The UK Energy and Climate Change Committee has stated that shale gas will not be a "game changer" in the future of UK energy, but they are wrong; it will be. The recent British Geological Survey report pointed to 1,300 trillion cubic feet of reserves, twice previous estimates. A recent study by the Institute of Directors found that the shale gas industry could generate 74,000 jobs and could supply up to half the country’s gas needs by 2030. Furthermore it could also trigger an investment boom worth £3.7 billion a year. Given the location of most of the reserves, it could also be hugely beneficial in reducing the north-south economic divide.
Shale gas reserves in North America can provide gas security to US and Canada for the next 100 years. Shale gas released by 'fracking' has brought energy prices tumbling and helped trigger an economic upswing in the US, and is helping the US to become a net exporter of energy in the future.
Since gas puts out half the CO2 of coal, the switch to gas from coal-fired power stations is enabling the US to cut its emissions. The UK achieved similar results when it began switching from coal to North Sea gas, until this was halted under Labour. Shale gas is arriving just as North Sea supplies diminish.
Environmentalists have mounted a massive campaign against shale gas because they favour the vastly more expensive renewables. Shale gas is indeed a fossil fuel, but is a relatively clean one in abundant supply. Despite scare campaigns alleging water pollution, the US Department of Energy's latest report, based on a year's monitoring of fracking in Pennsylvania, found no pollution of water supplies or groundwater. And the earth tremors claimed by environmentalists are debatable, but even if true are so minor that they are roughly on the level of a bus passing in the street.
Shale will have geopolitical effects, reducing the West's reliance on energy from potentially unstable sources such as the Middle East and Russia. Saudi Prince Alwaleed warned his country last week to diversify its economy in the face of a falling demand for its oil as the shale revolution develops. Shale offers us secure energy supplies as well as lower costs for our industry. Many environmentalists are committed to the 'live more simply' mantra, and oppose shale because it provides the means for continued economic expansion. They are correct. It is a game changer.