Britain would be 'mad' to ban fracking

Britain is dependent on gas to meet its energy needs. Can we really afford not to frack?

An attempt to impose a moratorium on fracking failed in the Commons this week, but only after some last-minute concessions by the government. These included a ban on fracking in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (some of our biggest shale reserves are thought to be in protected areas, such as the South Downs and the North York Moors).

"Had the vote been passed it might have sounded the death knell for fracking before it had even got off the ground," says The Daily Telegraph. But while the "anti-fracking lobby will take heart" from the government's concessions, the reality is that the coalition "has put in place a robust regulatory regime for shale extraction".

Indeed, it's hard to see what a moratorium would achieve, says the FT. The UK has already had an 18-month moratorium during which questions about safety were addressed. "The drilling regime that emerged from that process can hardly be judged, given that no projects have taken place."

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Yes, the industry does need to do more to assuage environmental concerns: a "dispassionate and calm" debate is needed. But the concessions "to 13 new opposition-inspired fracking safeguards smacks of expediency rather than sound policy".

Further opposition on environmental grounds is "preposterous", says Philip Johnston in The Daily Telegraph. In the US, technological advances have overcome early environmental problems though, as the Daily Mail points out, the industry is still dogged by controversy, with some areas including the state of New York banning fracking.

What's more, since the UK will be dependent on gas for most of its energy needs for the foreseeable future, it is hard to see how transporting 75% of our requirements from the Gulf is more environmentally friendly.

The idea that banning fracking will "push us towards greener fuels" is naive, agrees The Times. Indeed, the opposite is likely to be true. Energy self-sufficiency also has great appeal. As North Sea gas continues to decline, we will become increasingly vulnerable to "upsets in the European gas industry". With an estimated 1,329 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under north England alone, Britain could be a "global pioneer". "We would be mad to leave it there."

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.