Unlock the benefits! Parliamentarians call for fracking review to be based on science

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London, 25 June – Net Zero Watch is today launching a campaign to ensure science is put at the heart of the British Geological Survey’s review into shale gas extraction, demanding the Government uses this opportunity to unlock national and local benefits, and enhance Britain’s energy security.

24 prominent parliamentarians including Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Esther McVey MP, and the former Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Lord Frost, have already signed up to the campaign. This is along with the leadership team of the parliamentary Net Zero Scrutiny Group, Craig Mackinlay MP and Steve Baker MP.

The campaign cites evidence produced by the Royal Society, the UK Unconventional Hydrocarbons project, and the UK’s independent regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority – all of which state that fracking can be conducted safely and with minimal disruption.

In light of the conflict in Ukraine, the Secretary of State for BEIS announced in April that a review would be conducted by the British Geological Survey (BGS) into the moratorium that currently prohibits shale gas fracking: Review of the geological science of shale gas fracturing – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

According to a speech given by the BEIS Secretary on Thursday 23rd June, the results of this review are due “next week”, but there is growing concern amongst MPs that the fracking review is not taking account of key pieces of evidence. 

It is feared that the report will ignore the significant scientific strides which have been taken since 2019 that show that fracking can be done safely and without disruption.

What the science says:

UK Unconventional Hydrocarbons project (BEIS sponsored research)

“There are methods to assess, manage, and mitigate” any risks associated with fracking.

Oil and Gas Authority (UK regulator)

Events in 2019 which prompted the moratorium to be introduced were “almost imperceptible” and that it was “difficult to justify” the level of severity which was assigned to it.

Royal Society 

“The health, safety, and environmental risks can be managed effectively in the UK” and that any “seismic risks are low.”

The campaign will also encourage members of the public to contact the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging him to lift the moratorium. This comes on the back of recent polling which shows that a return to shale gas extraction is now more popular in the country than keeping the ban in place (44% vs 36%).

MPs wrote in early May to the Secretary of State and BGS urging them to ensure that the science is followed in the review, and that a failure to place the risk mitigation methods at its heart would “undermine trust”.  

What the Government has said about shale gas:

Kwasi Kwarteng (23 June 2022): “We cannot – and will not – be blackmailed by dictators with their hands on the gas taps. Energy produced in Britain, is the safest option.”

Boris Johnson (2022): “After years of short termism and hand to mouth solutions we are setting out a British energy security strategy and we will make better use of our own naturally occurring hydrocarbons rather than import them top dollar from abroad and put the money into Putin’s bank account”.

Boris Johnson (2012): “The extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracture, or fracking, seems an answer to the nation’s prayers. There is loads of the stuff, apparently – about 1.3 trillion barrels; and if we could get it out we could power our toasters and dishwashers for the foreseeable future.”

Craig Mackinlay MP, chairman of the Conservative Net Zero Scrutiny Group in Parliament, said:

“Since the start of April my constituents have been paying up to 54% more for their gas than they were in October last year, and this is because we have been meeting more and more of our gas needs from the Russian-dominated European market, while our domestic supplies have sat idle.  This clearly makes no sense.

“Why would we import gas, fund Putin’s war machine, lose out on jobs and tax revenues, make ourselves less secure, and contribute more carbon to the atmosphere, when instead we could tap into the gold mine under our feet, create British jobs, fund our public services and reach Net Zero faster?  That’s why this BGS fracking review is so important.  

“With such high stakes it is vital that this review is informed by Britain’s world-beating scientists, and that it follows the comprehensive science of multiple reputable bodies which say that fracking can be done safely.  

“So I’m delighted to support a campaign that seeks to highlight these latest significant scientific developments, and to put them right at the heart of the review. 

“If this 3-month “desk-based” exercise fudges it and does not give a green light to lifting the Moratorium on shale gas, it would be taking a diametrically opposed view to the published works of the gas regulator, the Royal Society and the UKUH programme.  

“We must ensure that this review includes the high-quality research that has already been carried out by these leading institutions, and I look forward to seeing the full evidence relied upon by the review when it is published next week.”

Dr Benny Peiser, Director of Net Zero Watch said:

“The British Geological Survey has conducted this review behind closed doors, despite the overwhelming evidence from the US that shale gas extraction can happen safely and yield huge benefits.”

“None of us know what evidence has been considered by the BGS, but if its review is to be taken seriously it must seriously take into account the vital pieces of evidence that are already in the public domain.” 

“I’m delighted that so many Parliamentarians support our campaign to unlock the local and national benefits of domestic shale gas which will be absolutely essential for the UK to enhance our energy security.” 

Read the MPs’ campaign pledge (pdf)

via Net Zero Watch

Saturday 25th June 2022