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Minister makes cautious case for fracking

09 September 2013

Ed Davey today made the case for shale gas to be part of the UK energy mix, while recognising potential environmental risks.  The Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) told an audience at the Royal Society that “Shale gas production can and must be used to transition to a low carbon future”, but went on to caution that “shale gas is no quick fix and no silver bullet”.

Ed Davey's speech on the Myths and Realities of Shale Gas Exploration (1hr 25 mins, requires Flash Player).

In his speech, Davey questioned much of the hype in the public debate on fracking, stating that those who depict shale gas as a sole answer to the UK’s energy problems or as ‘a great evil’ are ‘just plain wrong’.  He spoke of his three equal and overarching objectives of keeping the lights on, protecting the planet and helping the economy.

He said: “So it’s in the national interest to move on from the arguments of zealots and vested interests, and start a debate about how best to proceed safely with shale gas exploration, where we maximise the real positive benefits and minimise the inevitable negative impacts.”

The speech drew on a report by Professor Dave Mackay FRS, Chief Scientific Advisor at DECC that was published today. The report looks at the carbon footprint of UK produced shale gas.  It identifies the clearest risk as the potential for new shale gas reserves to be seen as an addition to existing fossil fuel resources rather than as an alternative to the most damaging fuels such as coal.

Last year the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering published Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing. The report, which examined the risks from seismicity and groundwater contamination, concluded that the risks can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.