To Frack or Not To Frack

It would appear to be a very topical debate.

On one side we have environmental protestors, backed by MPs on parliament’s environmental committee, the EAC, published a report yesterday calling for a ban, claiming the UK can only use a “fraction” of the gas wells to stay within our targets to cut carbon emissions. Not to mention the viral videos of flaming taps and scare stories of sink holes and earthquakes.

On the other side we have DECC, Cuadrilla and Ineos all throwing their support behind speeding up the process which is no great surprise as at least two of them stand to make very significant profits should they be allowed to proceed. Its also easy to understand their confidence in getting their desired green light, given the recent publication of a leaked letter by the Chancellor calling for the acceleration of fracking. In the letter dated 24 September 2014, the Chancellor wrote he expects “to see rapid progress on the following recommendations… a clear time table to implement the development of 3-4 exemplar drilling sites to prove the concept of safe shale gas”.

However, the debate would appear to centre on the same outstanding arguments, for and against the environmental impact, with neither having the clear evidence to support their cause. What we hear much less about is the economic impact and the evidence of how the UK is going to benefit. This case should be much easier to present and if it had any substantive impact to reducing the costs to consumers then there may be increased support. Unfortunately, as with so many other schemes, the majority of the benefits will not trickle down to the masses. In fact in the current climate of falling wholesale energy costs and increased production at a global scale it would be absolute financial madness to speed up the process. Where is the logic in extracting the gas just when the global markets are flooded with such commodities and the price has dropped to the lowest it has been in years. If we need to stick with a heavily gas based energy mix, then we should be taking advantage of international surpluses and low market prices, not wasting our own precious resources. I suspect the rush is largely over concern that if they don't Frack now, the opportunity may pass for many years, possibly forever. Continued environmental regulation may well restrict its future consumption, as carbon intensity and global temperatures continue to rise. If the climate deniers are right, and its not as a result of human action, then surely even just for economic arguments we should leave it in the ground to appreciate in value, and for the benefit of future generations. If they are wrong then at least we can ensure that we are not adding to environmental issues through supporting a race to the bottom.