The great rush: Government to give green light to mass exploration for shale gas

‘Fracking’ exploration could affect 60 per cent of UK, despite safety fears

The Independent, By Oliver Wright, December 1

More than 60 per cent of the British countryside could be exploited for shale gas, government documents show, as ministers prepare to give the go-ahead for developing the country’s most significant new energy source since North Sea oil.

The Independent understands that Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, will soon end the current moratorium on shale gas production, which was put in place after fracking caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011.

His decision will pave the way for a significant increase in shale gas exploration. The Chancellor, George Osborne, is also expected to announce the creation of a new Office for Shale Gas to co-ordinate and speed up production as part of his autumn statement next week. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the use of pressurised liquid to propagate fractures in rock and release natural gas.


A briefing on a proposed environmental risk assessment of fracking by the Environment Agency notes that the project must be completed quickly to allow the industry to develop.

“Government policy is clear, it wants the industry to develop. However, the main barrier is the public perception of the risk it poses to the environment,” the Environment Agency’s adviser on climate change, Martin Diaper writes.

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  • Gas strategy should be ‘plan Z’, government’s climate adviser warns

    Chief executive of Committee on Climate Change says dash for gas is ‘completely incompatible’ with UK carbon targets

    The Guardian, By Damian Carrington and John Vidal, December 4

    George Osborne’s dash for gas is “completely incompatible” with the nation’s legally binding carbon emissions targets and should be “plan Z”, according to the government’s official climate advisers.

    The gas strategy, due to be published alongside the chancellor’s autumn statement on Wednesday, envisages far more gas power stations than the limit recommended by the energy secretary, Ed Davey.

    Osborne’s strategy plans for as much as 37GW of new electricity capacity from gas-powered stations, equivalent to more than 40 new plants and half the UK’s entire current electricity generating capacity.

    This scenario “would not be economically sensible” and was “completely incompatible” with climate change targets, said David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, which is charged with charting the lowest cost, lowest risk path to a low carbon economy.

  • Gas strategy unveiled by George Osborne

    Chancellor announces controversial ‘dash for gas’ plans that include tax incentives for shale production.

    The Guardian, By Terry Macalister, December 5

    George Osborne on Wednesday fired the starting gun on a new “dash for gas” that will partly use tax breaks for shale production, though the government admitted it did not know whether future gas prices would rise or fall.

    The chancellor used the autumn statement [PDF] on the country’s finances to unveil a long-awaited but highly controversial gas generation strategy [PDF] that critics believe will lock Britain in to a high-carbon future.

    “We are consulting on new tax incentives for shale gas and announcing the creation of a single office for unconventional gas so that regulation is safe but simple,” Osborne told the House of Commons.

    With his more carbon-conscious energy secretary, Ed Davey, at climate change talks in Doha, Osborne said Britain should not miss out on the opportunities being enjoyed in the US where gas prices have plunged due to shale gas produced by horizontal drilling and “fracking”, where toxic chemicals are used to break up rock formations.

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