The British Are Finally Embracing Hydraulic Fracturing

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Wishing to experience the energy boom shale oil has provided elsewhere, British lawmakers are aiming to loosen their country’s stringent regulations on hydraulic fracturing.

The United Kingdom has not been a welcoming environment for fracking advocates in recent years. Green energy activists and other fracking opponents have relentlessly protested its legality and use. The Scottish government outright banned the practice in 2017 following massive protests. In 2011, an 18-month ban led to what has been a more than six-year hiatus on fracking throughout the entire U.K.

A changing energy landscape in Europe, however, is shifting the debate on shale energy. Following a rollback of restrictions, energy companies are now angling to become the first in the country since 2011 to partake in hydraulic fracturing. (RELATED: Europe On The Verge Of ‘Severe’ Energy Crisis)

In a May 17 note to Parliament, Greg Clark — the British secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy — declared natural gas to be “of national importance.” Clark and another Conservative Party member, James Brokenshire, have submitted plans to streamline the approval process for hydraulic fracturing. The U.K. government will create a new regulatory agency to manage the three existing regulators already overseeing fracking.

The moves could not come at a more opportune time for the U.K.

The country was a net exporter of natural gas at one time, but the nation’s large reserves in the North Sea it has historically depended on are running out. The U.K. now imports 53 percent of its gas. Britain will be importing 72 percent of its gas by 2030, current trends indicate. In fact, this dependence on foreign resources — coupled with a phase out of coal and nuclear — has opened the door for a possible energy crisis.

An energy executive warned on May 16 Britain and other nations in the European Union are at risk of rolling black outs and higher electricity costs unless changes in policy are made. Natural gas is the answer to the continent’s impending woes, Tor Martin Anfinnsen, senior vice president for marketing and trading at Statoil ASA, said.

“It is very difficult to see that there is any other way of fixing that up to 2030 by other means than increasing gas-fired power generation,” Anfinnsen stated at a May 15 conference in Amsterdam. The company he represents is one of the Europe’s biggest gas producers. “Not only through higher utilization of existing capacity but also adding new gas-based generation.”

The U.K has the resources to prosper from natural gas exploration. The British people are sitting atop shale gas deposits that could supply the country for a quarter century, according to The Guardian. Land stretching from Lancashire to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire might contain at least 1,300tn cubic feet of gas, a 2013 report indicated.

A shale oil boom anything similar to what the U.S. has experienced would likely breathe life back into the British economy. The country’s job growth has been at a near standstill, with .1 percent expansion in the first quarter.

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