Fracking Week in Westminster (8-12 Sept)

Transcripts of this week’s parliamentary questions and statements on:

  • Drilling in National Parks
  • Redacted reports
  • Shale gas and the heavy industry
  • Coal gasificaton

With thanks to

8th September 2014
Oral answers on the National Planning Policy Framework

Question from Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton, Conservative)
The Secretary of State has said that only in the most exceptional cases will fracking be allowed in National Parks. Will my Hon. Friend say what those exceptional circumstances will be, and that the precautionary principle will normally prevail for fracking?

Answer from Brandon Lewis (Minister of State (Communities and Local Government); Great Yarmouth, Conservative)
Any planning application must be decided on its own merits. That means that things will change from application to application, based on the merits of each individual case.

11th September 2014
Written answers on fracking

Question from John Mann (Bassetlaw, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
(1) on what basis parts of the (a) body and (b) conclusions of the Rural Community Policy Unit report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, published in March 2014, were redacted;

(2) which Minister determined the redactions to the Rural Community Policy Unit report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, published in March 2014;

(3) what proportion of the Rural Community Policy Unit report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, published in March 2014, was redacted;

(4) if she will place in the Library an unredacted copy of the Rural Community Policy Unit report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, published in March 2014.

Answer from Dan Rogerson (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; North Cornwall, Liberal Democrat)
The draft Rural Economy Impacts paper was an internal document that is not analytically robust. It has not been published and we have no plans to do so. The full list of references on which it was based has been released under Environmental Information Regulations. Redactions were made to the draft paper based on exceptions under the Environmental Information Regulations; Ministers were not involved in this process.

11th September 2014
Extracts from the debate on energy-intensive industries

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North, Labour)
A report last year by the American Chemistry Council found that 97 chemical industry projects worth a staggering $71.7 billion have been announced as a result of the US’s shale gas boom.

As a result of shale gas extraction, the price of energy and petrochemical raw materials in the US has plummeted, allowing a boom in the chemicals industry—so much so that INEOS tells me that the majority of its profit now comes from one-third of its business sales in the US. Although I am under no illusion that the UK will be able to replicate the US’s experiences entirely, extracting shale gas is likely to reduce energy and petrochemical raw material costs significantly. I also appreciate that fracking for shale gas is a controversial process and recognise the potential risks that it brings. But the appropriate response to concerns about the safety and environmental impact of shale gas extraction is to ensure that we have the right regulatory and monitoring framework in place. Any questions are best answered on the basis of evidence gathered from carefully regulated and comprehensively monitored exploration.

Although there is little prospect of fracking in north-east England, the abundant offshore coal reserves and potential for gasification present an opportunity to secure the future of EIIs—both in the Tees valley and the wider UK—while safeguarding thousands of jobs and helping to drive a much-needed economic recovery in the area. A failure to explore such options further would be an opportunity wasted.

Angela Smith (Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Penistone and Stocksbridge, Labour)
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North made the point about shale gas, which gives us the potential to supply a good, domestic feedstock for the chemical industry. It would be more efficient and better for us all round for that feedstock to be delivered throughout the UK, rather than having borders between Scotland and England. That is an obvious point, but it is important to put it on the record

David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative)
I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge call for us to export it, as well as mentioning a company in her constituency that supports nuclear. Exporting shale gas is a good idea. It produces half the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced by coal, and it is vital for the wind industry that we have gas to back it up.

David Mowat (Warrington South, Conservative)
A great deal of marginal foundation industry is reshoring to the eastern seaboard of the United States. There, chemical feedstocks, and electricity, are one third of their price in Asia and here. That is a massive differential. People talk about shale and ask, “Is shale going to happen?” Shale has happened. It is transforming, and transforming quickly, the economy of the United States, while we continue doing feasibility studies while marginal jobs move. It is true that it is not as if whole industries are moving. What is happening might involve, for instance, an investment decision about a bit of marginal kit possibly in Teesside or the north-west—a new cracker, a new process. That marginal decision is looked at in its own right. Increasingly, the decision is made to put it in EU countries, with their cheaper electricity, or on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Priti Patel (The Exchequer Secretary; Witham, Conservative)
The Government are committed to developing a wide range of energy sources to ensure that energy prices remain competitive in the future, and of course nuclear energy and shale gas are central to that. We welcome the announcement made by INEOS last month that it plans to enter the UK shale gas market, because we are convinced of the benefits that shale gas can bring to industrial production.

Alex Cunningham
The Minister mentioned shale gas and other issues, but in the north-east of England, coal gasification could be a huge saver both for our region and the country. I hope that she will encourage the development of that industry.

Priti Patel
The hon. Gentleman is right that this is not about one or the other or even a trade-off, but about all players in the energy mix. We are talking about long-term energy, security of supply and competitiveness in the long-term energy market, and that requires diversity.

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