UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey said today that fracking for shale gas could be ‘environmentally friendly’ if done properly.
The Liberal Democrat minister warned that although shale gas was “no silver bullet”, exploiting the UK’s reserves would be a good way of ‘weaning’ the nation off coal if it was carried out safely and responsibly.
His views were branded “extraordinary” by environmentalists who recently warned that adopting the controversial high-pressure drilling technique of fracking - which was banned until recently after causing two minor earthquakes in England - would make it impossible for Scotland to meet its ambitious climate change targets.
In a speech in London today Mr Davey said: “UK shale gas can be developed sensibly and safely, protecting the local environment, with the right regulation.
“And we can meet our wider climate change targets at the same time, with the right policies in place.
“Gas, as the cleanest fossil fuel, is part of the answer to climate change, as a bridge in our transition to a green future, especially in our move away from coal.”
His comments were made in response to a new report from the UK government’s energy department which found that switching from coal to UK shale gas would be “likely” to “significantly” reduce carbon emissions.
However while Greenpeace welcomed the minister’s warning that shale gas was not the answer to the UK’s energy problems, it condemned his support of exploiting reserves.
Spokeswoman Leila Deen said: “It’s extraordinary to see a Liberal Democrat enthusiastically embracing new fossil fuels. The Government’s policy, enshrined in the Climate Change Act, is to vastly reduce our dependence on oil, coal and gas. Today Mr Davey is endorsing the use of a fuel that remains highly polluting, damages our countryside and scientists say must be largely left underground.”