A major steelworkers union in Britain called Community is backing plans for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” saying the extraction method could boost the steel industry and create thousands of jobs.
Community signed an agreement this weekend with United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) to promote domestic production of oil and gas using fracking. Community was directly associated with the left-wing British Labour Party, which pledges to ban fracking.
“As the union for steelworkers and many other traditional manufacturers, our mission in working with UKOOG is to ensure that UK industry has stable, reliable and affordable energy sources as well as providing job security and maintaining the highest possible levels of health and safety across the sector,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, told the Lancashire Evening Post. “The future development of home-grown oil and gas has the potential to support thousands of jobs through its supply chain, including in the steel industry, as long as it is part of a joined-up industrial strategy for the UK.”
Community suspects that fracking will lower the price of electricity and energy enough to keep the British steel industry competitive globally.
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 anywhere 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.
The U.K. estimates 26 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The U.K. is one of the few countries in Europe in which fracking is legally permitted, but local governments had repeatedly declined to give fracking companies permits for year. The first fracking permits in Western Europe since 2011 were only issued in May.
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.
British environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth gathered more than 186,000 signatures on a petition to ban fracking in the country, citing environmental impact. The groups are using the petition to claim the fracking has no “democratic mandate.”
“Fracking poses risks to people and the environment, and politicians in Westminster shouldn’t force this risky technology on any community,” spokespeople for both groups said in a joint press statement.
The British Geological Survey has been investigating such claims since May and found no evidence to substantiate the more extreme conclusions of anti-fracking groups.
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