After a dismal week for fracking in the UK, the best that can be said for the country’s fledgling shale industry is that it could have been worse. MPs flirted with the idea of a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing before ultimately rejecting it. Now, as the FT reports, the Cameron Administration is agreeing to a baker’s dozen of new conditions needed for operators to get shale operations up and running:
[I]n a heated Commons debate, the government accepted an opposition amendment that will strengthen controls on the industry.Amber Rudd, energy minister, said it would take on board Labour’s proposals, which included tougher environmental monitoring, wider consultation, and a legal compulsion on companies to provide community benefit schemes. Activity in national parks would also be prohibited.
In the wake of disappointing drilling results (and a regulatory scheme that has frustrated interested oil majors) that have stymied Poland’s shale ambitions, the UK has seemed the next likeliest birthplace for shale production in Europe. It has plenty of natural gas trapped in its shale formation and an Administration keen on tapping this unused resource, but local protests and now Parliamentary intervention are dimming Britain’s fracking future.As is the case with any energy source, shale gas entails risks that need to be properly assessed and managed. That being said, America is demonstrating that these risks can be mitigated, and the fruits of fracking’s labor enjoyed. For a nation overseeing such a precipitous decline in production in one of its biggest reserves of domestic energy, you’d think Britain would be more keen to explore all of its options.