The shale revolution in the United States has been of huge significance. Not only is that nation meeting its own energy needs but it has started exporting both oil and gas. It is astonishing to consider that only a decade ago few had heard of shale. Yet the technique of hydraulic fracturing — “fracking” — to capture the natural gas trapped in shale rock has proved to be a huge breakthrough. It means drilling horizontally into rock deep underground, then blowing cracks in the rock to allow gas to escape.
There is no reason why the rest of the world shouldn’t get fracking, including the UK. But not everyone is keen. Labour’s 2017 election manifesto proposed a complete ban. The Scottish Government has been wavering over its own ban — the “moratorium” currently in place seems to amount to the same thing in practice.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish school pupil, last week told MPs that the UK’s “active current support” for the UK shale gas fracking industry “is beyond absurd.” None of the MPs challenged this comment or any of her other remarks. They all agreed, or pretended to agree, with everything she said. I would have thought that patronising her is far more insulting than challenging her errors and having a vigorous and honest debate. Is there anything more cringe-making that politicians fawning over teenagers?
Then a few days later came news that the former Labour MP, Natascha Engel, had resigned after just seven months as the Government’s shale gas commissioner. She said that it was clear to her that “fracking was the only way to reduce our carbon emissions at any sort of scale.”
In an article for The Times she wrote: