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Benefits of shale an ‘inconvenient truth’ for opponents

Minister of state for energy Andrea Leadsom argued the case for shale gas this week while condemning the anti-fracking lobby for believing “there is a bottomless pit of billpayers’ money to fund renewable energy generation”.

In a post for the Department of Energy & Climate Change blog, Ms Leadsom said those who do not want to acknowledge the economic and environmental benefits that shale gas could bring faced an “inconvenient truth”.

The MP for South Northamptonshire said gas would continue to play a big part in the UK’s energy mix for years to come.

As a result, she said the government was looking into the opportunity of using home-grown shale gas supplies instead of relying on overseas imports.

Addressing concerns raised by the anti-fracking lobby, Ms Leadsom said the government would look at protecting the environment, minimising the effects on local people and providing jobs for communities.

By 2030, the government expects to be importing close to 75% of the gas Britain consumes. By using gas extracted from the UK, Ms Leadsom argued the country could safeguard its domestic supply while also cutting carbon emissions.

The UK currently produces enough gas from the North Sea and the Irish Sea to meet almost half is needs (43%). However, Britain’s gas fields are depleting, meaning the shortfall in supply will need to be made up elsewhere. The rest is imported – in large part from European and Norwegian pipelines (44%), as well as from LNG tankers (13%).

Task Force on Shale Gas

Sources of UK gas imports in 2014

Source: Task Force on Shale Gas

Sources of UK gas imports in 2014

The post follows the release of the third report this year on climate change by independent Task Force on Shale Gas, which looked at how the development of a UK shale industry would affect the country’s overall climate impact.

Its overarching finding was that shale gas had a role to play as an interim baseload energy source in the UK’s energy mix over the medium term.

Task force chair Lord Chris Smith said: “From the evidence, it is apparent that renewables cannot meet the UK’s short-term energy needs. Gas must play a role over the medium term.

“The relative climate impact of shale gas is similar to that of conventional gas and less than that of liquefied natural gas. It is also much better than coal.”

The report concluded that if properly regulated, implemented and monitored, shale gas should be explored as a potential gas source to meet the nation’s energy needs.

Energy and Utilities Alliance external affairs manager Isaac Occhipinti said: “We are all aware of the pressing need to reduce our carbon emissions but renewables alone won’t deliver the energy we need, so we need to accept that gas, shale or otherwise will have a role to play.”

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