Lord Browne is the most senior business advisor to the tory led coalition government and chairman of the UK’s only shale gas driller. He said that “We will finance whatever it takes. If we succeed, it will be billions, over 10 years it will be billions of finance to provide”. This, if technical problems to recover shale gas are overcome, would translate into tens or hundreds of billions of profit for gas explorers for decades to come.
We would argue that although it produces smaller amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than coal, its adoption on the scale that Browne wants would mean that the UK would not meet its targets on reducing greenhouse gases and it would distract from other investment needed in truly green technologies. There is a growing body of evidence from the United States, where fracking is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane and shale gas extraction.
Drilling on a small scale in the UK has already given rise to small earth tremors. Villagers in Singleton, Lancashire, were woken by small earthquakes in April and May 2011, caused by fracking by Lord Browne’s gas drilling company.
Shale gas, for all its associated environmental and health risks, is unlikely to arrive quickly enough, in sufficient volume, to drive down UK prices to below international levels.
“We don’t want British businesses and families to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Osborne said in his Autumn statement to parliament in December 2012. Other countries in Europe do not share his view and are hesitant to endorse fracking because of the concerns that it pollutes water. See this video which shows some of the problems associated with fracking by clicking this link.