Developing a successful and effectively regulated shale gas industry in the UK must be an urgent priority, say peers.
Britain is “exceptionally fortunate” to have substantial shale gas and oil resources, stressed a House of Lords committee report today.
The Economic Affairs Committee urges the Prime Minister to lead a “sustained and concerted effort” to get shale development moving, recommending a new Cabinet committee chaired by George Osborne. The Chancellor’s Tatton constituency is rich in shale gas.
Companies engaged in exploration need to explain more convincingly the benefits, the committee said.
Lord MacGregor, committee chairman, said the UK should not miss out on the benefits of shale gas. David Cameron has pledged that Britain would go “all out” for shale gas.
“The committee strongly supports the Government’s decision to go ‘all out for shale’. But here in the UK we have not yet left the starting gate. Developing a successful shale gas and oil industry in the UK must be an urgent national priority,” he said.
Peers warned that 250,000 jobs in energy-intensive petrochemical industries were at risk unless the Government speeds up the process.
It described the potential risks posed by fracking as low – provided the industry is well regulated.
However, the peers said drilling in areas such as the North-west, Yorkshire and West Sussex could not proceed without the support of the public, even if the majority of environmental and health concerns were “unfounded” and leading to unnecessary delay.
Their report warns that the current regulatory framework is still “untested” by large-scale on-shore development of shale. But environmentalists said the report was further evidence that the current oversight regime is flawed.
Friends of the Earth’s spokesman Tony Bosworth said regulation of fracking so far had been a “catalogue of errors and oversights”.
He said: “Today’s report recognises that the regulations aren’t working – but calling for the Government to ‘simplify’ regulations and speed up the process will not reassure local communities and a public unconvinced by this risky technology.”
But Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group, praised the report. “The onshore oil and gas industry is ready and willing to step up to the challenge set by the Lords of developing a shale gas industry that can be of great benefit to the UK economy,” he said.
Anti-fracking protests have taken place in Barton Moss in Salford and Balcombe in West Sussex.