27/06/2013 12:10 BST | Updated 27/08/2013 06:12 BST

There Might Be More Gas Than We Thought But That's No Reason to Burn It


Research on shale gas reserves by the British Geological Survey has bolstered George Osborne's dream of bringing about a new dash for gas in Britain. The survey looked at the amount of gas trapped underneath Lancashire and Yorkshire, and it found lots of the stuff.

The gas, which is trapped so tightly into shale rock that it has to be smashed out by high pressure blasts of chemically infused water (the process known as 'fracking'), might be the stuff of George Osborne's dreams but burning it will be a nightmare for the environment.

Fracking firms like Cuadrilla, and their friends in Government, would have us believe that burning shale gas is 'green'. It isn't. Though gas is less polluting than coal the idea that we can frack our way to environmental sustainability is nonsense. Shale gas is not a renewable resource, and if fracking goes ahead we could be in with the chance of putting our climate change commitments in jeopardy.

But surely, some might say, these environmental risks are worth taking if the cost of heating our homes goes down? Well, according to one senior member of staff at Cuadrilla, the effect of shale gas on our bills will be 'basically insignificant'. Analysts at Deutsche Bank, Ernst and Young and the IEA all say that extracting shale gas in the UK will be trickier (and therefore less cost effective) than in the USA, where fracking has contributed to a drop in the price of energy.

The government is so convinced of the benefits of shale gas, and the public so worried about it, that cash handouts are being offered to communities who are willing to be fracked. Local people will be given up to £100,000 if they let fracking happen in their area and, additionally, a paltry 1% of the revenues made by a well over its lifetime. Fracking firms will also be given generous tax breaks to encourage them to begin fracking. Of course these incentives, whether it be the cash payout to communities who say 'yes' or tax incentives to the fracking companies, come from the pocket of all of us, through our taxes.

Local communities are right to be worried about what the proposed shale gas boom might mean for them. Only this week reports emerged on the contamination of drinking water near fracking sites in Pennsylvania. People are also concerned about the huge amounts of water that is needed for each 'frack'. According to Greenpeace getting 10% of the gas out of the ground could require an amount of water equal to the annual water consumption of 12.4 million UK household.

The fight against fracking has already begun, and campaigns have sprung up all over the country. We need to be investing in clean, green energy from renewable sources. Letting corporations carve up our countryside to blast shale gas out of the ground won't lower bills and could be environmentally disastrous.

In July I'll be touring my constituency showing a new film called Drill Baby Drill. It's an inspirational tale of people standing up to Fracking in Poland and Pennsylvania. Let's hope that here in Britain we can resist attempts to frack in our communities.

Free tickets for the Drill Baby Drill screenings are available at: