Government Overrules British Fracking Ban

(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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U.K. officials approved plans to begin large-scale hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the country despite objections from environmentalists.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid approved fracking plans, proposed by the driller Cuadrilla, in Lancashire. Javid overturned the county’s decision to not allow Cuadrilla to frack in Lancashire in 2015.

This means companies can frack into British shale rock to extract natural gas and oil. Britain had banned fracking in 2011, but nominally lifted the ban the next year. Very little fracking has actually occurred since then because of local opposition to drilling, spurred by environmentalist objections.

“We have been through an exhaustive environmental impact assessment on this,” Francis Egan, CEO of the Cuadrilla, told the British Broadcasting Corporation. “We have assessed everything; noise, traffic, water, emissions, etc. The Environment Agency are entirely comfortable with it.”

Environmental groups are furious with the decision.

“Fracking goes against everything we need to do to tackle climate change,” Pollyanna Steiner, a campaigner for the environmental group Friends of the Earth, told the BBC. “The government must end its fixation with dirty fossil fuels and focus instead on harnessing the UK’s huge renewable energy resource.”

The British Geological Survey has investigated environmentalist claims about fracking since May and found no evidence to substantiate them. Despite these claims, scientific studies have shown that environmental objections to fracking aren’t substantive. Fracking does not contaminate drinking water or cause detectable earthquakes. Fracking has major environmental benefits too, and is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the drop in American carbon dioxide emissions.

Before the ruling, energy analysts said that even in the most favorable circumstances, large scale development of fracking in the U.K was at least five to 10 years away due to legal and regulatory barriers.  Fracking is still banned entirely in Scotland. The British Parliament had already voted last December to allow fracking under the U.K.’s national parks.

Britain 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 1 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 an EIA report.

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