https://decc.blog.gov.uk/2015/09/23/shale-gas-an-inconvenient-truth-for-the-anti-fracking-lobby/

Shale gas – an inconvenient truth for the anti-fracking lobby

Energy strategy in Britain has three big goals; keeping the lights on, keeping the bills down, and moving to a clean energy future.

We need to meet the UK’s demand for energy, using clean and low carbon energy sources if we are to continue to combat climate change and grow the economy – a point emphasised in the recent report from the independent Task Force on Shale Gas.

This isn’t something which will simply happen overnight, it will take time as we start to move to more renewable and low carbon energy sources. There is a big challenge in how we get from where we are today – dependent on coal and gas for over 50% of our energy – to a low carbon future. Moving from coal to gas would make a huge contribution to reducing our carbon footprint, and is the ‘bridge’ we need for many years to come.

The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers’ money to fund renewable energy generation. There isn’t, and even if there was, we would still need gas – as a reliable source of electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

Even as our reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity reduces, we will still need to use gas for heating and cooking in our homes and for producing products including soap, paint, clothes and plastic.

The Task Force on Shale Gas was clear about this, stating that “it is not feasible to create a renewable and low carbon industry in the short term in the UK that can meet the UK’s energy needs as a whole.”

This means that gas will continue to play a big part in our energy mix for years to come and that’s why the Government is looking into the opportunity of using home-grown shale gas supplies instead of relying on overseas imports.

If we are going to make this work, we need to make sure that it is entirely safe, protecting the environment and minimising the impact on local people.

The UK has over 50 years’ experience of safely and successfully producing gas in this country, both for onshore and offshore. We will be using all our expert knowledge as we explore for shale gas.

Shale gas will bolster our energy security and provide jobs and financial security for communities and families across the UK. An independent study says there could be 65,000 new jobs from a successful UK shale industry.

In 2003, we were a net exporter of gas. By 2030 we expect to be importing close to 75% of the gas we consume. By making the most of our home-grown gas we can safeguard our own domestic supply whilst also cutting our carbon emissions.

There’s also a huge financial benefit for local communities. We are working with industry to make sure local people, communities and local authorities keep some of the income from shale gas development.

Operators will pay communities £100,000 for each exploration well site plus 1 per cent of production revenue, worth £5m-£10m, to be used as the community sees fit.

It’s an inconvenient truth for those who don’t want to acknowledge the economic and environmental benefits that Shale gas could bring, never mind the crucial role it could play in ensuring we have sufficient and reliable gas supplies.

People quite rightly expect Government to explore all the options to deliver on our goals of keeping the bills low, the lights on, and moving towards a greener future.

109 comments

  1. Paul Marks

    How will shale gas reduce our energy bills? I'll tell you how, it won't make a jot of difference. We've known about the effects of fossil fuels on our environment for over 45 years yet successive governments have been glacial in tackling it. UK has the best wind and tidal resources on the planet, if this was tied up with Hydrogen generation as an energy carrier/store we could be exporting energy instead of building inter-connectors to import it. Just needs a bit of medium term thought and intelligence.

    Link to this comment
    • DECC Gov UK

      This Government has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to stand on their own two feet. We’re completely committed to securing a low carbon future, but we are not yet at a point where the renewables sector can fully meet our current energy needs. That’s why we need Shale. It is a lower carbon alternative to coal and can play an important ‘bridging’ role to a low carbon future.

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      • Truth Speaker

        Dear DECC,

        Good of you to show up.

        Now I don't wish to start a fight here by going on about the many, many things that you have gone on record as saying that you were "completely committed" to, yet subsequently abandoned with not even the slightest sense of remorse. That would not be benefiting anyone.

        Yes, renewables cannot meet our current energy needs, which is precisely why we must be putting everything into it and making sure that the UK is leading the way when it comes to clean energy. We all know that the UK is more than capable of doing it. After all, the UK has shown time and again that this tiny island can perform miracles so long as the Government and the people are singing from the same hymn sheet.

        Sadly right now the Government and the people are not even reading the same book. This is a problem, but we must respect each other and work towards a solution which both keeps everybody happy, and most importantly, stops the destruction of our planet. DECC, you don't own this planet. Neither do we. Which is why we MUST work together on this. Our survival depends on it.

        Now, to say that lack of renewables is the reason that we need shale gas is completely wrong. [Line redacted by moderator. For Blog Ts&Cs see https://decc.blog.gov.uk/decc-blog-terms-and-conditions/ ]

        I understand that you are forced to tow this line, but for the love of our planet, please do more research on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and the removal of any more fossil fuels from the ground.

        I won't insult your intelligence by providing links. Besides, information sources can be a rather subjective thing.

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      • Julia

        Methane is far worse 56 times in fact, than co2 so you may say low carbon but you are speeding up climate change as well as wrecking the environment. Thousands of gas wells or some solar panels? I know which ones leave us air to breathe and water to drink. A no brainier really.

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      • Martin Sherring

        The claim that gas is a low carbon fuel has been made repeatedly in this thread, and repeatedly questioned. My understanding is that shale gas is only a low-carbon fuel if accompanied by stringent regulation to prevent fugitive emissions.
        Also, we are being presented with the idea of shale gas as a bridge to lower carbon fuels. Given the aim to largely de-carbonise UK electricity generation by 2030, presumably that implies the need for a framework to ensure gas-fuelled generation is rapidly superseded.
        Is the government addressing these issues?

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    • vic

      as there are no comments supporting the dash for gas and it's record of 100% emissions of waste methane into the environment this page should be taken down - renewables will create sustainable employment and eliminate carbon emissions - End.

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    • chris

      Yes it already costs more per therm just to get shale out of the ground, and then it has to get to its final destination on top of that

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    • Charles M

      I would love to see some considered answers to some of these comments from DECC rather than a regurgitation of parts of their own blog.

      This Government's energy policy in in tatters with the Paris climate talks just round the corner. Onshore wind killed off, solar FITS about to be killed off thereby ending a massively popular low cost source of renewable energy, green deal abolished so how are the millions of old homes going to be made energy efficient, no progress on CCS, back tracking on zero carbon new homes, desperate financial guarantees to China to finance the incredibly expensive French designed nuclear power plant at Hinkley, the rush for gas through fracking. How will the UK meet its own commitments under the Climate Change Act let alone make any meaningful new promises for Paris?

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      • DECC Gov UK

        The promise of indefinite subsidies are not the answer to climate change. We need to look to research, innovation and securing serious private sector investment in clean energy technology to make real progress. We are pushing for a strong global deal that will help us make irreversible steps toward a clean economy. We want to secure an agreement which will clear the path for the private sector to drive a long-term solution.

        The UK has met its first legally binding carbon budget and is on track to meet its subsequent two carbon budgets. Renewable electricity capacity has trebled since 2010 and we are building on this still further; our latest forecasts imply that by 2020/21 approximately 34% of electricity consumed will come from renewable sources. Projections also show that by 2020 UK greenhouse gas emissions will have fallen by at least 34% relative to 1990 baseline levels.

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  2. Dave

    Hi Andrea, What do you mean, "to meet UK's rising energy demand"? According to DUKES, total UK energy demand has fallen 20% in the last decade... UK energy demand is falling...

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  3. David

    "We need to meet the UK’s rising demand for energy"

    Interesting, when DECC's own data shows that "Final energy consumption in the UK has been decreasing since 2005" and "Gas consumption growth began levelling off in the mid 1990s with consumption peaking in 2001. Since then, consumption has being falling"

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/449102/ECUK_Chapter_1_-_Overall_factsheet.pdf

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  4. Robert Irving

    Please provide a link to the independent report on the number of jobs that will be created. Unsupported assertions are not acceptable from a government minister with tax-payer funded staff to provide such information.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      The task force is due to publish its final report in December 2015. The report referred to in this blog can be found here https://www.taskforceonshalegas.uk/reports.

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      • DECC Gov UK

        • David Burley

          65,000 jobs?
          And yet the report by AMEC in December 2015, commissioned by DECC, forecasted just 15,900 to 24,300 nationwide - directly and indirectly. Take off the 20,000 jobs to be lost as a result of the government scrapping or reducing renewables incentives, and we see very few additional jobs - if any.

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        • Gwen Harrison

          Your blog states that "An independent study says there could be 65,000 new jobs from a successful UK shale industry". When asked to provide a reference for this 'independent' study you replied: "The independent report on the number of jobs that will be created can be found here http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Getting_ready_for_UK_shale_gas/$FILE/EY-Getting-ready-for-UK-shale-gas-April-2014.pdf". This report was commissioned by UKOOG (the organisation that represents the onshore oil and gas industry), and it "traces and builds on the figures outlined in the Institute of Directors’ (IoD) report 'Getting shale gas working' from May 2013", which some may recall was sponsored by Cuadrilla. Can this really be considered 'independent'? It's odd that there is no mention in the blog of the much lower jobs figures published by DECC itself (between 16,000 and 32,000) in its report 'Strategic Environmental Assessment for further onshore oil and gas licensing'.

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      • Al B.

        The Task Force report is explicit that exploitation of Shale Gas can only be countenanced if it is undertaken as a part of a clear commitment to a sustainable, renewable focused energy mix.

        Can you give us any information on the development of the CCS industry that the Task Force recommends the Government invests in concurrently with shale gas extraction? And can you also explain how reduction in subsidies to wind and solar power and simultaneous expanding support for shale exploitation is consistent with the Task Force's strongly worded demand for a 'clear demonstration that [government support for fracking] will not prohibit or slow the development of renewables and low carbon energy industry'?

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    • ian greenwood STEERglobal for Sustainability in Trade Environment Education and Resources

      ultra-insulation could provide 60,000 jobs and be a longer-term and quicker to implement project

      currently leakage at eaves is unaccounted for, the 0.2 target is miles off achieving (see input to Treasury's call for budget input.

      YES we want gas use to fall

      yes we want to leave the flushing out and heat needed in the inefficient fracking process out of our carbon-reduction calculations. When it is perfectly viable to store summer and autumn solar heat interseasonally if ultra-insulation could be funded. If we move ahead fast enough with preferential interest rates and a slice off commercially-created money that could be ring-fenced for eco means

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  5. Janet

    If you are going to allow this, then you must at the very least publish the exact make up of the chemicals that are pumped into the rocks in vast quantities and then end up in the local water supply. If this we're public then the effects on human health could at least be assessed. This is not the US, we have dense populations, so poisoning the water supply is going to affect many more people and it will be much more difficult to get water from a non contaminated area.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Operators in the UK are required to fully disclose the composition of fracking fluid additives as part of their application for environmental permits, and these permits are placed on the public register. The Environment Agency assesses the hazards presented by fracturing fluid on a case-by-case basis and will not permit the use of chemicals hazardous to groundwater where they may enter groundwater and cause pollution.

      The UK has over 50 years’ experience of safely and successfully exploring for gas in this country. For any shale activities the regulators will perform rigorous and ongoing checks and balances to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, and mitigate seismic activity. Companies are legally responsible for their operations and we will insist on exceptionally high standards of health safety and environmental protection. All of this would be backed up by independent checks from the regulators.

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      • David McQueen

        So where is this list of chemicals?. I cannot find it in the 14th round 'public consulyation' which is no such thing.

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      • Truth Speaker

        "Companies are legally responsible for their operations and we will insist on exceptionally high standards of health safety and environmental protection. All of this would be backed up by independent checks from the regulators."

        Please DECC, allow me to ask you, did this stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster or the many other disasters around the world which companies were "legally responsible" for and were adhering to "exceptionally high standards of health safety and environmental protection"?

        I am very interested to know, that's all.

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    • Paul Tresto

      Janet,

      This is what Cuadrilla used in the stimulation (fracking) fluid at Preese Hall in Lancashire:

      Water and sand (99.9%) and polyacrylamide. Polyacrylamide is often used for horticultural and agricultural use under trade names such as Broadleaf P4, Swell-Gel and so on. The anionic form of cross-linked polyacrylamide is frequently used as a soil conditioner on farm land and construction sites for erosion control, in order to protect the water quality of nearby rivers and streams. It is also commonly used in cosmetics and facial creams, suspended in a hydrocarbon carrier. So how is the water poisoned? This is the UK, not the US, as you correctly state.

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      • Tina

        Isn't there a difference in exploration stage chemical use and production stage chemical use? Also... As it is said that each shale play differs, can you DECC comment on which chemicals ARE permitted for the range of shale plays when in PRODUCTION stage. Many thanks

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  6. gubulgaria

    "People quite rightly expect Government to explore all the options to deliver on our goals of keeping the bills, the lights on, and moving towards a greener future."

    If you check your own polling, which is here -

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/public-attitudes-tracking-survey-wave-14

    You'll get a better idea of what the public want - more renewables, and no shale.

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  7. Ben Christie

    10 years of some gas produced domestically for how many decades of environmental degradation and pollution, poisoning our aquifers and water tables ? Complete madness and an utterly transparent sop to the fossil fuel industry and the Tory money men who back this government.

    Germany achieved 47% renewable energy supply with a well designed and well executed renewable energy programme in little over a decade. The UK could do the same if the government weren't so in the thrall of the fossil fuel and utility energy lobby.

    Shame on you all "the greenest government ever" - what you meant to say was "the greenback government" - money money money

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    • Brett S

      Yes, and Germany's grid nearly broke last year on couple of sunny and windy days, moreover they are building unabated coal plants to make up for the rest. Gas is the cleaner bridge.

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  8. L hudson

    The governmental / fossil fool industry keeps spouting out how we need gas to keep the lights on, and for energy security. Yet here are some FACTS for everyone, supplied from GOVERNMENT sources:
    (1) Since 2000 domestic energy use has decreased by 19 per cent, whilst there has been an increase of 12 per cent in the number of UK households and a 9.7 per cent increase in the UK population.

    (2) The share of renewables (hydro, wind and other renewables) for electricity supply increased from 19.6 per cent in 2014 Q1 to 22.3 per cent in 2015 Q1. This was due to increased wind generation capacity.

    (3) In 2015 Q1, gas fired generation increased 9.2 per cent from 21.8 TWh to 23.8 TWh.

    Therefore, gas being used for electricity generation could be totally replaced by renewables because.....

    (4) . In 2010 the Offshore Valuation group (consisting of UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, the Crown Estate and eight companies across the energy sector) released the report into the economic valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource. Within this report it stated the ‘Valuation suggests that the offshore renewable energy industry in the UK, using less than a third of the total available resource, could; generate the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil annually, matching North Sea oil and gas production / create 145,000 new jobs in the UK and provide the Treasury with £28 billion in tax revenues annually / ensure Britain could become a net electricity exporter / result in cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 1.1 billion tonnes by 2050’.

    AND.....

    (5) In 2009 the National Grid produced a report called ‘The Potential for Renewable Gas in the UK’. Within that it stated 'Renewable gas has the potential to make a significant contribution to the UK’s renewable energy and carbon reduction targets for 2020. And in the longer term, with the right government policies in place, renewable gas could meet up to 50% of UK residential gas demand. Produced mainly via a process of anaerobic digestion (AD) or thermal gasification of the UK’s biodegradeable waste, renewable gas represents a readily implementable solution for delivering renewable heat to homes in the UK. Renewable gas can also deliver greater security of energy supply for the country as well as a solution for waste management as UK landfill capacity declines.[…] There are no insurmountable technical or safety barriers to delivering this solution (the technology is already being deployed in many other countries). The key to delivery is Government policy and regulation.’

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    • DECC Gov UK

      This Government has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to stand on their own two feet. In fact, the UK is making progress towards the EU 2020 target on renewables and has come a long way already. Since 2010 private investment in low-carbon electricity generation has amounted to £42 billion, with the share of electricity derived from renewable sources up from 6.1% in 2010 to 19.1% in 2014.

      Whilst we have invested record amounts into renewable energy, we are not yet at a point where the renewables sector can fully meet our current energy needs. 85% of us use gas for heating and cooking, and this will continue for many years to come. That’s why we need shale. It is a lower carbon alternative to coal and can play an important ‘bridging’ role to a low carbon future.

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    • Mark T

      Just a couple of points to note
      1. This year China has reduced it's CO2 emissions by an amount equal to the WHOLE of the UK's emissions simply by replacing 6% of their coal used in electricity generation with natural gas. Their political imperative is of course more with atmospheric pollution than perhaps climate change but the effect is the same.
      2. While on the subject of pollution, raised perhaps by the Volkswagon debacle, natural gas is a perfectly feasible and non-polluting fuel for motor vehicles and is used, for example by buses in Reading very successfully I believe. Gradually changing over to more gas powered cars has the potential to save many lives just in London by reducing micro-particle pollution.
      3. Please see the recent TED talk by an ex-DECC advisor reminding people that the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables and bio-fuels would require we cover at least 25% of the country with degradable crops and wind/solar farms.
      4. I think you note that we generate 20% of our electricity from renewables (how much on a foggy freezing night in February when we need it most?). How long will it take to upscale from 20% and how do we keep our children warm in the meantime, over say the next 30-40 years. Practical answers please.

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  9. Ian Dowson

    Fracking isn't compatible with our 2C emissions targets. As is well documented by research published by the Tyndall Centre and others.
    Please don't pull the rug from under renewables, our only option for a safe climate future.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Shale gas can create a bridge while we develop renewables, improve energy efficiency and build new nuclear. Britain will still need significant oil and gas supplies over the next few decades. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and is likely to continue to be a major part of our energy mix for years to come. Whilst we have invested record amounts into renewable energy we see shale gas as being a bridging fuel to a greener future. For example, we need gas powered generation to replace coal generated electricity while we continue to develop low carbon generation. When the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing, gas is especially important for power generation, as a flexible way to meet peaks in demand when there is more renewable energy in the generation mix. Similarly many people use gas for domestic heating while we develop and deploy renewable heat sources. Over 85% of us use gas for heating and cooking, and this will continue for many years to come.

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  10. DECC Gov UK

    Our priorities are to reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way and also keeping bills as low as possible. Government support has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to stand on their own two feet. Our polling also shows that 46% of poeple are undecided on Shale.

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    • mildred b

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27142377 You have repeated the phrase 'stand on their own two feet' several times now in relation to renewable technologies. You seem to have forgotten to mention the immense global subsidies which prop up the fossil fuel industry. They always have done and, it seems, look likely to continue to do so. A level playing field is not what we have here.

      I would find it more respectful, too, if you were to respond to the comments of individuals here with some original thought instead of simply cutting and pasting repeated sections from your original argument.

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      • Chris Redston

        You state that "an independent study says there could be 65,000 new jobs from a successful UK shale industry." This is incorrect. This figure comes from an Institute of Directors report of May 2013, which was commissioned by UK Oil and Gas (UKOOG) and part-funded by Cuadrilla - and so in no way could this report be called independent. Here's the report:
        http://www.iod.com/influencing/policy-papers/infrastructure/infrastructure-for-business-getting-shale-gas-working
        Furthermore this 65,000 jobs figure relates to peak production in 2024, assuming 4,000 wells have already been drilled (this is the most optimistic estimate in the report). And only 6,100 of these jobs are directly related to gas production (ie are jobs on site), the rest being undefined 'indirect supply chain related' and 'supply chain induced'. This appears to be just using a multiplier of x10 to the base figure, again with no justification.
        It is astonishing that you continue not only to quote this figure, but now claim it comes from an independent survey. May we also ask you to quote the number of jobs that will be lost in the renewable industry due to the cuts in support?

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      • David Penney

        I responded to Minister's promotion of fracking in local papers with the following letter:
        There are four main claims which Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, makes which should be challenged. (Colne Times, 4th September 2015)

        First, independent research has established that we can meet our energy needs by switching to renewables (solar, wind, wave, tidal, ground source heat) which are readily and technically available now. We don’t need shale gas, coal bed methane (extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction) or nuclear all of which take a long time to come on stream and dearer than some renewables such as solar. If Germany and Scandinavian countries can do it, the UK certainly can as the windiest country in Europe with over 2.300 miles of coastline.

        Second, the standard of regulatory control and monitoring of the fracking industry is manifestly deficient. In fact the Government has gone a long way to deregulate it with measures in the Infrastructure Act which allow drillers to pump back unspecified chemicals into the holes left after fracking. Flaring and venting from wells will take place and some water sources will be polluted. Further, the Environment Agency, which is supposed to protect biodiversity and public health, does not know what toxins, carcinogens, radon and methane gases, silicon, etc, will used or emitted in the fracking process. The Agency points people to the website of the industry for that information.

        Third, the Minister is somewhat disingenuous when she says that Local Authorities are free to make planning decisions without any interference from Central Government. The policy of fast tracking fracking is putting great pressure on local democracy to grant planning permission in a short timescale. If they refuse such permission not only can there be a speedy appeal (with costs to the Local Authority) which would be upheld by the Government Inspectorate but the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government can also call in planning applications and use his Executive Powers to grant the go ahead for fracking.

        Last, she claims that the Government is “fully committed to a lower carbon future”. If that is the case why go for shale gas which is a fossil fuel and will increase climate change particularly with the risk of emitting methane gas which is 27 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Their commitment is false as they have withdrawn financial support and taxing renewables as well as making it more difficult for renewables to get planning permission while giving subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry. These policies will increase not lower carbon emissions and lessen our contribution to combating climate change at the UN Paris Conference this December.

        Yours truly

        David Penney
        Press Officer, Keep East Lancashire Frack Free (KELFF)
        Treasurer, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Green Party

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    • Truth Speaker

      An interesting comment you've made there DECC, because a recent poll by USurv.com on 1000 people found out that around 40% of the respondents were against fracking, while the proportion of people in favour of unconventional developments was just below 25%. An additional 11% would like shale gas developments, but not in its “backyard.”

      I'd like to see an unbiased survey carried out on this matter. Care to take me up on it?

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    • Martin Sherring

      But it isn't as if there were two ways of reducing emissions by the same amount, and DECC policy is to chose the cheaper of the two. DECC policy is to accept a less ambitious reduction in emissions because it is cheaper, but it is trying to disguise this by claiming fracked gas as a low-carbon source of energy. In fact, depending on the extent of fugitive methane emissions, fracked gas can be responsible for higher GHG emissions than coal. Does this mean DECC are imposing rigorous controls over fugitive emissions?

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  11. L hudson

    Overall, the IFM estimates the cost of subsidising the use of fossil fuels reached £26bn in the UK in 2015, approximately 1.4 per cent of the country’s economic output.
    How is this cost effective carbon reduction?

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    • Mark Etherington

      Isn't it time for the fossil fuels industry to "stand on its own two feet"? If subsidies for renewables are being removed, subsidies for fossil fuel extraction and use should be eliminated also.

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  12. Jennifer Cubitt-Smith

    The energy strategy in Britain should be to encourage a reduction of the amount of energy used. We are living unsustainably and destroying the planet (acidification of the oceans, melting icecaps, rainforest destruction). Luxury electric gadgets (photo albums, carving knives, toys, plinth lighting) should be discouraged. 'Keep the lights on' - no. That implies that the way we are using energy at present is fine. Walk around at night and see all the closed shops with lights blazing. The amount of energy we waste is appalling. Fracking simply adds another means of destroying the planet. Sacrifice the underground water system so that we can live in luxury. Who cares about what we leave for future generations?

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    • DECC Gov UK

      The Government is committed to cutting carbon emissions and to bringing down energy bills – and energy efficiency is key to achieving this. We’ve already commitment to making 1 million more homes warmer and cheaper to run by 2020.

      Shale gas can create a bridge while we develop renewables, improve energy efficiency and build new nuclear.

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  13. Austin

    "There is more opposition than support amongst those who know a lot about it (54% vs. 32%),"

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  14. Angus

    If the government's priority is to reduce emissions in the most cost effective way why are they still looking at large scale Nuclear being part of the mix? Also supporting wave and tidal devices are also significantly more expensive than onshore and offshore wind.

    Link to this comment
    • DECC Gov UK

      A new generation of nuclear power stations is a key part of our future low carbon energy mix providing safe, reliable and affordable energy for the future. Nuclear power currently generates around 20% of the country's electricity and we want its secure, reliable and low carbon energy to be part of our energy mix in the future. The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is cost-competitive with the other technologies that can be deployed at scale in the 2020s and it will help to provide an affordable base load power to complement other low-carbon sources that we must pursue to largely decarbonise the whole power sector by 2050. Nuclear is also a key growth industry that provides highly skilled jobs.

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      • Truth Speaker

        A large factor of this whole debate is about keeping the costs down. Nuclear is the costliest form of electricity generation.

        You should look it up.

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      • John Sturman

        It takes 10 years to build a nuclear power station. By 2025 the cost of the electricity will not be cost competitive against onshore wind or solar - who's prices continue to fall. The CfD cost of Hinkley C will be higher than that of renewables - how does this fit with the stated policy objective of keeping customers bills down?

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        • DECC Gov UK

          A new generation of nuclear power stations is a key part of our future low carbon energy mix. Nuclear power currently generates around 20% of the country's electricity. The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is cost-competitive with the other technologies that can be deployed at large scale in the 2020s - so it will help to provide an affordable base load of power to complement other low-carbon sources that we must pursue to largely decarbonise the whole power sector by 2050. Nuclear is also a key growth industry that provides highly skilled jobs.

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    • Vernon Young

      Simple there are two tides every day and they can be captured on both the ebb and the flow. Moreover, they occur at different times around our coasts and as electricty can be piped anywhere once generated. That means eternal and ever-lasting power, night and day . Regrettably the sun does not shine at night and winds are unpredictable.
      Quite simply, for a country that is standing waist deep in liquid energy, one wonders why they have bothered with wind and solar at all

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      • It doesn't add up...

        I think you need a little more fact based assessment of tidal basin energy. Start here:

        http://euanmearns.com/a-trip-round-swansea-bay/

        You will discover that tidal energy varies greatly according to the phase of the moon; is not consistently produced when it is needed; the idea of alternative locations around the coast permitting continuous output is a myth, not fact; the project costs make it uncompetitive even with offshore wind.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Nuclear power currently generates around 20% of the country's electricity. The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is cost-competitive with the other technologies that can be deployed at a large scale in the 2020s - so it will help to provide an affordable base load power to complement other low-carbon sources that we must pursue to largely decarbonise the whole power sector by 2050. Nuclear is also a key growth industry that provides highly skilled jobs.

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      • It doesn't add up...

        Hinkley Point C is the world's most expensive nuclear power station - and that is before we start adding in the costs of delays and cost overruns that are inevitable with this unproven technology. We would do far better to cancel it before this white elephant faces us with paying much higher prices for the output - or project abandonment several billion pounds into the scheme. The South Koreans have a Westinghouse based design that is proven and half the current Hinkley cost estimate. To suggest that it is cost competitive is nonsense: already we have coal and gas able to produce at below £40/MWh (way below DECC's arbitrary single point estimate of gas price) before green taxes.

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  15. Richard Sharland

    Thank you DECC for this information. I would be interested to have sight of the report that indicates that 65,000 jobs can be created in shale gas fracking in the UK. Please could you also furnish me with the following information:-

    1. The indicated 65,000 jobs will only be achieved after substantial investment, incentivised by Government as per tax allowances recently announced by the Chancellor. Have these jobs been costed against the investment and compared to the number of jobs that a similar investment in renewables and/ or insulation could achieve ? And over what periods of time ?

    2. Several reports have established that shale gas extraction will be considerably more difficult and costly in the UK than in other countries, particularly the USA. Taking this into account, please could you tell me the projected year in which shale gas extraction in the UK will be able to meet 10% of UK energy demand.

    I look forward to hearing about these 'truths' too.

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  16. telecasting

    "The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers’ money to fund renewable energy generation"

    The combination of policy decisions around the end of FITs on solar energy, pulling any support for on-shore wind, zero carbon homes, and not supporting off-shore wind scheme ... there is private interest in renewable energy but it appears that the Government just isn't interested in providing any support for this!

    Link to this comment
    • DECC Gov UK

      This Government has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to stand on their own two feet. In fact, the UK is making progress towards the EU 2020 target on renewables and has come a long way already. Since 2010 private investment in low-carbon electricity generation has amounted to £42 billion, with the share of electricity derived from renewable sources up from 6.1% in 2010 to 19.1% in 2014.

      Whilst we have invested record amounts into renewable energy, we are not yet at a point where the renewables sector can fully meet our current energy needs. 85% of us use gas for heating and cooking, and this will continue for many years to come. That’s why we need shale. It is a lower carbon alternative to coal and can play an important ‘bridging’ role to a low carbon future.

      Link to this comment
  17. Joe Boyd

    QUOTE 'If we are going to make this work' The government needs a social license, which it hasn't got, neither will it ever have one. With public support now at an all time low of 21% at my last look. Its time to give up on the arrogance, and give people back its democracy on this issue. Localism is key to sustainability, by localism i don't mean pushing people into Cities whilst you industrialize our Countryside.

    Hers's a great link to some people who agree that energy prices won't come down

    1. Lord Browne, chairman of Cuadrilla: "We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price."

    2. Mark Linder, Bell Pottinger executive, former Cuadrilla PR spokesman: “We've done an analysis and it's a very small…at the most it's a very small percentage… basically insignificant.”

    3. A Cuadrilla spokesman: “Cuadrilla's never said it [shale] will bring down prices…We don't think it will bring down prices, although it does have the potential to.”

    4. Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC): “North Sea gas didn’t significantly move UK prices – so we can’t expect UK shale production alone to have any effect."

    He added it was "far from clear that UK shale gas production could ever replicate the price effects seen in the US."

    5. David Kennedy, former head of the Committee on Climate Change: "People are very worried about the energy bills and it's tempting to look across to America and say, 'look what shale gas has done there, it's caused gas prices to plummet, we would love that to happen here', and then to say 'well it will happen here'," he said. "It is highly unlikely to happen here. There isn't enough shale gas in the UK and in Europe to change the European market price."

    He added: "The economic argument is that you would expect prices not to go down because of shale gas.

    "Let's not confuse this by saying it is going solve the affordability problem - it probably isn't.

    http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/opinion/opinion/125993-banned-experts-agree---fracking-wont-cut-our-energy-bills.html

    The Shale gas task fund is also brimming with Industry people. It's in no way independent, so to even spout this rubbish is disrespectful to the intelligence of those of this country

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  18. Nick Grealy

    Good to see the UK Government, which until recently has been the silent majority shareholder in shale too hesitant to promote their own (and the environment's) self interest, coming out in a positive fashion for shale.

    Shale gas is not even the second best option, but it is the least worse way of keeping the lights on and industry moving for some time to come. The narrative has to change from simply reacting to some of the more bizarre allegations, to creating a positive story. This is a great start. Bravo!

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  19. Tim Evans

    Sirs
    Whilst your observations may or may not be correct, the reference to your view being "an inconvenient truth" to those opposed to fracking, is completely out of place.

    The use of such an expression smacks of confrontation and prejudice, two attitudes which should, in my opinion, not form part of any Government rhetoric.

    Government will need to work with local communities and appease protestors if the policy that your article outlines is t be implemented without significant resistance. Using such a potentially inflammatory headline is neither constructive nor can it be viewed as being a professional approach to what is such an emotive topic.

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  20. Bruno Alves

    The Task Force on Shale Gas also says that for shale to be a credible bridge to a low carbon future, it needs to be paired with carbon capture and storage (CCS). But CCS is not only unproven, but very expensive. This July report from the US Department of Energy (http://1.usa.gov/1V9p5HO and http://on.ft.com/1MIZwZv) shows that adding CCS to a coal plant that costs $1.4 billion would take its final price tag to $2.4 billion.

    There's no reason to expect that it would be any cheaper to add CCS in the context of natural gas. Not to mention that CCS, like any nascent technology, will need plenty of government support. By that I mean subsidies - like the renewable subsidies now being cut to save taxpayers money.

    If the goal is really to save the taxpayer money, I struggle to see how developing shale gas in an environmentally responsible way will be a cheaper alternative to renewable energy...

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    • Tony Day

      The energy system cannot function without energy storage. Currently the UK gas grid provides 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater thermo-chemical energy storage capability (capacity + discharge rate + ramp rate) than the UK electricity grid. Broadly, most new non-dispatchable renewables, with the limited possible exception of tidal lagoons, rely on energy storage provided by other parts of the UK energy system. With thermo-chemical energy storage in the form of coal and nuclear energy storage in the from of uranium currently being run down in UK, replacing gas by renewables will eventually make the UK energy system unworkable. This is already beginning to happen.

      Shale gas is storable, dispatchable and cleaner than coal, but apparently only offers a limited pathway towards 2050 CO2 emissions reduction targets. This conundrum is solvable by integrating shale gas extraction with CCS, using carbon negative CO2-enhanced shale gas extraction to increase shale gas recovery, reduce the cost of shale gas production AND reduce whole life shale gas CO2 emissions. Broadly, you have to put more 3 times more CO2 back into the shale well than you take additional gas out. CO2 being heavier than methane will sink to the bottom of the depleted shale formation displacing gas upwards.

      This 'win win' scenario depends on CCS being economically viable. There are no signs that CCS on fossil fuel power generation will ever be economically viable either in terms of the cost of electricity produced, or the marginal abatement cost of carbon. The recent report by NETL referred to by the earlier respondent makes this very clear. Fortunately, the UK gas industry already has the answer to this conundrum in its hands.

      The cost of CCS is a function of the CO2 partial pressure (pressure x concentration) in the mixed gas stream from which CO2 is being separated. The CO2 partial pressure in many gas cleaning, gas and chemicals synthesis processes is up to 3 orders of magnitude greater than in the flue gas of a fossil fuel power plant, making the energy and cost penalty of separating CO2 for the purpose of CCS up to 2 orders of magnitude lower than in fossil fuel power stations.

      The international gas and chemicals industries have been deploying CO2 separation at industrial scale for several decades. The World's largest and longest running profitable energy conversion plant with CCS is a synthetic gas plant, which uses British technology and has been running successfully in USA for the last 30 years.

      The deployment of CCS by the UK gas industry, in conjunction with shale gas extraction, is an technically, economically and environmentally sound method of producing large quantities of storable, dispatchable, low carbon energy to complement base load nuclear and non-dispatchable renewables. A 'win win' all round. What's not to like?

      Tony Day
      Low Carbon Gas Ltd
      Mob 0791 256 0740
      e tony.day.1@outlook.com

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  21. Steve

    It would be utter madness not to exploit our gas reserves, it will keep the lights on, reduce costs esp for high usage industrial Co's and reduce our reliance on overseas energy suppliers from volatile areas of the world.
    Renewables quite simply cannot power this country and I am glad the DECC are at last starting to realise this and act in a more forceful way. Having spent significant time in the "fracking" belt of the USA I have seen at first hand how it has been the catalyst for regeneration of swathes of the country providing high paid jobs and improved infrastructure. Go for it now.

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    • John Sturman

      We have 200 years of domestic coal reserves under our ground which we don't exploit for very good reasons. We should keep our shale gas underground too.
      The phrase 'keeping the lights on' and energy security are propaganda and scare tactics that are groundless.
      We aren't self sufficient in oil but there are no similar phrases coming from Government for 'keeping the cars running' or transport security.
      We live in a globalised world with many international sources of both oil and gas.
      We also seem very happy to have most of our goods made in and imported from China.
      Why don't we continue to develop wind energy and EXPORT excess power?

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    • Carole

      Shale Gas ..
      Will not reduce your bills...fact
      Is not safe 6% of new well leak in the 1st year 30% after 15 years...fact
      It is not a clean energy because it takes 400 diesel lorries to supply and remove water and chemicals per well and diesel generators going 24/7 to frack. Diesel causes cancer. ....Fact
      1-8 million gallons of water per well plus 5 -40 thousand gallons of chemical per well....... Fact
      Only 30-50% of this toxic fluid can be recovered the rest is left in the ground and is not biodegradable ....fact
      Up to 600 chemicals used include
      Lead
      Uranium
      Mercury
      Radium
      Methanol
      Formaldehyde
      Hydrochloride acid
      Ethylene Glycol ( antifreeze)
      During the process methane gas and toxic chemicals leak out of the system and contaminate the ground water. Fact
      1000 cases of water contamination in USA...fact

      Link to this comment
      • DECC Gov UK

        There are many lessons to learn from the US experience – and our regulatory and safety requirements differ significantly from those in America. For example, operators in the UK must disclose the chemicals used and the Environment Agency will not permit the use of chemicals that are hazardous to groundwater where they may enter groundwater and cause pollution. In terms of water use, UK operators will have limits on the amount of water that can be used.

        The UK Government has been clear that wherever shale gas fracking is conducted it must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way. There are robust regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination and mitigate seismic activity and air pollution The UK has over 50 years of experience of regulating the onshore oil and gas industry nationally. We have a strong regulatory regime for exploratory activities and we will look to continuously improve it as the industry develops.

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    • Rev, Gary Kenney

      I have seen what happens with my own eyes and I can tell you that the frackers neither care about safety and the enviroment or indeed, are capable of doing their jobs with any high level of competence.

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    • Mary Foster

      If this government are so convinced that unconventional energy extraction won't have appreciable impacts on the environment, why did it hire an oil and gas consultancy firm, which has no stated experience with environmental science, to do the Habitats Regulation Assessment? Why were their metrics so arbitrary, why was their document so abstruse, and why was the consultation period so short? If this is the kind of "gold standard regulation" you are promoting, it does not promote confidence in your methodology.
      http://www.amecfw.com/

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  22. Andrew Warren

    In her second paragraph, the Minister states that "we need to meet the UK's rising demand for energy".

    Did she mean this seriously ? Is DECC really unaware that since 2005 overall energy use in the UK has fallen by 18%. Just in the last year, even while GDP grew by 2.8%, energy sales fell by 6.6%?

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  23. Patrick Thomas Sudlow

    Could the minister provide the figures, on how much tax-payers money has been spent on the nuclear energy industry (which is not carbon-neutral or renewable)? How much tax-payers money will be required to de-commissioned old nuclear sites? How much tax-apyers money has already been spent on Hinkley Point, and what will the final costs be?
    Then shall we talk about the subsidisies and tax-breaks the fossil-fuel industry receives? As for shale gas exploitation, which requires more energy, than is recovered. It has proven to be another financial bubble, which has burst in the USA: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-16/dropping-oil-rig-count-would-leave-market-short-of-natural-gas.

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  24. Doug Proctor

    Unless the population will accept blackouts and brownouts during the worst of winter weather, when winds are too high and the sun doesn't shine, fossil fuels are going to be a necessary "evil". Low trouble fission, fusion and hydrogen, battery storage technologies do not exist yet. Some "bridge" is required. Optimism won't maintain the British way of life.

    DeCaprio may stop investing in fossil fuels, but he is not dropping his lifestyle to avoid even a 26% fossil fuel consumption as per many INDC proposals. He "needs" his fossil fuels just as the average Brit does. Same with Al Gore. All of the green leadership understand the future, not the present, can be low or even zero carbon.

    Low, local carbon fossil fuels are the best choice within a reduced set of options. Giving your limited wealth to others to maintain an ideological purity is foolhardy, dangerous and doesn't solve the larger problem. Look what happened in Germany when nuclear and local coal was cut: Poland sold Germany the energy it needed, from high-CO2 coal. The Germans did not choose to freeze in the dark. There was less money to protect the German environment, non-Germans controlled German air quality and the CO2 output increased.

    Life is filled with hard choices. We advance moving sideways as much as forward. All or nothing does not lead to "all"; it leads to nothing more than rhetoric and anxious hand-wringing.

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  25. k styles

    Bottomless Pit for fossil fuel subsidies.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenvaud/61/61.pdf We do not believe there is any case for treating subsidies to mature energy technologies
    where there is little likelihood of cost reduction in the future in the same way as
    technologies that can, over time, compete in the market place without long-term subsidy.
    We consider that the Government should present a case for subsidy, and hence for the
    application of EU state aid rules, separately for each energy category.

    However, the reality is that energy subsidies in the UK are significant, cover all types of energy technology and run to about £12bn a year. Much of this is directed at fossil fuels.

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  26. James

    You have repeatable stated "This Government has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly"

    Do you have any evidence of this being anything to do with the government?

    I can find no evidence to support a causal effect between falls in the install cost of solar and wind and government policy.

    The main reason for falls in the price of solar panels (despite significant import tarriffs imposed by the EU) is high volume production in forward looking countries such as China and an excess of production over demand. The falls in the cost of wind are again due to a maturing in this sector lowering cost. What government HAS done is pull the rug on both industries by removing current levels of support. This will increase the risk of green energy projects and investors will no longer trust the government for long term investment. Higher risk, means higher cost. The government is sabotaging green policies in order to chase very small volumes of gas from Fracking, with the undeniable effect of delaying significantly our renewable production in tried and tested and reliable technology. Rather than a "bridge" fuel, Fracking is a "barrier" fuel.

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  27. Denise Mawhood

    1.There is a huge risk of large amounts of methane gas escaping during the fracking process, this is difficult to quantify in advance and makes the whole procedure extremely risky.
    2. The fracking industry states that fracked gas could not be produced in a significant way for about a decade. Meanwhile the CCC says we should not be using coal beyond the early 20"s.
    Therefore shale gas won't be replacing coal and instead could risk replacing renewables.
    3. Geology and geography of Britain such that fracking unlikely to be profitable anyway.
    4. We all know that 80% of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to have any hope of keeping below 2 degrees. The IPCC report states that if we go above 2 degrees, global warming will continue and likely be unstoppable.
    5. John Ashton, former Special Representative on Climate Change to Tory and Labour Foreign Secretaries, puts it as follows:
    You can be in favour of fixing the climate. Or you can be in favour of exploiting shale gas. But you can’t be in favour of both at the same time.
    6. Why is the government subsidising fossil fuels while cutting subsidies to renewable energy?

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  28. David smith

    Cant wait for the first therm of shale gas. It will be nice to know that when my mother puts her central heating on in the winter, even when its dark with no wind blowing, good old reliable gas will be there to keep her warm.

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  29. Bob

    Fact - shale gas has not lowered CO2 in the US - it was down to the recession. The shale gas industry is 30 billion in debt in the US and one major shale company has not turned a profit for 22 of the 24 years it has been operating. Lord John Browne has publicly stated shale gas will not lower gas prices. Mark Carney has warned the UK about the fossil fuel bubble. So shale is expensive and won't lower gas prices and 80% of known reserves should remain in the ground if we are to meet climate change commitments. And as our energy use is actually falling so why can't we import gas from Norway etc as we do now rather than frack? That would be a true bridge rather than develop another fossil fuel source. Given most countries do not produce their own fossil fuels and they are not intending to frack - how are they keeping the lights on and meeting their climate change commitments? And what if fracking doesn't proves successful as it hasn't in Poland and Denmark? Are the government really saying that if the UK shale industry fails the lights will go out, the economy will grind to halt? Because if it is we have an extremely incompetent government don't we - or are we saying the government is scaremongering and misleading people? Because let us be honest - in reality the UK would carry on importing gas - as they do now. There is immense anger at the way the government is taking away local democracy and forcing this industry upon the UK. Lord Smith stated publicly in 2012 - he supported shale - so not a very independent Task Force that was also funded by the fossil fuel industry. It is the government that need to face up to an inconvenient truth. The UK is not threatened by Putin turning the gas off - we get a minuscule amount of gas from Russia (mixed in with the small supply from Belgium) We buy gas from the Netherlands and Qatar. The North Sea export to Ireland and the Netherlands. There is plenty of supply from secure sources. The public will not be bullied and mislead.

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  30. Jim Binks

    We don't need to 'meet the rising demand for energy'. Government needs to show leadership to change people's behaviour to reduce energy use

    We need to keep 80 per cent of known fossil fuels in the ground to manage the risks of climate change. Setting up a new heavily emitting industry is incompatible with a safe future world for our children
    children

    Most concerning are the assertions about the costs of fracking vs renewables. Decc should do a full end to end analysis of all the subsidies, tax breaks, taxpayer guarantees etc of the oil, gas and fracking industries vs wind and solar. As objective civil servants this should be a priority
    Ministers might be surprised by the results...

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  31. Truth Speaker

    The reason why they have bothered with wind and solar, Vernon, is because it works. And it is the future of electricity generation, as unanimously agreed but worldwide experts (particularly solar).

    But point taken that we need to be looking at all the water around us and making maximum use of that.

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  32. Dr.David Law

    Pumping chemicals into an aquifer to release gas and oil will pollute the water present?-isn't the water down there already totally polluted,(naturally!), by the oil and gas that has built up over millions of years? As a water treatment scientist I would certainly not want to drink any water which has been trapped with this carbon source and has been successfully isolated from other aquifers by nature itself! We are doing ourselves a long time service by getting this vital energy out of the ground and putting the carbon back into the biosphere where it used to be and where it will do some good!

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  33. Brett S

    85% of houses are heated by gas, we will not have converted these to electricity heating anytime soon, and even if we did we'd need even more back-up to renewables especially for cold, dark windless times.
    As for electricity generation, I wish we could rely 100% on renewables today, but the technology (especially for storage) is lightyears away.

    The industry needs a bridge. Invest more in green energy you say? Yes, I agree, and the energy industry needs funding that isn't limited to the tax payers and energy consumers.

    The alternatives to domestic shale are LNG from Qatar (and they are the least efficient of all gas producers) and coal. Trust me neither of them are good options.

    It's popular to attack Shale (hey, Vivienne Westwood does it, and she ought to know!) and I'm sorry to see it's fuelled by scaremongering; very few seem to want a reasonable and balanced discussion.

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  34. Jax

    On reading these comments I am staggered at the limited reasoning ability of the people making these comments.
    I don't know how many jobs will be created but jobs WILL be created.
    We have nowhere near enough energy being provided by renewables.
    Are you suggesting we stick to coal rather than shale gas? Coal is far more polluting than gas.
    Should we import the gas from abroad or use our own?
    Doesn't it make sense to you to use tax profits generated by this to fund renewables research?
    Will a large scale shale program lower energy bills? It depends on how much shale is produced. If people like those here don't protest at every little thing and let a large scale production go ahead then this will obviously affect the price in a manner that is favourable to energy consumers. Supply and demand. The more of something there is the less it costs. Even if it doesn't lower prices it would slow the rise of prices. Worst case: it's not going to raise prices so what's the problem? This stuff is not difficult folks.
    I don't think people here realise how close we have come in recent years to having the lights go out in winter.
    You're so caught up in minor arguments that you can't see the forest for the trees.
    Fraccing will help the UK. This is a no brainer.

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  35. johnpowney

    John-23/09/2015
    On 10/12/2013 Energy Analysts were invited to speak to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on the future of UK gas security. It was stated that shale gas could not meet base fuel needs and that it was laughable that shale gas could stop the country from brown outs.
    Taxing the offshore industry at 60-80% is obviously going to stunt investment.
    Andrea Leadsom was recently in the North Sea hearing how recent tax reductions and new seismic surveys will see huge growth in one of our biggest industries which she stated employs 375 thousand.
    It is globally accepted that shale gas has no competitive edge over conventional gas. Please explain how it makes more economic sense to start a new onshore Industry with no infrastructure than to expand our well established mighty North Sea Industry with vast proven reserves which will easily meet our needs in the transition to our inevitable renewable future.

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  36. Chris Redston

    As regards the 'huge financial incentive', it is noted that not one single community around the country has chosen to accept this money to allow fracking on its doorstep?

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  37. Mark T

    Thanks for your very forthright and sensible blog Ms Leadsom.

    As President Obama said in March when diplomatically advising the. EU to get its finger out on shale development ...

    “The truth of the matter is that just as there’s no easy, free, simple way to defend ourselves, there’s no perfect, free, ideal cheap energy sources,” Obama said. “Every possible energy source has some inconveniences or downsides.”

    Shale gas is potentially the biggest new resource to be found in the UK since North Sea oil. Of course we want to move to greater use of renewables but 80% of homes in this country are heated by gas. We will need a reliable source of gas for some time yet. Shale gas is the lowest carbon, bridge, fuel we can use and it's absolutely vital that the UK embraces this gift. Isn't it better to use the resource literally under our feet rather than import it in the form of LNG from questionable Middle Eastern regimes.

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  38. Helen Hart

    In parts of Pennsylvania with shale gas exploitation hospitalisation has increased by 27% as opposed to areas without shale. Considering that the population density of Bradford county and Susquehanna (the areas referred to above) is 54 per square mile and in Leeds (an area almost entirely within the 10k impact zone of proposed licence blocks) is 3574 per square mile, I would like to know if the additional potential costs to the NHS have been factored in to your costs?

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    • DECC Gov UK

      DECC Gov UK— 24/09/2015

      Our regulatory and safety requirements differ significantly from those in America. For example, operators in the UK must disclose the chemicals used and the Environment Agency will not permit the use of chemicals that are hazardous to groundwater where they may enter groundwater and cause pollution.

      The UK Government has been clear that wherever shale gas fracking is conducted it must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way. There are robust regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination and mitigate seismic activity and air pollution The UK has over 50 years of experience of regulating the onshore oil and gas industry nationally. We have a strong regulatory regime for exploratory activities and we will look to continuously improve it as the industry develops.

      Link to this comment
  39. Jim

    All forms of renewable energy have now come down in cost, and will soon be comparable to fossil fuel and need less subsidy then Nuclear Power. The government has just pulled the support for Onshore Wind which is the cheapest form of renewable energy. The Feed in Tariff which started in 2010, to support small/medium scale renewable energy, has been a success with many small/medium startup's, and just when they are starting to get on their feet build their expertise , this government has drastically cut back and likely remove the FIT's. This will mean many companies closing down and a setback to the renewables industry, The subsidies are quite low. This is the time when you need to continue supporting renewables and the industry to mature and build its expertise and drive the costs further down.
    Climate change is a serious issue, Its going to cost us and our future generation far more if we do not drive renewables forward. If Shale gas is needed to keep the lights on, fine,(although the data does not stack up), but please continue supporting renewables energy.

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  40. Paddy

    Steve, I totally agree. The need for gas for both heat and light in the UK is not going to be replaced by renewables unless we literally carpet the country and seaside with wind turbines and put tidal dams across all our largest estuaries.

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  41. Mr. H

    "The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers’ money to fund renewable energy generation." Time to dissect this: 1) What ever the original cost of wind turbines, wave/tide power, solar panels/generators or adapting coal powered power plants to burn landfill it would be cheaper in a few years. All apart from landfill burning power plants would run at almost 0 cost. 2) Implementing a 10 - 20 year payment to cover the original outlay would work. 3) All landfill burning power plants, wind turbines, solar panels/generators, wave/tide power, would be sustainable. 4) there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers. (If you are on the grid you are a bill-payer.)

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  42. Mr. H

    Majority of electricity production in Sweden relies on hydro power and nuclear power. See below.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Sweden

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  43. Fiona Bowie

    The government predicts a 40% decrease in energy use in the next few years, not as stated rising demand. One or other estimates must be misleading - or perhaps both. Renewable sources can provide all our energy needs much more quickly, securely, cheaply and sustainably than fossil fuels (see for instance the recent report by The Resilience Centre, 'The Power to Transform the South West' commissioned by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato). The only ones who will suffer are the big energy companies, who will see their profits drop unless they commit more resources to renewable energy, and their investors. As we can see in the USA and much of Europe, institutional investors, universities and private individuals are rapidly divesting themselves of fossil fuel assets and turning to renewables. If the political will were there the UK could do the same.

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  44. Patrick

    I see shale gas as inevitable. A lot of people seem to think that renewables can simply substitute for fossil fuels but then can't. Experts and academics are now pointing out another stark reality “...there will be NO combination of alternative energy solutions that might enable the long term continuation of economic growth, or of industrial societies in their present form and scale.”

    Coal and gas account for 56% of our electricity generation and oil accounts for 95% of transport activity. There is not enough renewable energy to go around and there never will be.

    Renewable energy sources might be able to sustain us, but not in the manner to which we have become accustomed. All the time fossil fuels are available we will use them. To not do so would result in a voluntary decline in living standards and that is not a vote winner.

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  45. Bob

    It is the government that misleads and scaremongers - there are plenty of fossil fuels available to bridge - most countries import and many have stronger economies than ours. So why not import until we have our energy mix sorted? A true economic impact assessment looks at the jobs displaced, as not just jobs created. Amber Rudd has recently publicly stated she had not considered the impact on the 120,000 jobs in the renewable industry when she started cutting back renewables. Then there are people employed in agriculture and tourism that are likely to be impacted. It is all too easy to believe government hype that fracking is some kind of silver bullet and will solve all our energy needs - it is no silver bullet. It has a huge environmental footprint and it is a fossil fuel. Yes it is better than burning coal - but just watch all the forward looking nations invest in greener energy sources than fracking - This is bad for the climate and bad for the economy in the longer term. We will simply be importing technologies from Europe and China.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Home-grown gas provides jobs for our people and tax revenues for our society. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. It will provide a cost-efficient bridge for our transition to a greener future, and will be especially significant as we move away from coal generation.

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      • James

        "Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel". This is not a fact, there are various studies showing that once you include all side effects, such as methane leakages, damage to water supply and general fugitive emissions arising on extraction it may not be much, if any cleaner. The DECC's OWN REPORT said this, in September 2013. "Potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with shale gas production and use". I will say that again, you are contradicting your own departments research with these misleading statements! The point is not however comparing one polluting energy with another. The debate should be if to starting up a whole new industry from scratch, which based on extensive experiences in the US and Australia to name but two, is highly polluting, OR spend the same subsidies on tried and tested renewable energies, such as on shore and offshore wind and solar. Which work well, and produce regular and predictable volumes of energy into the grid, are relatively cheap and best of all do not contribute to climate change. Yes there are issues with storage technology for when there are gluts of power, but until we get enough it is a nice problem to have.

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      • Ivor

        "It's the cleanest fossil fuel" doesn't make it clean, just less dirty than the rest.

        If Denmark can start producing 140% of its energy needs from renewables then why can't we? We have huge capabilities for producing clean energy from the sea, wind, sun and geothermal energy and the way to do it is through multitudinous small projects. But the government have removed all renewable subsidies and continues to push fossil fuels despite irrefutable evidence that climate change is destroying our environment. Why? because their party funding comes from those with oil and gas interests.

        The renewable energy industry also produces jobs. Manufacturing of engineering can be exported. We have the engineering expertise that gives us the potential of being a world leader in that field, but the industry is being deliberately crippled because it is in direct competition with carbon industry.

        Moving away from coal? That's a lie. Banks Group are planning to open the biggest open cast coal mine in Europe on the coast of Northumberland and that will destroy the ecologically important area at Druridge Bay.

        Future historians will look back at the shortsightedness of this and shake their heads in disbelief and sorrow at how greed and self-interest led us down the road to environmental ruin.

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        • DECC Gov UK

          The Government remains committed to a low carbon and affordable future for energy. Gas – the cleanest fossil fuel – still meets a third of our energy demand and we will need it for many years to come.

          This is not a renewables vs. shale question. Unlike wind turbines, for example, gas is not just used for generating electricity. It is also used for heating and cooking in our homes and for the chemicals and manufacturing sectors which form an important part of our economy. Shale can provide a cost-efficient bridge to lower-carbon energy use as we move away from coal and while we develop renewables, improve energy efficiency and build new nuclear.”

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    • Mark T

      Just to say that the debate regarding shale and renewables does not have to be an either/or question. We can continue to develop renewable low carbon energy sources while building up our base-load low carbon shale gas industry, just as they have done in the US.

      It is worth noting that Germany, by removing nuclear power, has failed to lower it's co2 emissions since 2011 whilst at the same time having some of the highest electricity bills in Europe. At the same time the US has reduced their co2 emissions by replacing coal with gas in electricity generation and has gas prices which are less than half those in Europe. Cheap gas and a cleaner atmosphere in the US; expensive energy and static co2 emissions in Germany.

      Shale gas is then the way forward in the UK in partnership with nuclear and renewables.

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  46. G. Ring

    Andrea Leadsom claims: "The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers’ money to fund renewable energy generation."

    What a baseless attack and presumptuous statement smacking of desperation from a government that has clearly lost the argument on fracking.

    How about we look at the facts, shall we? Subsidies for the fossil fuel industry totalled £26bn for 2015 alone, while those for renewable energy amounted to only £3.5bn for the years of 2014 and 2015. Yet, the government has announced a raft of measures in recent weeks to reduce the latter even further.

    Why is the UK government intent on spending taxpayers' money on a dirty, dangerous and unpopular industry when, according to a recent DECC poll, 75% of the British public favour the development of clean and safe renewables?

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  47. Shirley

    If we are pushing 'home-grown', then why are we selling the gas storage to the Chinese for 400 million pounds worth of investment? The charges to store our home-grown gas will have to be significant to recoup that money back.The processing of the gas is also owned by an offshore company that pays little or no UK tax. So I can't see any economic benefit here to anyone except private industry.

    Also shale gas is not green or clean. Calculations show that it is as dirty as coal. If you have to shut down coal fired power stations to meet climate change targets, why are you replacing it with shale gas? 100% abandoned wells are our future, leakage of methane will escalate our impact on climate change.

    I am concerned that the same old record is being played, even when experts have warned that shale gas is not the answer to our transition needs, that climate change is very real, but by supporting shale DECC seem to be ignoring sound advice. Why?

    The fact is people threatened by shale gas extraction in their area do their homework and say 'NO THANKS'. I would ask the minister to stop pushing her own agenda, and listen to the people.

    Nuclear is not an answer either, it is long term polluting. (It is also been sold off the the highest non-UK bidder with massive subsidies offered-how is this home-grown?).

    It is time to educate people on the use of energy. We cannot refuse renewables just because the powerstation cannot cope with the surge when everyone makes a cup of tea in the break between TV programmes!

    Education is the answer, and the tax payers money used for subsidies of private industries should fund this. Good insulation, carefully thought out use of energy, solar roofs subsidising the grid which reduces the demand for domestic energy, which then can direct increasing renewable generation and reducing North Sea reserves to hospitals, public buildings and industry.

    We are constantly told to 'live within our means' and the austerity policies of this government practice this. We need to do the same with our energy. Educated use, insulated self-generating homes is the future. Home produced renewable energy sources providing 1,000,000 jobs and clean energy for us, our children and our grandchildren, forever...

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  48. H Jones

    I left comments last Wednesday (23 September) on this page and received a web response that my comment was with the moderator before posting. My comments may have been inconvenient, but were not so so offensive that they should be discarded.

    Summary:
    1. If fracking is to take place then let it be under paid licence but, as most UK residents disagree with fracking in their own community, without government subsidy - let fracking stand on its own 2 feet.
    2. In contrast with US, the UK does not have the sinking basin geology necessary for shale oil and gas formation It is therefore unlikely that there are significant reserves that are realistically and commercially exploitable in the UK
    3. UK does not have enough test drills to know whether we have any shale oil/gas reserves and where they are/how large they are.
    4. Over 50% of everything exploitable from a site will have been removed within the first year - and then you have to move on to a new site. The UK does not have the space, unlike the US, and communities would be outraged by the disruption and destruction in their areas
    5. If fracking is an unrealistic "red herring" in the UK, then is the UK Government using it as a delay in order to shift us to a nuclear (Hinkley) path? If so I feel the electorate would disapprove.

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  49. johnpowney

    John Powney-28/09/2015
    Hydraulic Fracturing will cause seismic activity. In formations with no natural faults or stress the size and duration of the activity is related to the rate and amount of fluid injected and is reasonably predictable.
    Oil and Gas companies spend millions NOT drilling near faults. It is costly and dangerous to do so.
    The Bowland Shale is heavily faulted. The report requested by DECC on the events at Preese Hall show that 6 relatively small fracking treatments caused 50 seismic events. The largest being 2.3 M which was reported to be felt many miles away.
    Lubricating an existing fault with fracking fluid was the likely cause.
    There is only a limited understanding of the fault system of the Basin. Proposed 3D surveys would have limited use at great depth for mapping smaller faults.
    It is proposed to drill and frack hundreds of vertical and horizontal wells at varying depths which will inevitably intersect numerous faults of different sizes. Based on the evidence so far, how many more seismic events would occur, large enough to cause damage to people's homes, leading to distress and devaluation of property belonging to thousands of UK tax payers?

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Following the tremors in Lancashire, DECC introduced new controls and checks for operators using hydraulic fracturing. They are required to:

      • Use all available geological information to assess the location of faults before wells are drilled to avoid hydraulically fracturing near faults;
      • Use British Geological Survey records to assess baseline levels for seismic activity (vibrations of the earth’s crust);
      • Inject as little fluid as necessary into the rock during fracturing;
      • Monitor seismic activity before, during and after fracturing;
      • Adopt a ‘traffic light’ system that controls whether injection can proceed or not, based on that seismic activity. Operations have to be halted if seismic activity exceeds a predefined level. The defined level has initially been set at a magnitude of 0.5 on the Richter scale, a level which can only be detected by sensitive equipment.

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  50. Mark Howitt

    The inconvenient truths are that (1) fracking is more harmful than ministers pretend, and (2) DECC continually ignores large scale electricity storage which would make renewable generation cost-effective.

    Fracking involves drilling wells radially from a point and injecting 3 substances: water at ultra-high pressure to crack the rocks, sand to keep the cracks open and chemicals to leach the oil/gas into the cracks. This means that each well has a reach as short as the pressure exerted by the water, so each well has a half-life of 1.5 years compared with 20-40 years for conventional hydrocarbons. Therefore fracking sites need to be located close together (quite a few in each constituency, one or more by every town and village) and the radial wells need to be drilled continuously, 24/7, in order to maintain the output of each site. This needs to be sustained by large-scale water abstraction and (much worse) heavy traffic carrying the sand and chemicals. And at the end of the day, the site will be a large, highly polluted blot on the landscape.

    Large scale electricity storage (gigawatts, GWh) has been ocntinuously ignored by DECC even though its output electricity is potentially cheaper than that of gas-fired peaking plants, and has backing from sensible multinationals. DECC don't seem to be able to get their heads round anything with greater than 10s of MW and MWh storage, which is merely tinkering expensively at the edges - and uses that experience to justify ignoring the bigger stuff. Even their recent EEF funding calls for "large scale" storage were entirely spent on these small ones. The result will be that overseas funding is already being sought and the opportunity to lead the world in new industries is being lost. In 10 years' time, when the UK plays catch-up, we'll be buying in products and services from overseas rather than exporting them.

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    • DECC Gov UK

      Technology developments and innovation are necessary to enable us to cost-effectively transition to a low-carbon economy. One example of innovation in electricity storage is a giant battery in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. This is the largest electricity storage facility of its type in Europe and is currently being trialled for two years by UK Power Networks.

      The UK has over 50 years of experience regulating the onshore oil and gas industry, and has a very strict regulatory regime for shale gas.

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  51. Kevin Anderson

    Request to DECC for numerical justification of the Minister’s position

    I’d be grateful for quantitative clarification as to how a substantial UK shale gas industry can be reconciled with the UK’s repeated high-level commitments to make its fair contribution to “hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity”.

    The IPCC’s synthesis report provides a headline carbon budget of 1000GtCO2 for 2011-2100 for a “likely” (66%) chance of 'staying below' 2°C. However, to convert this to an 'energy-only' budget for 2015 to 2100, allowance needs to be made for [1] recent global emissions, [2] process emissions from global cement production, and [3] net emissions from global deforestation/land use. The first of these is ~150GtCO2 (i.e. CO2 between 2011 and 2015); the second is also around 150Gt (assuming the carbon capture & storage technology is successfully phased in at large cement plants) and the third is between 60 and 150Gt. This leaves approximately 600GtCO2 for all global energy use between 2015 and 2100 – and for ~66% chance of 'staying below' 2°C (or a ~33% chance of 'exceeding' it)

    The Government's current domestic carbon budget (based on the CCC’s advice) is calculated from a global budget related to, at best, a 63% chance of 'exceeding' 2°C - which is a far higher chance of going above 2°C than that the current and previous PM's have pledged to when signing international agreements (from the Copenhagen Accord to the Camp David agreement). Moreover, according to the CCC, the Government's preferred budget is premised on the UNEP Gap report; a report whose scenarios, typically, either peak global emissions in the past or assume the removal of huge quantities of CO2 by unproven and highly speculative negative emissions technologies – and often both.

    Given the above I'd appreciate DECC’s numerical assessment of how shale gas emissions for the UK can be reconciled with the UK’s ‘fair’ proportion of the remaining ~600GtCO2 global carbon budget (for total energy use, including electricity, heat and transport and for a “likely” chance of staying below 2°C). Is the Minister relying on negative emissions to justify her statement and if so by how much? Alternatively, does the Minister’s statement signal a move away from the UK Government’s earlier and strong commitment on 2°C? If so, could you offer any clarity as to the Government’s new position in terms of temperatures, probabilities and the associated UK and global carbon budgets – particularly in relation to the IPCC’s headline budgets contained within their November 2014 synthesis report.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Kind regards

    Kevin Anderson

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  52. Lisa Cant

    Andrea please acknowledge that you made a mistake in stating that our energy needs are rising and thank the members of the anti-fracking lobby who brought it to your attention. I can imagine it would be embarrassing to be corrected by the very people you talk of in such disparaging tones, but humility is a virtue, and surely preferable to deleting your error without even mentioning it, unless falling UK energy demand is too much of an inconvenient truth?

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  53. DECC Gov UK

    Our energy supply must be safe, low cost and low carbon. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and a key part of the move away from coal to cleaner forms of energy. Unlike some renewable sources however, such as wind or sunshine, gas is not just used for generating electricity. We need gas for heating and cooking in our homes, and for the chemicals and manufacturing sectors which form an important part of our economy. Gas is integral to our everyday lives and we’re still going need it for many years to come. That’s why it’s so important we make the most of our domestic resources, which will also help to boost the economy and create skilled jobs.

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