Energy ministers "clueless" on climate impact of fracking


For immediate release 1 February 2012

Greens have today warned that both the Scottish and UK Governments are failing to properly assess the carbon impact of a potential era of UK gas extraction by the controversial process of fracking.

Appearing before the Economy, Energy and Tourism committee of the Scottish Parliament, both UK and Scottish Government Energy Ministers were questioned by Patrick Harvie MSP on whether the climate change impacts of the gas extracted would be taken into account during the licensing process.* The UK Minister, Charles Hendry MP, confirmed that climate change would not be a factor considered.

Respected climate researchers at the Tyndall Centre estimate that if just 20% of shale gas reserves identified in Lancashire are burnt, 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide would be released: 15% of the UK's carbon budget to 2050.**

In November 2011, SEPA granted a licence for the extraction of coal bed methane in Canonbie, Dumfries and Galloway. Another firm is drilling for coal bed methane in Airth, Falkirk, though without yet using the fracking technique.

Patrick Harvie said:

"Charles Hendry showed the UK Government’s breath-taking irresponsibility in admitting that the climate change impact of shale gas will not be a factor in deciding whether to approve applications for fracking. But that was nothing compared to the Scottish Minister Fergus Ewing, who appeared to be completely at sea on this issue.

"I have been asking questions regularly on this for months now, and the Minister knew it was coming up at today’s meeting. I’m shocked that he remained unable or unwilling to answer a few clear and specific questions, and it’s clear that if Scotland is going to resist this dangerous new drive to extract ever more fossil fuels, we’ll need a Minister who is at least up to speed on the basics."

* Scottish Planning Policy states that 'potential pollution of land, air and water' should be considered factors in planning decisions. See paragraph 232:

** For an estimate of the carbon impact of UK shale gas, see the Tyndall Centre report, especially the last paragraph: