'Fracking' for shale oil could drive down global price

14 February 2013
By Edward Gent
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Shale oil could drive down prices of the commodity through the controversial

Shale oil could drive down prices of the commodity through the controversial "fracking" process

Global oil prices could be driven down by using the controversial technique of “fracking” to tap shale oil reserves, a report suggested today.

Shale oil, thought to be widely distributed around the world, can be exploited in the same way as shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure liquid to split rock and extract the fossil fuels. Consultancy firm PwC says it has the potential to reach up to 12 per cent of total oil production.

The extra supply could reduce prices by 25 to 40 per cent in 2035 compared to what they would otherwise be. The report also suggests reduction in global oil prices could boost output in many countries, including in the UK, where GDP would be 2 to 3.3 per cent higher in 2035 as a result of the lower prices.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC and the report's co-author, said: "Lower global oil prices due to increased shale oil supply could have a major impact on the future evolution of the world economy by allowing more output to be produced at the same cost.

"These effects could build up gradually as shale oil production rolls out across the world to produce an estimated rise in global GDP of around 2.3 to 3.7 per cent in 2035.

"This would be roughly equivalent to adding an economy the size of the UK to total global GDP in that year."

But environmental campaigners warned the impact of failing to tackle climate change and move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy would hit the economy, with the costs of rising temperatures outweighing any benefits of shale oil.

The arrival of shale gas exploration in the UK has prompted dismay among campaigners who fear operations could pollute water supplies, cause tremors and lead to damaging development of drilling well sites in the countryside.

Dr Doug Parr of Greenpeace said: "Digging up and burning new reserves of fossil fuels can only exacerbate the huge negative impact on the global economy of climate change.

"As Lord Stern, a former World Bank chief economist calculated, the economic impact of global warming could be similar to that of a world war.

"Any short-term price gains for consumers will ultimately be dwarfed by the impact of rising temperatures on every aspect of economic life. We have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and instead invest in the clean alternatives."

And Friends of the Earth's senior energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "Fracking, whether for oil or gas, is a technology which brings huge risks for our environment and health; a gamble we simply don't need to take.

"If we're to avoid the looming spectre of catastrophic climate change we must urgently switch from fossil fuels to a power system based on slashing waste and getting clean British energy from the wind, waves and sun."

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