Fracking and shale gas - no answer to climate change
17 April 2012
Today’s new report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change is all about minimising the risks of seismic tremors caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of rocks to extract shale gas. But we believe the whole idea of large-scale shale gas extraction is completely incompatible with the urgent issue of tackling climate change.
We’re against the use of fracking to extract shale gas - or any other ‘unconventional’ fuels - from the ground. (You can have your own say on today’s recommendations on the DECC website.) The issue of earth tremors is an admittedly worrying distraction. The real concern is the use of fossil fuels.
According to recent research from the International Energy Agency, there’s enough ‘conventional’ gas available in the world to last 120 years, at today’s consumption rates. It’s estimated there’s about another 250 years-worth of ‘unconventional gas’ (like shale gas) that could be added to that.
But here’s our point: just because this gas is ‘available’, doesn’t mean we need to use it all. There are much better and more sustainable alternatives. As the old saying goes, the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.
Gas is far from being a clean green energy source. As Jenny Banks from our energy team points out: “The idea that gas is the solution to climate change is a myth put out by vested interests.
“The fact is, if we replaced all the coal used in power generation with ‘cleaner’ gas, greenhouse gas emission levels would still be six times too high.
The IEA report agrees that if we want to keep global temperature rise below 2˚C, “An increased share of natural gas in the global energy mix is far from enough” and would, in fact lead to 3.5 degrees of warming.
The UK government says it intends to launch a gas generation strategy in autumn 2012, focusing on security of supply. We believe the scope of this strategy should be widened to include details of exactly how an increasing shift towards gas won’t scupper efforts to meet the UK’s Climate Change Act emissions reduction targets.
The Committee on Climate Change, which advises government on its legal climate commitments, has recommended that the UK power sector must be almost fully decarbonised by 2030. How does that square with the government’s recent raft of concessions to the gas industry, including a guarantee that emissions from gas will not be curbed before 2045?
Jenny Banks sums it up: “Government thinking at the moment is apparently that we should get every last drop of fossil fuel out the ground. It’s ludicrous to think this is compatible with addressing climate change.
"Clearly, reducing emissions means we have to leave shale gas and other unconventional fuels in the ground.”
Find out how you can help us support clean sustainable energy
Read and contribute to the new DECC report on shale gas and fracking