11 December 2013
Britain should push ahead with fracking, the chairman of the government's advisory body on climate change has said.
Lord Deben said exploiting Britain's shale gas reserves would provide a secure source of energy for decades without wrecking the environment. Speaking to the Times, he dismissed environmental concerns raised by "people on the green end".
Greenpeace says fracking is harmful and would fail to reduce energy bills.
Lord Deben - who as John Gummer was environment secretary under John Major - chairs the Committee on Climate Change, which was set up in 2008 to advise the government on emissions and analyse climate change science, economics and policy.
"It just isn't true that fracking is going to destroy the environment and the world is going to come to an end if you frack," he said. "And yet to listen to some people on the green end, that's what they say."
The peer - a former environment secretary - said people "ought to be worried about the security of our energy supplies" and suggested it would be "much better" to have more UK-sourced gas. "The carbon budgets have already assumed that we are going to use gas well on through the 2020s and into the 30s," he added. But he said shale gas was unlikely to lead to reduced energy bills because "God has managed to put it in the places where it's going to be most difficult" to get planning permission to frack.
Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - is a process of drilling deep underground and injecting water, chemicals and sand into rock at high pressure to release shale gas.
Chancellor George Osborne, giving his Autumn Statement last week, announced more financial support for companies extracting shale gas, with tax rates on early profits to be halved. The environmental effects of fracking, such as the possible impact on water supplies, are disputed.
Fracking is widespread in the US, but in the UK exploratory drilling at sites including Balcombe in West Sussex and Barton Moss, Greater Manchester, have been hampered by protests. Campaign group Frack Off says the process could lead to "toxic and radioactive water contamination", air pollution and "devastating" effects on the countryside.
Greenpeace says fracking is the "last thing we need" because it would provide more fossil fuel, contributing to climate change. It also says fracking would waste and possibly contaminate water supplies and harm the countryside.
The costs of the process in Britain and the fact gas could be "sold to the highest bidder" - possibly overseas - would prevent it bringing down UK energy bills, Greenpeace says.