Fracking debate fires up
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.