Fracking and Grangemouth

Fracking is back in the news in Scotland because a belt of land covering much of central Scotland the Borders and Fife has been identified by UK ministers as suitable for shale gas exploration.

fracking

This steps up the UK government’s support for shale gas, claiming large-scale production could create thousands of jobs and inject almost £1 billion into local communities.

UK Energy minister Michael Fallon said: “There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won’t know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place. This marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix. It is an exciting prospect which could bring growth, jobs and energy security. But we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment, with robust regulation in place.”

In opposition, Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Communities across Scotland will be alarmed to discover that despite growing evidence about the harmful impacts of unconventional gas drilling and fracking, the UK government is determined to go ahead with plans to squeeze as much as they can out of some of the most populated parts of the country.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman didn’t take a position in principle, but rather focused on regulation, he said: “We strongly endorse the appropriate and robust regulation of drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing [fracking] associated with the extraction of shale gas. The minister for environment and climate change recently announced a strengthening of planning policy in relation to unconventional gas – showing that this government listens to local communities and to those calling for stronger environmental protection.”

Peter Jones writing in the Scotsman was obviously sold on fracking at an energy conference. His case for fracking included the environmental argument that in the USA, “the gas being produced is being used to replace coal in electricity generation”. The problem with this argument is that the now much cheaper coal is being dumped across the world, increasing emissions. Climate change doesn’t recognise national boundaries.

For a more balanced explanation I would recommend Philip Pearson’s view of the DECC study at Touchstone, he says: “the report raises further questions. For example:
• Employment forecasts seemingly based on data provided by prospective companies are not independently verified.
• Climate change effects appear to omit the impact of methane gases released free to air.
• There is no assessment of the energy required to transport, mix, pump, store and clean millions of gallons of waste water.

Another link not really picked up in the media was Ineos boss, Jim Ratcliffe complaining about the strike price for nuclear in England in an interview with the BBC. He also said, “We are having a look at whether we have a part to play in the UK in shale gas exploration”. The link with fracking is that his Grangemouth plant sits right in the middle of the central belt shale gas area. Using this gas would obviate the need to ship in shale gas from the states. We are bound to speculate that his next line will be to threaten (again) that without local gas the plant is no longer ‘viable’.

Central belt residents – you have been warned!

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