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Shale’s shaky start

The position of shale gas in the UK’s energy mix is still unclear. After becoming a relatively overnight success in the US, there are some in the UK who have their reservations.

Speaking at the Energy and Climate Change committee Jenny Banks, Energy and Climate Change Policy Officer at WWF said: “Gas does have significantly lower emissions than coal. The concern is if gas will replace renewables.”

Professor Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester stressed that more fossil fuel investment would hinder the UK’s climate change targets: “Shale gas is much cheaper than coal, renewables and nuclear. Therefore it keeps us on a path for high-carbon. Any path that takes us away from renewables is not a good thing.”

The committee aimed to assess the prospects and risks of shale gas, a resource that has been found in the UK. Geologists, speaking to the committee, said that a sensible use of money would be to invest in UK research. Professor Richard Selley, Imperial College London asked: “What price can you put on security?”

More questions were asked, however, over the issue of the environmental impact of waste-water created during the process of extraction, a matter the US have been criticised for overlooking.

The UK is looking at broadening its energy mix, but is constrained by the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s self-imposed targets for lowering emissions.

Professor Anderson added: “The only way to stop it burning is to keep it in the ground. We’re like this now in 2011 because of our apathy to the state of world energy.”

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