Belfast Telegraph

Fight against fracking is real waste of energy

By Liam Clarke

Why do politicians continue to hold their nose on fracking? We live on a fairly cold, offshore island which has energy prices that are regularly among the highest in Europe and we depend overwhelmingly on imported fossil fuels.

Fuel costs are a major cause of poverty to our population, especially the old, and a major disincentive to industrial investment. It takes £80 to fill a family car in a country where, thanks to our scattered population and patchy public transport system, road journeys are often unavoidable.

We are suffering and our energy supply is not secure - we depend overwhelmingly on imported hydrocarbons from unstable areas of the globe.

Even if supply isn't cut, global competition for these diminishing resources is likely to drive prices even higher over the next decade and through the roof after that as oil starts to run out.

In this context, the prospect of enough locally available gas to provide us with power for 50 years, maybe even an energy exporter, is surely a gift-horse we can't afford to look in the mouth.

True, there are environmental concerns, but this is a process that has been around since the 1940s and all the signs are that the risks are easily manageable.

Fracking is being heavily promoted in the US by President Obama, who has strong Green credentials.

There they are liquefying the stuff and exporting it. Here, leading politicians reacted with something close to fury at a report which concluded that there was little real earthquake risk and gave the go-ahead to continued extraction in Lancashire.

Alex Attwood, the Environment Minister, stated: "The right approach is to ask do we want to, or need to, extract the gas and can it be done safely?"

No one could quibble with the second part of his question, but can he seriously doubt our requirement for gas?

We need a secure and affordable energy supply desperately.

The task of politicians should be to ensure that it is obtained as safely as it is elsewhere. There is no point in questioning whether we need it or not.

Many people correctly argue that we should exploit renewables sources, like wind, wave and solar power, but this isn't an either/or situation.

We need both sources, because the availability of renewable power depends on the weather and does not coincide with our needs as consumers.

Our winters, for instance, can often be cold, but not particularly windy.

Wave power has great potential; it is more predictable, but is still cyclical and needs to be stored for times of peak demand.

The only way to do so is to use off-peak power to pump water up a hill and let it run down again to turn turbines when it is needed.

On the most optimistic assessment, we will need generated power to help us even out the supply bumps which are part and parcel of renewable energy.

Unless there is a cross-border decision to use the uranium deposits in Co Donegal to generate nuclear power, shale gas is all we have.

Politicians should be trying to find a way to make it work.

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