Recently a number of people have written to UKIP raising concerns about shale gas. I have replied in the following terms:
Thank you for writing to us about shale gas. I can well understand your concerns, given the torrent of negative stories from “green” groups. You may like to know that you are helping to fund these groups, via the European Commission. Many commentators also believe that Russia has a hand in promoting anti-shale-gas campaigns – they are fearful of losing Gazprom’s lucrative export markets.
But there is another side to the story. As Energy Spokesman for UKIP, I have taken the trouble to go to the USA and look at shale gas first hand, in Pennsylvania and in Texas. In the small town of Mansfield PA, on the great Marcellus shale field, I found local residents delighted by the economic resurgence, based on the new shale industry, in their previously declining town. New businesses, new shops and restaurants and hotels, and house prices boosted by increased demand.
What I did not find was people complaining about pollution, or earth tremors, or any other problems. Admittedly during the drilling phase – several months – a new shale well means a football-pitch-sized area of industrial activity. But when drilling is complete, the landscape is reinstated, and the remaining well which goes on producing for two or three decades is no more intrusive than a garden shed – far less intrusive and disturbing than a wind farm.
More generally, America is enjoying an industrial renaissance based on shale gas. Businesses that were off-shored to Asia are coming home. There are more jobs, more prosperity, more energy security, industry is more competitive on the back of lower energy prices, the balance of payments is improved. It would be utterly irresponsible for politicians to ignore this huge opportunity.
These are vast benefits, and they stand in stark contrast to Europe, where energy prices are far too high, jobs and investment are moving abroad, and we depend on insecure energy sources like Russia.
We hear about methane in tap water. But the USA experienced methane in tap water long before fracking. It comes from the natural decay of plant material in the soil. There has never been a case of fracking per se leading to pollution. There have been a few cases of pollution from cracked piping. But occasional minor issues occur in any energy industry. Seismic events resulting from fracking are very small – less than those associated with coal mining, for example.
Indeed shale gas is much cleaner, safer and less intrusive than coal mining. Across Britain, communities regret the loss of the coal mines. They should be delighted to have a new technology that offers similar economic benefits, without requiring hundreds of men to spend decades underground acquiring respiratory diseases. Gas also burns cleaner than coal.
If we had seen the same sort of protests against the nascent coal industry in the eighteenth century that we see today against shale gas, the Industrial Revolution might never have happened.
Some people say we need more time to see evidence of safety – but they’ve been fracking in the USA for fifty years with no major problems. We’ve even had fracking sites in the UK for a couple of decades, and they were so problem-free that local people hardly knew they were there.
The industry has made great strides in improving well integrity, reducing water use and recycling more water, and reducing the use of chemicals in fracking fluid. Fracking fluid now consists of water, sand, detergent, and other perfectly safe chemicals which can typically be found around the home in toiletries and cleaning products. The concerns raised by protesters really relate to an earlier period.
For more technical background on safety questions related to shale gas, please visit
Please do stand back and take a new look at the opportunity represented by shale gas. Don’t be taken in by the black propaganda of “green” campaigners. These people aren’t “Friends of the Earth” – they’re enemies of the people.