Labour to ban fracking if elected

Image credit: Joshua Doubek

Labour will ban fracking in the UK if it wins the next election, shadow energy and climate change secretary Barry Gardiner has said, while the first shipment of US shale gas is about to reach Scotland.

The announcement, made at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, follows Labour’s earlier call for a moratorium on the controversial shale gas extraction technique until it is proven safe. 

"Fracking locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to renewables,” Garinder has said. "The next Labour government will back the clean technologies of the future. We will consult with our colleagues in industry and the trade unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK's low-carbon future." 

In Scotland, a moratorium on fracking has been officially put in place by the Scottish government due to environmental concerns. The technique, which involves pumping liquid under pressure into the ground to crack the rock and release the gas, has been blamed for polluting water resources and triggering minor earthquakes. 

However, the UK government backs the development, believing it will create thousands of jobs and help the UK reduce its reliance on gas imports. 

Labour has never believed the returns from shale gas are likely to be so compelling as to override concerns about fracking for the environment and its impact on local communities. 

Environmental groups have welcomed the Labour announcement but some industry representatives have expressed disagreement. 

“Given we will need gas to heat our homes and power industry, the question is therefore where are we going to get our gas from,” said Gary Smith, the GMB union's Scotland Secretary. 

“We are increasingly going to be dependent on regimes fronted by henchmen, hangmen and headchoppers for the gas we need. That isn't ethical and is surely an abdication of our environmental and moral responsibilities." 

He further said that transporting shale gas from the USA has is likely to have a considerable environmental impact. 

The announcement comes as the first shipment of US shale gas nears the UK shores. The delivery of 27,500 m3 of ethane for chemicals manufacturer Ineos will reach the Grangemouth plant tomorrow. Ineos, which itself has interest in pursuing fracking, invested £1.6bn into the construction of a ‘virtual shale gas pipeline’ between the US, the UK and Norway.

Overall eight tankers will operate on the line, delivering shale gas from US wells to boost petroechemical manufacturing in the UK. Ineos believes shale gas is necessary to replace the dwindling North Sea reserves. 

However, environmentalists point to the massive damage sustained by US communities in the vicinity of fracking operations. "I have witnessed first-hand how the fracking industry has brought permanent damage across the Pennsylvania region, polluted our air, land and water and is destroying our livelihoods,” said Ron Gulla, a former resident of Hickory, Pennsylvania, who signed a lease for fracking on his land in 2002. "Those living near drilling, infrastructure or waste sites have suffered water contamination, spills, wastewater dumping and gas leaks, as well as multiple health impacts.”  

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