Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Fracking in Fermanagh: As for shale gas companies, tell them to frack off

Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Lancashire
Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Lancashire

The process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract shale gas is a contentious issue across the world. The proposal to frack Fermanagh has met with considerable opposition in the local area and across Northern Ireland.

The USA has been voracious in its desire to exploit its shale reserves while countries such as France have actually banned fracking.

The environmental risks of fracking are well established; potential contamination of drinking water and air pollution with the increase of greenhouse gas emissions a certainty if shale gas reserves are exploited.

Those in favour of fracking claim that these are risks worth taking. One of the key claims is that fracking will bring economic benefits such as lower energy prices, but this is an empty promise.

Gas supply in Northern Ireland is connected to the rest of Europe by pipelines. Gas is freely traded in this European market, meaning that the whole continent pays very similar prices. The addition of shale gas extracted from Northern Ireland would be the equivalent of a drop in the ocean in terms of its impact on price.

While political proponents of fracking continue to peddle the myth that it will lead to cheap energy prices, economists such as Lord Stern, former Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, have openly rubbished this claim.  Indeed, the claim is so outrageous that fracking companies such as Cuadrilla and Tamboran are not even repeating it.

Fracking is an enormously energy and capital-intensive industrial process requiring strict oversight. It is not cheap.  The technological knowledge required to frack has been around for decades, however it is only the fact that gas prices have risen to such a degree that fracking has become economically viable.

Alarmingly, some analysts even suggest that the viability of the fracking industry in the UK may actually require gas prices to rise further.

The consultants Wood Mackenzie estimate that in order to develop UK shale reserves, potential operators would need a gas price of $9.68 per million British thermal units (mbtu) for the project to make economic sense. The current price is around $8.69.

The reality is that cheap energy is a thing of the past and anyone promising cheap energy should be treated with great suspicion.

It is time for the development of an alternative energy strategy focused on energy efficiency and clean renewable energy, produced for the common good.

An energy efficiency programme spearheaded by the Green Party on Kirklees Metropolitan Council in England brought free insulation to over 50,000 homes. Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, the Government scrapped the Green New Deal home insulation scheme which over 3 years would have brought in £180m into our local economy and insulated 100,000 homes.

There is no quick fix.  Only a programme to lower energy consumption through energy efficiency schemes and investment in renewable energy technology can meet our long term energy needs.

As for shale gas companies, tell them to frack off.

Further reading

Fracking: DUP clash as debate gets heated 

Flood concern raised over fracking

Leitrim councillors ban fracking

Sinn Fein must ban the threat of fracking now

'Bribe' anger as PM backs fracking

Friends of the Earth warn over fracking in Northern Ireland

Stormont row on the cards over fracking in Northern Ireland

Split over fracking grows: New environment minister resists pleas of PM and DUP 

Letter: Flooding raises threat levels around fracking

Hynde daughter on frack demo charge

Fresh row as shale roadmap revealed

Council seeks a ban on fracking

Stormont row on the cards over fracking in Northern Ireland

Caroline Lucas: Why I risked arrest to protest against fracking

George Osborne slashes taxes on fracking profits

Fracking 'could hit Fermanagh's fish stocks'

Blackpool earthquakes 'were due to fracking'

Fracking could unleash a host of new horrors

Fracking criticised over pollution and health risks

Poisoning link threatens future of fracking

Gas fracking is put on hold by Northern Ireland Assembly

Gas fracking company: We caused 50 tremors in England – but we're not going to stop

'Fracking' blamed for UK quakes

 

Oscar-nominated Gasland: documentary about fracking in the US

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