The solution to Britain’s energy problems could well be beneath our feet. On Monday, IGas, one of the leading shale gas explorers, revealed that there may be as much as 172 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the area that it has a license to explore in the North West of England -- equivalent to more than 50 years of UK usage.
Of course, we do not know for sure if this entire amount is either there or fully exploitable, but it is a hopeful sign nonetheless. Cuadrilla, another energy firm, estimates that its license area near Blackpool contains roughly 200 trillion cubic feet.
The only way to exploit all this potential is to drill wells and “frack,” and there the political challenges begin. Fears about the tremors that occurred when Cuadrilla carried out fracking in 2011 -- a study by Durham University found that seismic events caused by fracking are actually “low compared to other manmade triggers” -- led to a damaging one-year moratorium. The Government and the industry have to reassure local communities that concerns will be listened to and that people’s quality of life will not suffer if fracking goes ahead. One solution might be payment to localities affected.
However, the news from IGas brings the hope that shale gas might revolutionize energy production, cut the need for imports and have geopolitical implications similar to the North Sea oil exploration of the late Sixties. It could help consumers, as it has done in the United States, by putting a cap on gas bills, and boost the labor market by creating an estimated 70,000 jobs.
Britain needs to make the most of this golden opportunity; the Chancellor is right to offer tax breaks to companies looking to explore.
We stand on the edge of a potential resource boom, if only we have the courage to exploit it.
The Telegraph, London