THE fracking debate has been hijacked by “political posturing” and could leave Scots stuck with sky high energy bills compared with other parts of the world, a leading economist has warned.
Professor Gordon Hughes, a former world bank adviser, warned Scotland could be sleepwalking into key decisions over its energy future without a “genuine debate about reality rather than phantasms”. “If Scotland decides it wants to be cold and green, fine that’s a choice it can reasonably make,” he told yesterday’s Scotsman conference. “But don’t let’s wander into that simply by ill-formulated and ill-thought through political posturing.”
The incentives to get involved in fracking were wrong because the current regime was “centralised and politically driven,” he said.
“We’ve got to get away from both of those two elements and have a genuine debate about reality rather than phantasms about what might happen,” he added. “There are these choices we have to make. They’re often difficult and heatedly contested, but they are real inescapable choices.”
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Gas could continue to be imported, as the UK largely does today, but costs were likely to rise as countries such as China and India compete for supplies.This was already hitting family budgets as energy bills in the UK were now three to four times the prices in the US, which had benefited from the shale revolution.
“That’s a pretty big premium we will be paying to have someone else put up with the inconvenience,” he said.
The UK could also decide to produce its own gas because that was the best option from an “economic point of view.” He said most shale gas production would be small scale meaning it would be “flexible and responsive to economic circumstances”.
He also said it was doubtful any new scientific information would be gathered from further reviews of fracking being undertaken now.
“There is no obvious reason why things will be any different in two years’ time,” he said.