*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Paul Vallely: Fracking will not solve the energy crisis

18 March 2022

Short-term gains would be offset by long-term pain, warns Paul Vallely

Alamy

The Cuadrilla fracking site in Blackpool, Lancashire

The Cuadrilla fracking site in Blackpool, Lancashire

IS FRACKING back on the Government’s agenda as it seeks ways to reduce Vladimir Putin’s ability to exploit Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas? Tory newspapers have suggested as much, despite Downing Street denials. Yet Boris Johnson remained curiously silent on the matter in a long newspaper article on energy security.

You could be forgiven for not knowing this. The article by the Prime Minister appeared in The Daily Telegraph, but non-subscribers were blocked from reading it by a paywall — a fact that gives new meaning to the idea of Cash for Access.

A curious coalition of climate sceptics is behind this new development. The former Brexit minister Lord Frost penned an article in The Sun last week lamenting that “Vladimir Putin’s unjust and evil war on Ukraine has finally reminded everyone” that our “energy supplies are at the mercy of a dictator”.

But, here’s the answer, the noble lord helpfully suggested: we should bring back fracking, which could provide us with “a competitive and reliable source of energy”, as it does for the United States. There is enough shale gas under Yorkshire and Lancashire, he claimed, to last for 50 years.

There are a few problems with this idea. In Lancashire, where a moratorium was imposed on fracking in 2019 after it caused two minor earthquakes, locals are clear about the downside: earth tremors, damage to property, chemical pollution of groundwater, and a negative effect on house prices.

We could, of course, simply set aside the concerns of a bunch of northerners. But there are other problems. The man who was behind the drilling in Lancashire, Iain Conn, a former chief executive of Centrica, says that the quality of our shale is not as good as America’s. Nor is it possible to drill enough wells to be able to make a material difference to the UK’s supplies.

So, who is pushing the bogus idea that fracking is the way to drive down rising energy prices, which look set to cause grief for millions of poorer households?

Step forward the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, the Orwellian name of a collection of about 20 hardline Brexiteer MPs, unelected peers, climate-change deniers, and Nigel Farage. Among those who appear to have discovered suddenly a passion for poverty alleviation is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and co-founder of Somerset Capital Management LLP, which has millions invested in oil and coal-mining, and traded shares in a firm that was fined more than £1 billion for its part in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The truth is that bringing back fracking would do little to assist the millions struggling to pay their bills. Gas produced in Britain would be sold on global markets at the global price. But it would be good for the profits of fossil-fuel companies and those who invest in them. And, if fracking were to go wrong, the costs of clearing up, possibly in the billions, would, no doubt, fall upon the taxpayer.

Opportunities do arise, thanks to the current energy crisis. But they are to accelerate clean renewable energy. Fracking would be short-term gain for long-term pain. The Prime Minister should resist the siren voices coming from the right of his party and beyond.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available

 

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)