The Conservative MP for Warrington South, David Mowat, has replaced Kevin Hollinrake as vice-chair of a parliamentary group on unconventional gas and oil.
The announcement was made today by the chair of the all party parliamentary group, Nigel Mills. He said the group took a “strictly neutral” view on shale, even though it is funded by the oil and gas industry, including would-be fracking companies. This was the reason for Mr Hollinrake’s resignation (DrillOrDrop report) from the group.
Mr Mowat (58), a supporter of fracking, lists energy and nuclear power among his political interests. His constituency includes the oil and gas exploration block SJ78, awarded to INEOS in the 14th licensing round.
Before becoming an MP, he qualified as a chartered accountant and served as a councillor on Macclesfield Borough council. He was elected to parliament in 2010. In the coalition government, he was a parliamentary aide to the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Clark.
What David Mowat has said about fracking
Most recently, Mr Mowat spoke in a parliament debate about shale gas sponsored by Mr Hollinrake. He said:
“I support the shale industry, which I have spoken about in the past. I completely agree that the concerns of local MPs—I have a fracking site in my constituency—need to be listened to. The industry needs to be well regulated and safe.”
“I completely support the need for good regulation and local involvement, but I also have to say that sadly, in my view, the shale industry in the UK is not going to take off with the current prices of oil and gas.”
“At $28 a barrel, the US shale industry is closing down and it has much more significant economies of scale than we have—the cost is something like $50 or $60 a barrel over there, and the gas price is linked.”
In 2015 he accompanied the energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, to the IGas pilot coal bed methane production site at Doe Green. He told reporters he supported fracking and added:
“It is a little known secret that there has been a drilling site in Warrington for the past 5 years. There have been no issues to my knowledge.”
No high volume hydraulic fracturing has been carried out at Doe Green.
In a post on his blog in 2014, he said the advantages of fracking included reductions in:
- Imported gas
- Effect of rising gas prices
- Carbon emissions
But he added that none of these reasons were valid unless extraction could be done safely and in places where the environmental impact was containable.
He also said:
“I do not advocate producing shale gas in areas where it is inappropriate to do so. Councils and local communities must be part of the decision making process.”
In another Westminster Hall debate on shale gas on 30th June 2015 he said:
“It is true that there is no reason to believe that prices in Europe will come down by a factor of four, as they have in the United States, but it is also true that if we have more of something, the price is likely to come down. Increasingly, our strategy is to buy gas from Russia and liquefied natural gas from Qatar. That is not a viable way forward.”
In the same month, he challenged opponents of fracking to move beyond slogans. In a debate on climate change he said:
“The issue we have is how to get the rest of Europe and the rest of the world to do anything that comes close to the 2008 Act’s 80% emission target by 2050.”
“Four things have made that more difficult than it needs to be. First, we have confused renewables with decarbonisation. We have gone after renewables targets when we should have been going after decarbonisation targets. The impact has been that we have not spent enough time on either carbon capture and storage or nuclear power.”
“We also have not spent enough time looking at gas as a very viable alternative to coal. I will mention just one statistic as I wrap up in the last 30 seconds. If the world were able to replace all our coal with gas, that would be the equivalent to increasing the amount of renewables we have by a factor of five. Those who oppose fracking need to think about that. This is a very serious issue and it will not be solved by slogans.”
In November 2014, during another Westminster Hall debate on fracking, Mr Mowat criticised opposition to shale expressed by the then MP for Lewes, Norman Baker:
“We may not want a part in any of that—in Lewes, it may not matter, but it matters on Teesside, where marginal chemicals investment decisions are being made on whether to put the next production unit or piece of kit on the eastern seaboard of the USA or in our country. It also matters in what I have heard described as the “desolate north-west”, where a large number of jobs depend on energy-intensive industry.
“About 900,000 people in our country work for industries that rely on relatively cheap energy. For us to say that that does not matter, or that we should ignore it, strikes me as arrogant, wrong and disappointing.”
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