Britain’s shale prospects were dealt another blow today as the Lancashire County Council denied permits for four new exploratory wells in northern England. The NYT reports:
Before the vote, councilors spoke emotionally against the plan, saying that it would mar the landscape, create unacceptable levels of noise and might also saddle the county with pollution problems years down the road. The rejection was greeted with loud applause by shale opponents.
In a statement on Monday, Greenpeace called the decision “a Waterloo for the fracking industry and a triumph for local democracy.” Greenpeace said the decision sent “a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped.”
This decision is the second setback for British fracking in the past week, as last Friday the Lancashire County Council rejected a bid from the same company to drill exploratory wells on a separate site.
Britain has copious amounts of shale gas, and with the new Cameron government seemingly more committed than ever to exploring those reserves, it looked as if the country might be looking to follow in America’s footsteps. But concerns over increased traffic, noise and water pollution, and damage to the bucolic English landscape have dealt a serious blow to hopes for a shale energy renaissance.
Over and over again we’ve seen shale fail abroad as firms and governments find out how difficult it is to imitate the American experience. Britain lacks the mineral rights afforded to property owners here in the U.S., so local landowners have little incentive to cheer the discovery of new oil and gas finds under their property. Many of the American shale discoveries have occurred in areas with low population density, making it easier for fracking firms to negotiate with local communities to commence drilling.
The rest of the world isn’t doing much better in playing catchup on shale. Argentina and China are the only two countries outside of North America producing commercial quantities of shale gas. The EIA reports that “[f]or the last two years, China has drilled more than 200 wells, and Argentina has drilled more than 275 wells,” putting both countries well ahead of non-starters like the UK, but far behind the United States.
Whoever said fracking was easy?