Air emissions, Economic impact, Jobs, Local Impacts

“Dear Aunty, are we overlooking the potential benefits of shale gas?”

Well, yes, it seems some people are.

And that’s because the benefits are often swept aside by the over-hyped potential for negative impacts, dears, so let me set out the biggest potential benefits here:

Energy security
As supplies of North Sea gas dwindle, sweeties, it’s inevitable that we’ll find ourselves increasingly reliant on imports of natural gas from elsewhere. But what happens if there’s a problem with the interconnector through which we derive gas from mainland Europe, or a ship transporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the Middle East sinks in the midst of winter and our gas supplies are temporarily cut-off? Gas extracted on our own soil would put us in charge of our own needs and improve security of supply.

Balance of payments
Right now, cherubs, we already buy a lot of gas from our European neighbours and elsewhere like Qatar, and one day it’ll be even more. The money we spend on this leaves the UK economy altogether. It is surely better to pay companies to exploit our own domestic gas supplies instead, so that the tax this raises stays here and contributes to rescuing our battered economy and protecting frontline public services.

Jobs
There have been numerous studies and predictions, dears, concerning the number of jobs that a shale gas industry could be responsible for. Whilst the numbers themselves are open to debate, the fact that there will be lots of them is indisputable, because it’s just like any other major infrastructure project – requiring huge numbers of workers to make it a success. From building the drilling pads, through operating the seismic monitoring, to driving the tankers loaded with waste, it’s easy to see the opportunity to create employment in parts of the country that could really benefit.

Growth in manufacturing
If UK sourced shale gas can apply downwards price pressure, and the costs of manufacturing fall as a result, dears, we could see a renaissance. Manufacturers located on top of UK shale deposits might even be able buy their own, direct source of cheaper gas – with none of the transmission costs – boosting their fortunes even further, and helping those towns and cities that are presently struggling to attract inward investment.

Energy costs
Simple supply-and-demand economics suggest that increases in supply, if demand remains static, lead to downwards price pressure. An increase in domestically sourced shale gas could have this effect, at least keeping energy costs stable and more affordable – even if our interconnectivity with mainland Europe means we don’t see substantial price cuts until other European countries exploit their own shale resources.

Emission reductions
Burning coal produces nearly 50% of our electricity at present pumpkins, and yet it’s such a dirty and destructive process. Emissions from coal-fired power generation include CO2 and a host of other unpleasant pollutants linked to ill health. By comparison, burning natural gas produces about half the CO2 of coal and hardly any of the other airborne emissions, and so a switch could not only help to avert climate change but would also improve local air quality.

It’s all too easy to be transfixed by tales of environmental disaster, rather than view the shale gas topic for what it is: an economic opportunity that could also contribute positively to solving some of the worlds most pressing environmental problems too.

Until next time dears xxx

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