Regulation is not a “magic wand” that will prevent fracking accidents, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance told a debate on the sustainability of the industry last night.
Michael Liebreich, speaking at the Green Alliance Annual Debate in London, said there would be accidents and anyone who believed that regulation would eliminate them was “ignoring centuries of experience”. He said every complex engineering system failed from time to time. “Many of these failures are trivial, some are serious and a few are absolutely catastrophic. We have seen that in the nuclear industry, we have seen that in the oil and gas industry and we will see it in the shale gas industry as well. There will be failures.”
But Mr Liebreich said drilling should still go ahead. He said shale gas could be a cost-effective transition fuel to move the UK to low carbon energy and the country had to be prepared to explore and probably exploit it.
He said shale gas would bring risk, as well as benefits. “The discussion is not should we do it or not do it. The discussion has to be ‘How do we minimize the risks to a point that they become acceptable?’”
He said there should be mandatory baseline environmental monitoring before fracking operations began. And he warned there was a “concerted effort by the industry to insist that they should self-regulate and that only they are wise enough to decide what sort of regulation and what sort of disclosures are appropriate.”