Northern Ireland will reap no benefit from shale gas or oil, says MLA
Profits from shale gas and oil will bankroll multinational companies and will not be shared with Northern Ireland, according to the Green Party.
The comments came after economists PriceWaterhouse-Cooper claimed shale gas could produce £80bn worth of energy.
The report, Shale Oil – The Next Energy Revolution, said that significant shale gas resources have been identified in the UK and these could be a good indicator of the potential for shale oil also to be found.
In Northern Ireland, reserves have been estimated to be equivalent to around 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the north west and Fermanagh.
However, the extraction process, known as hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking', is controversial. About 30% of the natural gas in the US is extracted by fracking which massively speeds up a naturally occurring process.
The report says that the development of shale oil in the UK could contribute directly to investment, employment, economic growth and greater energy independence and as a result oil prices could lower.
But Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said that the financial benefits would be overshadowed by the wider impacts on local communities, the environment and climate change.
"Exploiting dirty technologies to extract fossil fuels is a high-risk gamble which the PWC report actually acknowledges in the small print by saying: 'The quality and quantity of the shale oil resource base outside the US is poorly understood and this remains a critical uncertainty over the potential for shale oil development'," he said.
"PwC have claimed in this report that Northern Ireland reserves of oil are estimated to be worth £80bn.
"The question has to be asked, 'worth £80bn to who and who exactly will benefit?'
"Certainly not the people of Northern Ireland and particularly not the communities on the front line in Fermanagh and the North West where drilling could take place."
He added: "Despite the hype, any oil will be sold on the international market and won't have any impact on local prices or fuel security.
"Any profits will bankroll the multinational oil companies and will not be shared with local people.
"Any increase in the supply of fossil fuels will reduce the incentive for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions."