Prime Minister Liz Truss is to lift a ban on fracking, with the first drilling licences in nearly three years expected to be issued as early as next week. The Guardian has the story – and ramps up the earthquake alarm.
The first drilling licences in nearly three years are expected to be issued as early as next week, sources said, in a move that will reignite claims of another broken 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge.
Given fears about spiralling energy bills, the new Prime Minister announced last week that she would “end the moratorium on extracting our huge reserves of shale”, which has been in force across England since November 2019.
A long-awaited report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) was promised to be published, but it has been held up owing to the Queen’s death. The report, seen by the Guardian, admits that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes and their magnitude “remains a scientific challenge”.
It says there are still “significant existing knowledge gaps” and that problems remain with identifying potential new fracking sites that may be able to handle earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0.
Existing rules require drilling to stop if tremors of 0.5 or more are caused. But fracking companies are reportedly lobbying for that to be substantially increased.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the former Business Secretary who is now the Chancellor, asked the BGS in April to look into new techniques to help reduce the risk of earthquakes and their magnitude, and whether sites outside Lancashire could be better suited for drilling.
In its report, the BGS offers little evidence that there has been enough progress since the fracking ban to meet a 2019 manifesto promise that it would only be resumed if “the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.
How serious though really is the earthquake worry? In the U.S., the states of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming all undertake significant fracking, but there has been no word yet of any earthquake damage.
The Government claims gas could start flowing in less than six months, but others say it would take years and is far less accessible than once thought. I guess we’ll see who’s right soon enough.
Even once it starts flowing, though, it will do little to reduce bills – unless it is joined to some prioritising of the domestic market with our energy supply.
Worth reading in full.