David Cameron has been roundly criticised by campaigners for his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday morning, in which he urged the EU to support the shale gas industry.
The prime minister said that fracking was already “flooring” energy prices in the US, and could be a “fresh driver” of growth in the UK.
“If this is done properly, shale gas can actually have lower emissions than imported gas”, he claimed.
However, environmentalists have cast doubts on all of the supposed benefits of encouraging a shale gas boom in the UK.
“[Cameron’s] comments at Davos are not supported by a single serious person inside or outside the industry. Even Lord Browne, chairman of the biggest UK fracking company, said it will make not make a jot of difference to energy prices”, said Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven.
“Yet again the prime minister has turned a blind eye to expert advice on the impacts of UK shale gas”, added Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton.
The government’s own studies have suggested that instigating a fracking boom would have little impact on the UK’s carbon emissions, and if anything, may cause them to increase depending on which kind of imported gas it replaces.
The climate campaign group 350.org, which yesterday appealed to attendees of Davos to take the opportunity to discuss the risks of carbon investments, said Cameron “has chosen to support the wrong side”.
“The UK’s blatant support of shale gas exploration directly undermines global efforts to hold-off dangerous climate change”, a spokesperson told Blue & Green Tomorrow.
“Instead, the UK, and the EU at large, needs to decarbonise and support investment and jobs in clean energy while adding momentum to international climate negotiations for a global treaty due in 2015.”
The controversial process of fracking works by blasting rocks with water and chemicals, which then fracture the rocks and release the natural gas contained within them. It has been linked to water contamination, methane leakage and increased risk of earthquakes.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Total will become the first major oil company to invest in the UK’s shale gas industry in a move welcomed by the government.
The House of Lords announced on Friday that the economic affairs committee would be taking evidence from environment secretary Owen Paterson and Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster on the potential economic impacts of bringing the shale gas industry to the UK.
The evidence session, which will be open to the public, will start at 4pm on Tuesday January 28.