Frack­ing debate fires up

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THE rare ad­mis­sion by the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity that it was wrong to ban a Green­peace ad­vert last year, which rightly claimed that frack­ing would not cut house­hold en­ergy bills—and its con­demn­ing of a Friends of the Earth leaflet that made un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims about the im­pact of the process on health, wa­ter sup­plies and house prices—re­minded COUN­TRY LIFE that all had gone rather quiet on the frack­ing front in re­cent months.

That was un­til last week, when a tanker car­ry­ing the first ship­ment of shale gas from Amer­ica ar­rived with aplomb in Scot­land, where there is a mora­to­rium on frack­ing. Less than 24 hours ear­lier, the Labour party had vowed to ban frack­ing should it come to power. And thus, the to-frackor-not-to-frack debate was reignited.

The ar­rival of the tanker—and its 27,500m3 of Penn­syl­va­nia eth­ane, set to re­place the dwin­dling sup­plies from North Sea re­serves—marks the first fruit of a $2 bil­lion in­vest­ment for chem­i­cal gi­ant Ineos. The com­pany came un­der fire ear­lier this year for its plans to dump treated waste­water into the sea.

Last year, Ineos promised the UK a ‘shale­gas rev­o­lu­tion’ and has now an­nounced that it hopes to sub­mit five plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions be­fore the year is out and a fur­ther 25 within the next 12 months. Its bil­lion­aire founder, Jim Ratcliffe, would like Ineos to play a lead­ing role if frack­ing takes off in the UK; the land over which it holds li­cences amounts to more than a mil­lion acres, nearly twice the area of the York­shire Dales Na­tional Park.

Three years ago, David Cameron de­clared that the UK would go ‘all out for shale’ and Cuadrilla’s chief ex­ec­u­tive pre­dicted that shale gas could be in do­mes­tic use here by 2016. How­ever, no shale-gas wells have been drilled this year, nor will they be, ac­cord­ing to the in­dus­try trade body.

As we go to press, the Govern­ment has not yet an­nounced whether it will ac­cept Cuadrilla’s con­tro­ver­sial ap­peal against Lan­cashire County Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to turn down its ap­pli­ca­tion last year. If Com­mu­ni­ties Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid gives the green light, drilling could start as early as April 2017 on the two Fylde sites and a raft of other ap­provals could fol­low.

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