Ian R Crane is turning. The frackers are back.Wed 2:21 pm Europe/London, 9 Mar 2022 1
Boris Johnson has opened the door to the return of fracking in the UK, which has been under a “moratorium” for more than two years, in a bid to help diversify the country’s energy supply.
Johnson told MPs in Prime Minister’s Questions this lunchtime: “We need to meet the long term impacts of the spike in energy prices and that is why I will be setting out an energy independence plan for this country.”
Senior Government figures made clear that this includes revisiting fracking – as I forecast ministers would have to do just a week ago. An announcement is due in the next few days, the PM said.
The new energy policy would include maximising renewables, more transitional oil and gas and more nuclear power stations.
“We will do everything in our power to abate the cost of energy across the country as we already are,” the PM said. “It needs a short term, medium term and long term energy strategy so that we have sustainable supplies.”
Johnson did not mention fracking but it is clear that a door has been opened. The change of tack appeared to start yesterday: Tory MPs were told by the environment department that England’s only two viable shale gas wells might now not be sealed with concrete next week, as planned.
That came at the same time as Steve Baker, the Tory MP and leader of the Net Zero Scrutiny group, corralled groups of MPs and peers to meet with fracking industry representatives in the House of Commons.
A screen showed some unfracked rock emitting gas mined in 2019 from 2,000 metres underneath Nottinghamshire, bubbling away in a tank of water during the meeting.
Charles McAllister, from UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said that the Bowland-Hodder Shale basin under the Midlands and north of England amounted to 37,600 billion cubic metres of gas.
If just 10 per cent of the estimated in-place resource were recovered – the UK would be self-sufficient in natural gas for 50 years. A single site can heat 500,000 homes.
There are benefits domestically from a new fracking industry, ranging from tens of thousands of jobs being created to billions paid into the Exchequer from business rates, combined with tumbling heating bills.
The industry – as you might expect – protested about “overzealous” regulation and planning which it says are “not conducive to development” which strangled the nascent wells.
And there is a huge education effort that needs to be done by the fracking industry to win over local hearts and minds worried about the increased risk of earth tremors.
One MP asked whether local communities could be rewarded with cheaper gas bills if they did not object to new wells being sunk.
(Not much help if you’re being poisoned with methane and your house is falling down. Tories hunting share gains is all this is about. Russian gas is so cheap. We really don’t need to destroy our country over this.)
Another problem – how to stop fracked gas produced here from finding a higher price in continental Europe through the inter connectors – remained.
There are plenty of issues to work through. But the war in Ukraine is forcing the UK Government to overhaul how Britain will keep the lights on for the next decades.