The Committee on Climate Change has spoken: let us frack

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have this week given a nod, if a cautious one; to plans to begin fracking for shale gas in the UK. While they stress the need for emissions to be strictly monitored and limited during development, production and even decommission, they have put forth three workable tests to measure the success of the government’s policy in the area.

The report will no doubt be welcomed by campaigners who have long fought for a domestic shale industry. Opposition has to date been fierce, with critics citing environmental concerns in the process of extracting the gas. The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions 57 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels, a popular argument with those that decry fracking. Yet this new publication by the CCC details that even with the most intense of shale infrastructure and production development in the coming years, emissions will only reach around 11 million tonnes of CO2 a year. Whilst this may sound like a lot, it’s only a quarter of what is emitted through our agricultural industry and changes in land use.

Targets such as our 2030 planned emissions reduction figure have been long causing a headache for both the government and producers alike – subsidies have been shown to distort the market while causing problems for the National Grid, and projects such as the recently scrapped taxpayer-backed prototype Carbon Capture and Storage programme only serve to be costly and ineffective. As such, we at the TaxPayers’ Alliance have continuously argued for government to leave energy strategy to the individual market operators, who are much better placed to secure constant supply at affordable prices for their consumers.

We currently import much of our energy. As our needs grow each year as a result of increasing technological dependency and population growth we have to be proactive in sourcing new and diversified forms. Gas is much cleaner than other fossil fuels, emitting a lot less carbon than oil or coal - sources we should be looking to use less of in our national breakdown. Our biggest year-on-year supplier of natural gas is Norway, though since 2005 we have been importing increasingly high quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar. Not only is this expensive and suboptimal from an energy security perspective, it’s also environmentally unfriendly. Shipping vast quantities of super-cooled gas from a country halfway across the world is a highly energy intensive process that has been controversial in its waste of excess gas and volume of emissions. Qatar has been improving their industry, with more efficient shipping and a $1 billion gas capture project, but it still remains a long way from the domestic Lancashire fracking locations still on hold as the County Council continue to stall the project.

Ensuring cheap, reliable energy here in the UK, while leaving the market to do what it does best, should always be a priority for the government. While they still have hurdles to face in beginning domestic shale production, this report from the CCC goes a long way to reassuring sceptics that there is a sensible, affordable and environmentally justifiable way to produce energy locally – something we should all be rallying behind.

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