Frack Baby Frack
Is Britain Ready to Tackle Shale Now?

David Cameron’s new Conservative government is looking to succeed where Britain has so far failed, angling to tap the country’s prodigious shale gas reserves. Reuters reports that the PM is hoping to follow the U.S.’ example, going “‘all out for shale'”:

His Conservative party’s decisive election win on May 7 and the appointment of shale supporter Amber Rudd as energy minister indicates the government will now try to speed up exploration.

“I support it because I think we can do it in a way that is safe and secure and is going to continue to support reducing energy prices,” Rudd told her constituents in the town of Hastings, southern England last month […]

Energy and planning lawyers recommend the government give shale gas fields the status of a ‘nationally significant infrastructure project’, which would allow Rudd, rather than local councillors, to approve planning permits.

America’s shale success story has been so far devilishly difficult to replicate abroad. Here in the U.S., a unique combination of factors, including landowners’ mineral rights, a deep pool of investors, an already established drilling services industry, favorable geology, ready access to water, relatively unpopulated shale basins, and fewer regulatory snafus all helped to kick-start this energy revolution. Britain lacks a number of those variables. The country’s shale momentum looked to be building in recent years, but permitting quagmires have so far kept operators from drilling. And hydraulically fracturing also fractures public opinion. Staunch local protesting has stymied attempts to get the UK following the American example.

But a favorable Cameron government could be the kick in the pants the fledgling industry needs. One option for expediting this process for the new government, mentioned above, is to consolidate control over fracking permits at the national level. Given the rapid decline in North Sea output, the timing for such a positive domestic energy development couldn’t be better.

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