UK Approves First Fracking Permit In Western Europe Since 2011

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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An English local government approved the first hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, permit for natural gas Monday. This is the first permit to frack for shale gas in Western Europe since 2011.

The U.K. is one of the few countries in Europe in which fracking is legally permitted, but local governments have repeatedly declined to give fracking companies permits.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is eager to replicate the American fracking boom in hopes of reducing Britain’s reliance on imported gas and to pocket potentially enormous economic benefits. Energy analysts say that even in the most favorable circumstances, large scale development of fracking in the U.K is at least five to 10 years away due to legal and regulatory barriers.

The U.K has an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Energy consulting groups estimate that fracking in Great Britain will create 74,000 new jobs and safeguard another 100,000. Fracking for oil has the potential to generate from $10 billion to $74.6 billion for the British economy and $26 billion in new tax revenue for the British government, according to the studies. Research estimates that fracking could offer up to $16.5 million in benefits to local governments and communities per fracking site.

Fracking in the U.S. supported more than 2.1 million jobs in 2012 and is projected to support 3.9 million jobs by 2025, according to a study by the data analysis firm IHS. The study also found fracking created $284 billion in annual economic activity in 2012 and is projected to create $533 billion by 2025, increasing government tax revenue by an estimated $1.6 trillion. American budgets at the federal level will see an extra one percent in revenue annually by 2020 due to fracking, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Falling energy prices caused by fracking have saved the average American household $747.30 each year since 2008, according to a report published earlier this month by the EIA.

Despite the benefits to the planet, environmental groups are already furious with the local government’s decision. The U.K. government’s commitment to fracking “is completely incompatible with tackling climate change and the agreement reached in Paris,” Rose Dickinson of Friends of the Earth told ABC News.

Studies have shown that major environmental objections to fracking aren’t substantive. Fracking does not contaminate drinking water or even cause detectable earthquakes. Fracking has major environmental benefits too, and is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the drop in American carbon dioxide emissions.

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