Benefits of fracking ‘considerable', insists Tory MP
- Published on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 16:25
- Written by Daniel Mason
The economic benefits of developing a domestic shale industry in the UK could be "considerable", the Conservative chairman of the all party parliamentary group on unconventional oil and gas has said.
"Cutting our dependence on what would otherwise be up to 80% imported gas would improve our energy security, our price security and help our balance of trade," Dan Byles MP told Govtoday's Fracking conference in London this week.
He cited a report by Ernst & Young which concluded a UK shale sector could create up to 64,000 jobs and inject £33bn of investment into the economy.
"This debate is not just about gas and energy - it's a debate about jobs and investment and the economy," Byles said. "Given these potential benefits, it's not surprising that there's broad and cross party support in Westminster for developing shale gas."
Taking on those who oppose shale because of its potential contribution to climate change-causing emissions, he added that the choice between gas and renewables was a false one.
"We need both, and we will continue to do so for some time. The figures are quite stark: over 75% of our current electricity needs come from gas and coal, and 83% of our homes are heated by gas."
"Gas is very heavily embedded into our infrastructure, and even a speedy increase in developing new renewable generation will take a long time to cut into that. And, to be frank, we should start by displacing coal rather than gas."
However, Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth rejected the claims made for fracking, saying they "did not stack up" and that concerns about the process were held broadly by the public - "not just held by eco extremists and Nimbys".
Meanwhile Matthew Townsend from the international law firm Allen & Overy warned that shale exploration had been "very, very slow to get moving" in the UK, partly because of the "intense" regulatory scrutiny on the industry.
He said there was a disconnect between the government's stated enthusiasm for shale and the regulatory blockages facing those looking to put it into practice.
Ahead of the conference, research conducted by Opinium for Govtoday showed that 37% of UK adults oppose fracking, with just 25% in favour. The level of opposition grows to 45% when respondents are asked about drilling in their local area.