Britain is the latest battleground where advocates and opponents of fracking are arguing over the controversial method of extracting oil and gas from shale. The British Geological Survey doubled its estimates of the country’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves earlier this summer. Green activists have stalled exploratory drilling in the tiny village of Balcombe, prompting a national debate over what, exactly, the UK ought to do with its gas. British Prime Minister David Cameron has entered the fray, hailing the resource as a boon to his country’s economy and energy security.
The case for fracking got a boost this week, as the offshore drilling industry group Oil and Gas UK announced that British oil production in the North Sea fell by almost 22 percent this year. Output has fallen every year since 1999, and the decline is expected to continue. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The recent decline in production efficiency, or the ratio of actual production to the maximum potential, has resulted from deteriorating reliability with extended maintenance shutdowns, compounded by several major production outages, said the report….
One of the biggest problems is the aging infrastructure: gas has been produced off the coast of the U.K. since the late 1960s and oil since the 1970s.
The country’s oil and gas industry is extremely important to the overall health of the British economy, and supports roughly 450,000 jobs. But most of the easy stuff has been drilled, and are now every barrel requires more work and expense.
In this context, it makes even less sense to spurn a new source of energy. The situation in Balcombe has gotten so heated that at this point Cameron might be best served ordering a strategic retreat to a more remote location to drill exploratory wells. But kowtowing to the emotional pleas of greens anxious about the opening up of a new fossil fuel resource—despite the fact that shale gas is green—would unnecessarily threaten the UK’s economic recovery and energy security. Declining offshore production will still be a problem, but shale gas can be part of a solution.
[Oil rig image courtesy of Shutterstock]