David Cameron: 'Britain must be at the heart of shale gas revolution'

 

Britain must be at the heart of a “shale gas revolution”, David Cameron has said, which could bring down energy prices and help “re-industrialise” the economy.

Giving his public backing for plans to exploit the country’s onshore gas reserves – which is expected to be given the go-ahead by the Government very shortly – Mr Cameron said the new technology could transform our energy supplies.

But his stance was attacked by climate change scientists and energy experts who warned his dash-to-gas policy was “misleading and dangerous”.

Giving evidence to MPs Mr Cameron pointed to America where fracking for shale gas had allowed the country to become virtually self-sufficient in gas.

He said he wanted Britain to play a full part in the “revolution underway” and criticised environmentalists who were opposed to exploiting the technology.

“I think some in the green movement really want us to rule out gas and opt right now for nuclear plus renewables plus energy efficiency. Zip. That’s it,” he said.

“I think that would be a mistake. It maybe that this gas revolution is really quite transformative and there is going to be a lot more gas and the price won’t be as expensive as some people think. 

“We should take part in fracking because this might be a revolution and if we ignored it completely we could be giving our economy much higher energy prices than would otherwise be necessary.”

Drilling for the fuel, which is extracted by the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” the shale rock in which it is contained, has been suspended for 18 months since the fracking operations of the mining company Cuadrilla Resources, near Blackpool, caused a series of earth tremors.

But an independent panel of scientists has said it could proceed with a strict safety regime, and in his Autumn Statement last week the Chancellor George Osborne signalled that fracking would soon be back with his announcement of a special new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil. It is expected that formal permission for Cuadrilla to recommence operations will be given this week.

Professor Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester, told another cross-party committee of MPs that the development of British shale gas will prevent Britain meeting its international commitments on curbing global warming.

“If we are serious about climate change, if we quantify it in relation to our international commitments, we can be absolutely categorical that shale gas cannot be a transition fuel,” he said.

Professor Paul Stevens, a recent winner of the prestigious OPEC award for outstanding oil and energy research, condemned Mr Osborne’s autumn statement for implying that gas would be cheaper in the future and that the price decline would be the result of tapping Britain’s shale gas resources.

He argued that the gas price could well increase significantly, while any decrease “will certainly not be the result of any shale gas revolution in UK or Europe”.

Furthermore, Professor Stevens slammed Mr Osborne for failing to acknowledge - or show an interest in resolving - the huge uncertainty over how much shale gas Britain will actually be able to extract.

“Osborne’s view of the future of energy is misleading and dangerous. It is misleading because it ignores the very real barriers to shale gas development in the UK and Europe more generally,” said Professor Stevens, who has previously worked at the Universities of Dundee, Surrey and Beirut and is now at the influential Chatham House think tank.

“His view of the future is also highly dangerous if there is concern over climate change as indeed there should be,” adds Professor Stevens, referring to the fact that the increased use of shale gas would largely be at the expense of low-carbon technologies such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

Professor Stevens said that the ideological clash between the pro-gas chancellor and Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary who favours low-carbon technology, has created a high level of indecision over the role of gas which “will add to the very long list of other barriers to shale gas development in the UK”.

These barriers, such as Britain’s high population density, general opposition to local developments, the government’s ownership of all mineral rights, and the high clay content of the shale, mean that the fracking revolution in the US which has sent gas prices tumbling, was not applicable to this country.

“The chief executive of ExxonMobil stated in March 2012 that the technology, so successfully used in the USA, was simply not applicable in Europe and that more research was needed. The problem is that this sort of fundamental scientific research needs to be funded by the government – as it was in the USA. Yet there appears to be no appetite in the British government for any such funding and the European Commission has ruled out any such funding,” said Professor Stevens.

Professor Stevens conceded that the price of gas might decrease in the future, but said that, contrary to Mr Osborne’s implication, a price falls “will certainly not be the result of any shale gas revolution in the UK or Europe in the next five to ten years”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?