The government has given the go ahead for fracking, or shale gas exploration, to continue.
Fracking, which involves making small explosions underground and injecting chemicals to release any gas, was stopped in 2011 after two earth tremors were blamed on the practice. However, the government has said that it will continue subject to regular review of the seismic impact. It is hoped that by reducing reliance on imported gas, the UK will see energy prices fall after similar results in the US.
Apart from the risk of earthquakes, there has also been concern about fracking’s association with water pollution and air pollutants. However, energy secretary Ed Davey said that shale gas represented ‘a promising new potential energy resource for the UK’.
“It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low carbon economy.
“My decision is based on the evidence. It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field.
“We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.
“We are strengthening the stringent regime already in place with new controls around seismic risks. And as the industry develops we will remain vigilant to all emerging evidence to ensure fracking is safe and the local environment is protected.”
However the announcement has been met with derision by leading environmentalists, who say that the UK’s reliance on gas will increase energy bills by as much as £600 by the end of the decade.
Contrarily, they say, renewable energy will add £100 to energy bills to the average energy bill, which now stands at around £1300.
Diversifying power sources will reduce Britain’s reliance on gas and help to control future energy prices, they say.
Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, Professor Kevin Anderson, told The Independent: “The CCC’s latest report puts a well-placed boot in the popular view that low-carbon electricity is bad for the pockets of householders and UK Plc.
“Whilst Machiavellian journalists and sceptics will recite the “green energy costs money and jobs” mantra – the more careful and candid scribbler will conclude that renewable and low-carbon energy reduces costs as well as carbon.
“Ultimately, the CCC makes a robust defence of the position that low-carbon electricity is both good for our wallets and our children; a message that powerful fossil-fuelled groups don’t want us to hear.”
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