Regulations holding back shale gas exploration, report says
The UK House of Lords economic affairs select committee has suggested that regulatory complexity is holding back shale gas exploration, and urged the government to take a stronger lead if it wants to follow through on its earlier pledge to ‘go all out for shale’.
The report points to the economic benefits of cheap energy from fracking in the US, where ‘investment is rising fast in energy-intensive industries and petrochemicals, since cheap shale gas makes “reshoring” of overseas plants economic’.
The committee attributes hesitation in exploiting the UK’s shale resources to a combination of public concern – which it says is ‘mostly unfounded’ – and a ‘dauntingly complex and untested’ regulatory framework. ‘Industry is uncertain how the rules would apply in practice,’ the report continues, pointing out that the Environment Agency is yet to receive any applications for the relevant permits.
But environmental groups have criticised the report, saying that the committee has ‘cherry picked’ its evidence to support a ‘foregone conclusion’. There is certainly no guarantee that shale gas will provide the same drop in energy prices in the UK as it has in the US, owing to differences in political and physical geography, but the Lords’ argument is that without exploring, we won’t ever find out what the economics might be.