There is a lot of public concern – and media hysteria – over shale gas, which is hardly surprising, given the torrent of negative propaganda from ‘green’ groups.
However, there is another side to the story. As an MEP and member of the ITRE Commission. I have looked at shale gas first-hand, in Pennsylvania and in Texas. In the small town of Mansfield, I found local residents delighted by the economic resurgence based on the new shale industry, in their previously declining town.
I did not find people complaining about pollution, or earth tremors, or any other problems. When drilling is completed, the landscape is reinstated, and the remaining well is no more intrusive than a garden shed – far less intrusive and disturbing, in fact, than a wind farm. America is enjoying an amazing industrial renaissance based on shale gas. Businesses that were ‘off-shored’ to Asia are coming home. There is more of everything: jobs, prosperity, and energy security, whilst industry is more competitive on the back of lower energy prices.
These benefits 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 suppliers such as Russia. We hear about methane in tap water. Yet, this often comes from the natural decay of plant material in the soil. There have been a few cases of pollution from cracked piping, but occasional minor issues will occur in any energy industry. Seismic events resulting from fracking are very small – far less than those associated with coal mining.
Indeed, shale gas is cleaner, safer and less intrusive than coal mining. Across Britain, communities regret the loss of coal mines. They should be delighted to have a technology that offers similar economic benefits, without requiring men working underground to acquire 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.
The industry has made great strides in improving well integrity and reducing the use of chemicals in fracking fluid, which now consists largely of water, sand, detergent, and other safe chemicals. I believe we should all take a new look at the opportunity represented by shale gas. Let's not be taken in by the black propaganda of ‘green’ campaigners. These people are not ‘Friends of the Earth’ – they're enemies of the people.
MEP, member of ITRE Committee (EP) Roger Helmer