SCOTLAND has been producing energy for many years through first hydro power, coal, then nuclear and more recently wind power. We also started the shale phenomenon in 1851. It is clear that Scotland has been and continues to be an energy pioneer.
The SNP has targeted renewables as a source of electricity and they are right to do so. But Scotland needs a mix that covers all our needs. Four-fifths of Scotland’s heat and many everyday items come from natural gas. This cannot be replaced overnight by renewables. It would be technically challenging, uneconomic and unreliable.
Onshore gas and oil are also important for jobs both in terms of extraction but also those supporting the raw material production in places such as Grangemouth, which goes into everything from medicine and clothing, through to buildings, vehicles and computers.
There is no better example than Ineos’ £400 million investment at Grangemouth to secure feedstocks from the US as they dwindle from the North Sea. The irony of course is that shale exists outside their front door.
The industry has also committed multi-million pound programmes of benefits to local communities and stakeholders as well as boosting contributions to local councils. Worryingly, Scotland in 2020 could be importing three-quarters of our gas from places such as Russia and Algeria.
The critical issue is the environment. Experts as diverse as Public Health England, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, and the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have all concluded that any health and environmental risks can be managed in a well-regulated industry.
We have had a well-regulated industry in Scotland for many decades. We have drilled more than 30 wells in the last 20 years. One of the first hydraulic fractures in the UK took place in Airdrie nearly 50 years ago and fracking also took place in 1989 at Easterhouse.
Friends of the Earth last week tried to polarise the debate, making this about renewables versus oil and gas. They miss the fundamental point that we need an energy mix that is properly regulated and executed, that meets the real needs of our country.
• Ken Cronin is chief executive of UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG)