Fracking may be key to energy future - Kirk report

FRACKING may need to be considered as an option to ensure Scotland’s future energy mix, a report from the Church of Scotland says.

Peter McColl campaigning recently with local activists in Portobello against fracking in Edinburgh. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

In its first discussion on fracking, today at the Kirk’s General Assembly in Edinburgh, the Kirk said it supported the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking announced earlier this year.

However, the Rev Sally Foster Fulton, convener of the Kirk’s church and society council, told commissioners that concerns remained about fracking.

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“We remain sceptical about fracking and do not believe it is a long-term solution to our energy needs.”

The report updates the Kirk’s 2007 stance on climate change, taking into account fracking’s rapid commercial development in recent years.

Concerns were raised about water pollution, methane gas leaks and the small earthquake during test drilling in the Flyde near Blackpool in May 2011, but the report concluded this was an was an unusual event.

But the report also notes that over 75 per cent of homes in Scotland are heated by gas and that reserves in the UK sector of the North Sea are dwindling.

It also stressed that strong and effective regulation would need to be in place before any commercial shale gas extraction begins.

It concludes that the moratorium, announced in January, “goes a long way to satisfying critics in Scotland” and was “in contrast to the UK government to consider such a step and comes into effect before any transfer of powers as envisaged by the Smith Commission.

Geologist Hannah Mary Goodlad, who take up the role of Youth Moderator in August, said that she welcomed the moriatorium but said the Kirk needed to consider moral as well as environmental issues around fracking.

“The technology is moving really fast and in two or three, perhaps five years, it will be safe.

“My main concern is that fracking is not a long-term solution to the threats to the planet. As long as we keep putting time, talent and money into that, it detracts attention from finding a safe alternative fuel.”

Mary Church, head of campaigns, Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The Church of Scotland’s recent report on fracking reads like a challenge to the Scottish Government to get on with the job of transforming our energy system away from dirty fossil fuels.

The urgent need to respond to the climate challenge and the lead in time associated with new fossil fuels like shale gas mean that fracking has no place in our energy future for heating or anything else.”