7 September 2022

Britain is in the grip of an energy crisis – so let’s get fracking

By Charles McAllister & Steve Baker MP

With the cost-of-living crisis hitting families across the country hard, it is absurd that we continue to import gas from other countries thousands of miles away while ignoring the gas we have under our feet. 

We know that we will continue to use gas for decades. The independent Climate Change Committee have been clear that we will need gas as part of our transition to Net Zero. Had the Government not banned fracking in 2019, the industry could have been warming UK homes with UK shale gas this winter while helping to reduce the large increases in energy bills we are all experiencing.

The current energy crisis has made it clear that our domestic energy supply is in a perilous position. Two decades ago, the UK was a net exporter of energy and yet last year the UK produced the least amount of energy in over 50 years, with a 57% gas import dependency. By the 2030s our natural gas import dependency could be as high as 80%. 

If we were to lift the ban on fracking and provide the right policy support, UK shale gas companies could have initial gas production within 12 to 18 months. This has the potential to drive billions in investment into the north of England, creating tens of thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs, as well as billions in tax revenue and community benefits to local people for decades. The potential benefits for the Government’s levelling up agenda are enormous.

What’s more, shale gas companies have committed to sharing the revenue from production sites with local people. Polling showed that most people in the north of England would back fracking in their local area if they received 25% off their annual energy bill, which the community benefits offer can deliver. 

A continuation of the ‘fingers crossed’ approach to our natural gas supply poses unacceptable geopolitical, environmental, and economic risks to UK households and businesses.

If the UK doesn’t boost its gas production from the enormous Bowland Shale Formation, we will lock ourselves into reliance on more polluting and more expensive gas imports for decades. We will be heavily reliant on liquefied natural gas (LNG), shipped to the UK from Qatar, Peru and the USA to meet our demand, with a carbon footprint four times that of UK shale at the point of delivery. To attract LNG, we must send up high price signals to outbid the 42 other countries which import it, with a potential gas import bill of £1tn by 2050. Lifting the shale gas moratorium would not only reduce the public’s energy costs, but it would also help to reduce our carbon footprint.

It is also important to recognise that the side-effects of fracking have been massively exaggerated by extremists who have been inflexible, dogmatic, hasty and naïve about geopolitical realities. Their actions have influenced Government policy despite the ‘dangers’ they present having no basis in fact or reality. 

The moratorium imposed on fracking in 2019 was based on a report in which the largest event registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, the equivalent of dropping a honeydew melon in your kitchen. If fracking is considered unsafe, then so are many everyday industries, such as housebuilding. The shale gas industry is asking for nothing more than equivalent regulation to other industries.

Government policy must be focused on ensuring UK shale gas is delivered in a timely manner. Liz Truss needs to act quickly to take advantage of the resources we have under our feet to achieve our energy security and allow us all to reap the benefits that will come with it.

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Charles McAllister is Director of Policy, Government and Public Affairs at UK Onshore Oil and Gas.
Steve Baker is Conservative MP for Wycombe.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.