At Last: UK Government Put Shale Gas On Fast Track

frackingFracking applications will be fast-tracked through the planning system under new rules intended to kick-start the shale gas revolution. The guidance, to be issued this week, will strengthen the power of ministers to step in and wrest decisions from local authorities if planners are perceived to be obstructive. The rules will make it easier for the communities secretary to hear appeals such as Cuadrilla’s. Interventions are rare but may become more common as the government presses the case for shale gas. Ministers are also preparing to award gas and exploration licences within weeks. Rudd has said she will grant licences in the 14th onshore round — which attracted 95 bidders in 295 areas — in two stages to speed things up. –James Lyons, The Sunday Times, 9 August 2015

The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) is calling on the Government to examine ways of speeding up shale gas exploration in the UK, following on from Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Cuadrilla’s application for exploratory drilling at the Preston New Road site near Blackpool. The GWPF recommends that the Department of Energy and Climate Change should consider treating shale gas fields as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), which would give the Secretary of State the final say on planning applications rather than local councils. Responding to the decision by Lancashire County Council, the GWPF’s director Dr Benny Peiser said: “Shale exploration is clearly in the national interest and nimbyism should not stand in the way of Britain’s energy security.  —Global Warming Policy Forum, 29 June 2015

Britain is set to fire up a big expansion of the fracking industry, handing out dozens of new drilling licences and fast-tracking planning decisions despite intense public opposition to the practice. The Department for Energy and Climate Change will reveal next week the winners in an auction for dozens of shale gas exploration blocks, including swathes of southern England and heavily populated areas of Lancashire and the northeast. About 95 companies are understood to have submitted bids for nearly 300 drilling licences, spanning more than 40 per cent of the UK’s land area. The announcement comes as Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, is pushing for accelerated planning decisions to spark a shale gas revolution, which the government claims could generate 60,000 jobs and billions of pounds of investment. –Robin Pagnamenta, The Times, 10 August 2015

In our manifesto, we said that if elected we would support the safe development of shale gas — and that is what we will do, because it is good for jobs and it is part of our plan to ensure we realise the potential of every part of the UK. It is also good for our energy security. This government is dealing with the problems of an energy system that for too many years faced a lack of investment and where vital decisions were put off because they were seen as too difficult. But a responsible, long-term energy policy demands a willingness to take decisions today for the good of tomorrow. What is clear is that we have a national need to explore shale gas. Getting shale exploration up and running is a key part of our long-term plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy and to create more jobs by backing the industries of the future and take our country forward. –Amber Rudd, The Sunday Times, 9 August 2015

Britain should consider reopening coal mines and nationalising energy companies, Jeremy Corbyn has suggested. Mr Corbyn, the hard-Left candidate for the Labour leadership, has said that his admiration of Karl Marx has inspired his bid to become the Labour leader. However, City analysts said that his plans to renationalise the gas and electricity sector would cost the Government as much as ¬£185‚Äâbillion. Peter Atherton, an analyst at Jefferies investment bank, said: “Mr Corbyn suggests that the Government could take a majority equity stake in the utility companies. However, under stock exchange rules, once a stock holding hits 30pc an offer for the whole company must be made. Therefore, we assume that all of the equity would be acquired.” An analysis by the Labour Party has suggested other policies such as reversing welfare cuts, opposing further public spending decreases and axing tuition fees will cost ¬£55‚Äâbillion a year. –Steven Swinford & Tom Whitehead,  The Daily Telegraph, 8 August 2015