SCOTLAND will never meet its climate change targets if the SNP supports David Cameron’s call for fracking to be used UK-wide to meet growing energy demand, campaigners warned yesterday.
• David Cameron says fracking will get “real public support” once benefits are explained
• Prime Minister urges voters to get behind controversial energy extraction method that is expected to drive energy prices down
The Prime Minister provoked outrage among campaigners north and south of the Border after insisting that the controversial method of extracting gas would play a vital role in providing the UK’s fuel and should gain “real public support” across the country once people fully understood the benefits.
Supporters claim that exploiting the technique will bring down fuel bills for millions of householders, create tens of thousands of jobs and produce valuable windfall payments for communities living in areas where firms are allowed to drill “with minimal damage to the countryside”.
But objectors maintain that fracking will destroy the land and increase carbon emissions to such a degree that it would be impossible for Scotland to achieve its targets on combating climate change.
The process, where vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground under extreme pressure to release gas reserves, was temporarily banned across the UK after it caused two earthquakes in Lancashire.
Ed Pybus, a member of pressure group Frack Off Scotland, said: “Because ‘unconventional gas’ is spread across rock seams, you end up with a network of roads, wells and pipelines across the countryside, which will lead to water and air pollution [increasing carbon emissions].
“There is no way that Scotland could meet its climate change targets by developing unconventional gas.”
Dart Energy, the only company in Scotland with permission to exploit resources using fracking, recently applied to rescind its licence after fears from campaigners that it planned to use the technique at a site in the Central Belt where it is exploring coalbed methane, another controversial energy source.
But Mr Pybus warned that the company was already jeopardising the climate after holding on to permission to release up to four tonnes of methane per day from test wells on the site at Airth near Falkirk.
Friends of the Earth Scotland renewed calls for the Scottish Government to rule out all unconventional gas exploration.
Director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Scotland is so well placed with renewables it would be a terrible mistake to put political will and investment into shale gas when we should be concentrating on renewables. These claims that it will be clean, cheap and plentiful are all wrong.”
Earlier this year, financial experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast that Scotland was in prime position to exploit up to £5 billion of natural gas reserves using fracking.
Reserves of the gas, which has helped transform the fortunes of the United States economy, potentially lie beneath a huge swathe of central Scotland, stretching from Aberdeenshire to Dumfries and Galloway.
The UK government acknowledged that it is still not yet known what proportion, if any, of the gas in the ground would ever be “practically and commercially producible”.
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “David Cameron’s intervention proves the Tories simply don’t get climate change. Fracking won’t stop rising energy bills – getting the big energy companies under control will. But we know his government is a best friend of big business and will do nothing to tackle their gross profiteering.”
However, Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Scotland has a very advanced oil and gas industry, which has brought prosperity to the north-east. The prospect of expanding that industry into other parts of Scotland should be seen as the opportunity of a lifetime.”