UK shale gas would make only a small dent in the nation’s net imports of gas, according to a briefing by Friends of the Earth. Reducing demand and electricity decarbonisation would have a much bigger impact.
Supporters of UK shale gas often argue that fracking will ensure energy security and prevent reliance on unpalatable regimes or unstable regions.
But Friends of the Earth said going “all out for shale” would mean that gas imports stayed at around today’s level – or could rise up to 11%. Exploiting UK shale gas or increase imports were not the only options, it said.
What Friends of the Earth calls “a climate safe” approach would, instead, cut gas imports by 30% from current levels.
According to the briefing, this “climate safe” approach would be achieved by decarbonising electricity generation, a nationwide programme of energy efficiency and alternatives to fossil fuel gas, such as biogas. It would bring benefits, such as job creation, lower household energy bills and NHS savings by reducing the impacts of cold homes.
As a result of the approach, the briefing said, UK would not add to global unburnable carbon: the majority of known fossil fuel reserves that cannot be burned if the world wants to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“The UK’s share of a safe amount of burnable fossil fuels is extremely low – far lower than the emissions that would be produced by the Government’s plans to maximise North Sea oil and gas production, let alone additional fossil fuels such as shale gas and oil”, the briefing said.
“Tackling climate change means keeping most fossil fuels in the ground, and cutting the use of fossil fuels such as gas, rather than looking to bring more into production. So discussions about the role of gas in the future should start by asking ‘how much gas do we need?’, rather than ‘where can we get our gas from?”
The briefing said the UK would be importing some gas in 2030, whether or not the UK drilled for shale. With demand reduction, the UK would meet its needs and stay secure primarily from Norwegian sources of gas.
“Keeping shale gas in the ground, and focussing instead on energy efficiency, reducing demand for gas, and developing green alternatives would be far better for tackling climate change”, the briefing said.
“It would also mean the UK importing less gas than at present, and less gas than under the Government’s current projections. This plan is better for energy security, better for climate change, and better for saving money. It is a triple-win.”