To frack or not to frack?

IT is the position of both the Government and the opposition that we should move ahead to explore for unconventional gas in the UK.

The reasons for doing this are clear.

1) With the depletion of north sea reserves we have recently become an importer of gas.

Currently most of this supply comes from Norway but contracts for future supply have also been signed with Russia.

It is in our interests as a country to minimize these imports both on security and economic grounds.

2) Gas prices in Europe have continued to rise in recent years; more supply will mitigate or reduce the effect of rising prices which will reduce fuel poverty and increase industrial competitiveness.

In the United States gas prices are about a third of those in the UK which has had a dramatic benefit for consumers and jobs.

3) More gas can make a significant reduction in our carbon emissions. Currently most of our energy comes from coal and oil which produce around double the emissions of gas.

If we were able to replace all coal and oil usage with gas, we would reduce emissions by a massive 40 percent.

This is a prize worth securing as we increase renewables and nuclear for the longer term. (Currently renewables produce around six per cent of total energy and nuclear about 10 percent).

None of these reasons are valid however unless extraction is done safely and in places where the environmental impact is containable.

For example, there has been drilling in Cuerdley over the past two years in a way that has caused no problems however I realise there is considerable controversy about other locations in the town.

I do not advocate producing shale gas in areas and where it is inappropriate to do so.

Councils and local communities must be part of the decision making process.

I also fully support the need of ensuring that revenue is distributed to affected locations which could amount to communities receiving millions of pounds.

It is conceivable that shale gas will be as important over the next two decades as the north sea has been over the last three.

I made the point in a recent debate that the three constituencies with the lowest unemployment in the country are not in London or the south east. They are in Aberdeen.

We have created many jobs in Warrington over the past two years but we need to create more. It would be wrong to turn our back on shale gas.

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