The US is also considerably less concerned about energy security, since fracking transformed it from a gas shortage to a point where companies are planning to export liquefied natural gas in less than a decade. In the UK, we could be sitting on similarly transformational quantities of shale gas.

Oil majors are hoping to capitalise on the opportunities offered by shale gas. The only problem is, that in barely a month, the technique has been linked to earthquakes in the UK and Oklahoma and to water pollution in Wyoming.

The Government has suspended the sole existing fracking operation near Blackpool as it decides whether to grant further exploration licences. It appears to be leaning towards giving fracking the all-clear, but such a stance looks increasingly difficult to justify.