The climate change minister, Nick Hurd, said the UK owed it to future generations to find out whether it could produce shale gas.
Speaking this morning to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, he said:
“We’ve seen the impact in the US. I think we owe it to ourselves to find out whether something similar can happen in the UK.”
The Labour MP, Albert Owen, asked him how unabated shale gas fitted with emissions reductions.
Mr Hurd replied:
“I look at shale gas through the lens of energy security.
“It is primarily an energy security issue for me. We import a lot of gas. If we have the capacity to generate our own gas in this country and we can do it while reassuring people about the impact on the environment, personally, I think it would be irresponsible to future generations not to answer the question can we do it.”
Carbon capture and storage
Mr Hurd said he expected to include proposals for developing carbon capture and storage in the Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan within the next three months. He said “there will be a plan and a direction of travel”.
The former chancellor, George Osborne, cancelled a £1bn pilot project for CCS in November 2015.
Pressed by Labour’s Anna Turley, to make a commitment to CCS, Mr Hurd said:
“I know from the cancellation of the competition that we may have given the impression that we’re not interested in CCS. That’s not true at all.
“What we’re interested in is finding a smarter path forward to see whether we can reduce the cost of it. It is too high. And give ourselves some intelligent optionality on it in the future.”
He said CCS would be important in the future for reducing emissions from electricity generation and industry. But he backed Mr Osborne’s decision:
“I think it was right to cancel the competition. The advice I’ve received is probably it was the right decision. It wasn’t set up in the right way. We’ve now got to find a smart path forward and we’ve got to engage with industry to get their buy-in and we’ve got to engage with places.”
Mr Hurd said there were places that were very keen to develop CCS and this could play a very important in their future.
But Mr Owen countered:
“I find that extraordinary what you’ve just said: ‘you’re looking for places, you’re looking for business’.
“That was all set up before. It was finance that was lacking and government commitment taken away. There was Peterhead and many other locations that were agreed on. It was policy that changed.”
Mr Hurd replied:
“In a very challenging fiscal environment the decision was taken that that was not value for money as an exercise.
“There are parts of the country that want this and want to develop it and so part of our process going forward is to try and work closely with those areas and with industry.”