Shale gas exploration in the UK is a deeply divisive issue with many people in affected local communities campaigning against it and environmental groups arguing that it breaches the Government’s international commitment to cut fossil fuel emissions.
On the other hand, arguments are made that it offers a relatively cheap form of energy that will bring economic development to regions that need this sort of stimulus.
In this context, the decision by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to progress shale gas exploration in an important Lancashire test case has produced the expected split in opinion.
Describing it as an important and positive signal on the UK’s future energy security, the Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Adam Marshall, said: “Tapping domestic energy resources creates both energy security and jobs here at home, and seems a much better alternative to dependence on supplies from overseas.”
Dan Lewis, Senior Adviser on Infrastructure Policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD), also welcomed the decision to give the go-ahead to fracking in Lancashire.
“The potential local supply of natural gas liquids as well as shale gas could be transformative to the future of our regional petrochemical and heavy industries,” he argued.
Mr Lewis praised the patience of the company concerned, Cuadrilla, in navigating what he called the UK’s outdated, multi-layered planning and regulatory system over the last few years.
The GMB union has also backed the move, describing the gas industry as a source of premium, highly skilled jobs.
For Greenpeace, however, the latest decision “makes a mockery out of the Government’s claim to champion local democracy” given the fact that Lancashire County Council was against granting planning permission.
Details of the Council’s position, and the related planning documents, can be found at www.lancashire.gov.uk.