The Lords Economic Affairs Committee has backed the Government's push to develop shale resources in the UK

Shale revolution backed by Lords committee

Developing shale resources should be "an urgent national priority" for the UK to deliver energy security, jobs and help cut emissions.

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee backed the Government's decision to go "all out for shale" but said ministers also needed to do more to drive forward exploratory drilling and appraisal of shale resources to see how much could be developed economically.

Complex regulation governing fracking should be streamlined, the peers said in their report. Since a moratorium was lifted on fracking in 2012 the Environment Agency has not received or approved a single application for the permits needed for drilling.

"The Committee strongly supports the Government's decision to go 'all out for shale'. But here in the UK we have not yet left the starting gate. Developing a successful shale gas and oil industry in the UK must be an urgent national priority,” said chairman Lord MacGregor.

"Potentially it's a remarkable opportunity for this country. We're calling for streamlining not weakening the regulation and we believe the Government needs to get its act together faster and more comprehensively."

Shale gas extraction and use produces around half the emissions of coal and is less polluting than imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), so could make a positive contribution to the UK's commitment to tackle climate change, the report suggested.

And the committee said the successful development of shale gas and oil in the UK could reduce the country's reliance on energy imports from places such as Russia as well as provide jobs, bring back energy intensive industries which had been driven abroad by high energy prices in the UK, and "dampen" expected gas price rises.

Dan Lewis, senior energy policy adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: "Producing shale gas in the UK can improve energy security, reduce our gas imports and boost a manufacturing and industrial revival. Furthermore, by helping us to shut down dirty coal plants the industry can act as a bridge to renewable technologies.

"As the IoD found in its report on shale last year, there are still significant barriers facing the industry. It is vital the proper regulation is put in place to make drilling safe and address the public's fears, but we agree with the Committee that the rules are currently much too complex, involving many government departments and agencies.

“There should be clear processes for getting planning permission and a rigorous inspection regime, but unnecessary bureaucracy will just delay investment and the creation of jobs. We urge the Government to move quickly to implement the committee's recommendations."

The report said public concerns over issues such as the impact of shale extraction on water resources should be taken seriously, but could be addressed through proper regulation.

The peers also backed moves by the Government to change trespass laws so that shale companies could drill under people's property without their permission to ensure development could go ahead "without undue delay or cost" even though a recent poll showed 74 per cent of people opposed these plans.

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: "On one page the Lords are saying public concerns should be taken seriously, on the other they urge the government to strip people of their right to say no to fracking firms planning to drill under their homes – a move opposed by three-quarters of British people."

The report from the committee also proposes a new Cabinet committee, headed up by the Chancellor, to drive forward the Government's bid to go all out for shale.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "This report sets out that shale gas development has huge potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, investment and jobs. We welcome the committee's conclusion that risks to health and the environment are low if shale development is properly regulated."

But he added: "This Government has made great progress creating a tax regime and simplifying regulation in a way that fosters the UK's emerging shale gas industry and protects the public. It's now up to operators to seize these opportunities and step up the search for shale."

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