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Nick Grealy began by referring to the recent politicisation of the Shale question: ‘It has become an ideological Litmus test for the Left. But Shale is not a black and white issue.’
Its rapid development has changed everything, he suggested. People tend to fear what is new and regard it as potentially dangerous. Shale is a ‘black swan’ event, a low probability of a high impact.
He said that embracing Shale gas as an energy choice would provide us with an economic solution without recourse to government investment:
‘[Using Shale gas as an energy source] would enable us to engage fully with climate change rather than just talking about it. It is the way straight towards a low-carbon future. Shale gas changes everything for the better.’
Andy Atkins agreed about the need to be open-minded and said that Friends of the Earth (FOE) is not an ideological organisation. But the view of FOE is that: ‘Shale gas is a dangerous distraction.’
Fracking [hydraulic fracturing] is used to extract Shale gas from the ground; in Lancashire last year it caused earth tremors* ‘which literally made Blackpool rock!’
He highlighted three problems with resorting to the use of Shale gas:
1. Water contamination: US research has shown that methane contamination is a danger. ‘There is justified concern about its impact – it is alarming.’
2. Climate change: that is the biggest developmental problem facing the world today. ‘We have to cut CO2 emissions rapidly, through how we generate electricity. The UK has huge renewable energy potential – from wind, hydro-electric and solar power.’ Shale gas is a fossil fuel; all evidence suggests that we need to abandon reliance on fossil fuels, he said.
3. Energy bills: it is claimed that Shale will cut energy bills.
Although there have been savings in the US, higher expectations for standards of public health in the UK could produce different outcomes. The more we make ourselves dependent on any kind of gas, the more prone we will be to price hikes from outside of the UK.
‘Shale brings huge environmental risks and reliance on fossil fuels. the government’s forthcoming energy bill must include decarbonisation. That is crucial.’
* Richter scale 2.3 in April 2011 and 1.4 in May 2011
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