The UK has a legal commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The Government’s position is that Britain will continue to need gas as part of a diverse energy mix, along with renewable sources.
DECC says that UK shale gas would have a lower carbon footprint than the imported liquefied natural gas it would replace, and a carbon footprint around half as large as that of coal.1
Investment in shale gas does not necessarily come at the expense of investment in renewable energy and it’s not just a case of one or the other. Stephen Tindale, the former director of Greenpeace said in May 2014 that climate campaigners should support fracking for shale gas. He says that the reason for this is that the use of shale gas would enable the UK to reduce the burning of coal.2
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 3 5th Assessment Report, published in April 2014 said that avoiding climate change will mean reducing coal use before reducing the use of gas. This is because generating electricity from gas produces about half of the emissions than generating electricity from coal. However, they concluded more research needs to be done on methane released into the atmosphere during shale gas extraction3.
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change, which advises the Government on meeting the country’s carbon reduction targets, has concluded:
“UK shale gas production would reduce our dependence on imports and help to meet the UK’s continued gas demand, for example in industry and for heat in buildings, even as we reduce consumption by improving energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon technologies.”4
Professor Richard Selley from Imperial College London said: “The Government’s energy policy is to solve the ‘Trilemma’ for providing energy that is economic, that does least damage to the environment, and whose source is secure. It supports hydraulic fracturing for shale gas as part of a balanced mix of diverse energy sources, including nuclear and renewables. All 3 major parties support this solution to the energy trilemma.”