Britain can’t afford to ignore the opportunities offered by shale gas, the MP Kevin Hollinrake told a debate in the House of Commons this morning.
Mr Hollinrake, who represents the constituency where Third Energy wants to frack an existing well, said:
“This is the right thing for the UK and a real opportunity for UK manufacturing.”
“I believe the advantages for our national and local economies far outweigh the disadvantages”.
The debate, in Westminster Hall, had been called by Mr Hollinrake to discuss the potential role of UK manufacturing in developing an onshore oil and gas industry. It heard no speeches in opposition to fracking.
In his introduction, the MP said:
“This is an opportunity we can’t afford to ignore”.
“The economy is doing well and unemployment has come down under this government. But we would benefit from a clean, low cost, low carbon, home-grown energy source that will support domestic businesses, create local well-paid jobs and make our economy and nation strong by generating energy for generations to come.”
He quoted from a report by EY which said a UK shale gas industry could support 64,000 jobs and £33bn of investment.
There were, he said, significant opportunities for many UK industries. Fracking would require 12,000km of steel tubes. Recycling of waste water would be a £4.1bn opportunity and the chemicals industry could also be a big winner.
He also said shale gas would contribute to a fall in carbon emissions and help give the UK what he called “a more effective foreign policy”.
“Industry must be compatible with daily life”
But Mr Hollinrake he added:
“We can only contemplate welcoming a new industry if it is compatible with daily life in North Yorkshire”.
He called for a single regulator with “a clear line of accountability”. He also said:
“We need independent regulation and monitoring at every stage. And crucially a rolling five year local plan to coordinate activities.”
He said five different operators had licences to explore for oil and gas across most of his constituency. It was a key issue for local people.
“I receive dozens of letters and emails about it every week and I care passionately that if fracking goes go ahead it is to the great advantage, not disadvantage of my constituents”.
“As a local man I do understand why so many local residents worry that the peace and tranquillity of North Yorkshire, including the stunning North York Moors, will be disturbed and why they feel that their lives may never be the same again”.
“I do not believe that that will be the case as long as fracking is conducted in a balanced and measured way“.
“Cheerleader shamelessly peddling myths”
Frack Free Ryedale, which opposes Third Energy’s plan to frack at Kirby Misperton, described Mr Hollinrake as a “cheerleader” for the shale gas industry and accused him of “shamelessly peddling myths about fracking”.
A spokesperson for the group said:
“According to DECC’s own 2013 report, fracking could only create 15,900 to 24,300 jobs nationally – direct and indirect – at peak construction in the mid-2020s”.
“This would require many thousands of fracking wells across an increasingly industrialised countryside, and is far fewer than the 27,000 jobs already lost or under threat because of the government’s cuts to the renewable energy industry.”
“Also, fracking is neither low-cost or good for the environment. When fugitive methane leaks are taken into account, fracked gas is even more damaging to the climate than coal, and even Lord Browne, ex-chairman of Cuadrilla, admits that fracking is not going to have a material impact on gas prices.”
“Mr Hollinrake also completely ignores the widespread and increasingly worrying health dangers of fracking – the practice is banned in many places due to health and environmental concerns – and has dismissed all the evidence and testimonies from local residents from his short trip to Pennsylvania that do not fit in with the industry’s narrative. No wonder his constituents feel that he’s sold his soul to the fracking industry.”
What the other MPs said in the debate
Angela Smith, Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge
Shale offers a “rare opportunity to create a new demand for steel, something that we badly need at the moment, and a new sense of hope for a positive future for what is one of our foundation industries.”
She said a UK industry would need 50 rigs, worth £1.6bn, and steel tubes worth £2.2bn. She did, however, acknowledge that shale gas needs seamless tubes which are not currently made in the UK.
Graham Evans, Conservative, Weaver Vale
Shale gas would be a “stepping stone in our transition to a low-carbon future”, he said. It could also contribute to the engineering and chemical industries, which he described as a vital part of the northern power house.
He said regulators, such as the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England, needed to “raise their game” in convincing the public about shale gas.
“The public bodies are relatively poor at getting the point across. They are there to reassure the public but they are reluctant to engage face to face with members of the public, who have legitimate reasons to be concerned.”
Stuart Donaldson, SNP West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine
He said the impacts of fracking on the environment and economy needed to be fully understood. The Scottish Government was attempting to do this through its research and consultation process during the current moratorium, he said.
“People who live near places where there could be onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction are rightly concerned about the potential impacts.”
Neil Parish, Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton
He said it was easy for him to support fracking because it wouldn’t happen in his constituency. He said:
“We need to explain to the local residents that they are actually going to get this money because one of the problems in the past with these schemes is that it does not filter right down to the real local people.”
David Mowatt, Conservative, Warrington south
He said he supported a shale gas industry even though he had a potential site in his constituency. But he added:
“Sadly, the shale industry in the UK is not going to take off at current prices of oil and gas”.
Kirsty Blackman, SNP business spokesperson
She said she was concerned about the UK government’s rush for shale gas and fracking.
“In the Scottish Government we want to prove the safety first and when that has been proved put the controls in place.”
Kevin Brennan, Labour ‘s business spokesperson
He said Labour had set out conditions for fracking in the debate on the Infrastructure Bill, which the government had, in part, reneged on.
He criticised the government for allowing communities to decide if they want onshore windfarms but not extending the same level of community involvement to fracking
He said shale gas offered “great opportunities for manufacturing industry”. But he added:
“The opportunities will not be realised unless there is an active industrial strategy coming from the government”.
Nick Boles, business minister
“Shale can make a significant contribution to energy security, environmental protection and to economic growth if it is managed carefully and regulated responsibly.”
“A transition from coal to gas is the most dramatic thing that we can do to prevent climate change”
He said he would consider Mr Hollinrake’s suggestion of a single regulator.
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