Whilst much of the focus on the commercial energy front is mostly on ‘green’ or renewable resources, one form of natural fuel that hasn’t yet been pushed to it’s potential is that of shale gas. Produced in pockets, the gas forms from air trapped in shale formations, and can be harvested to turn into energy the same way other natural gases can. But unlike oil and other costly import items, shale gas is actually a relatively untapped resource in the UK.
Whilst the Coalition Government have sent messages over Britain’s energy future (with a potential return to nuclear mooted, and the subsidies available on solar power slashed), some experts are saying exploiting shale gas in the UK could be the perfect short-term solution during the recession.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said: “Shale gas has the potential to give some of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn a much-needed economic boost. The engineering jobs created will also help the Government’s efforts to re-balance the UK’s skewed economy.”
Dr Fox cites a panel of UK engineers that claim shifting focus to shale gas would create 4,200 jobs every year for ten years, based on a decade-long drilling schedule.
Whilst far from a complete solution to the economic downturn, the prospect of 42,000 new jobs in areas with low employment as well as resource that could be exported to foreign markets would certainly be music to the government’s ears – shale gas isn’t without risk, even as a short term solution, as Dr. Fox was the first to admit.
“UK shale gas could make a helpful contribution to the UK’s energy security for the next two centuries but it is not the silver bullet many claim it is.
It is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote.”
Shale gas is also associated with harmful pollutants, as a number of machines and specialist chemicals are required to efficiently harvest it. Even more concerning, is a US study which claims to find a link between shale gas drilling and an increase in earthquake activity.
When the current shale gas proposal was submitted, several environmental groups urged the Government to “prioritise renewables and energy efficiency instead” and that the UK shouldn’t jump on the shale gas bandwagon.
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