The Government should impose an immediate moratorium on the extraction of natural gas from the UK’s shale formations until all the ecological implications are fully understood.
That is the conclusion of a carefully considered report commissioned by The Co-operative to coincide with the UK premiere of the award winning film, Gasland, which shows the astonishing implications of shale gas extraction in the United States.
The report, written by the internationally respected Tyndall Centre, part of The University of Manchester, highlights evidence from the US, where some residents of Pennsylvania can now set fire to their drinking water, which suggests shale gas extraction brings a significant risk of groundwater contamination.
Moreover, the exploitation of gas shales is bringing new greenhouse gas sources into play and even a mid-range extraction scenario could see carbon dioxide levels rise globally by some 5 parts per million by 2050. This will further reduce any slim possibility of maintaining global temperature changes at or below 2˚C and thereby increase the risk of entering a period of ‘dangerous climate change’.
The report concludes that until a sufficient evidence base is developed, a precautionary approach to development in the UK is the only responsible action to take to minimise the potential impact on global climate change.
With conventional natural gas reserves declining globally, shale gas has emerged as a potentially significant new source of “unconventional gas”. In the United States, production of shale gas expanded fivefold between 1990 and 2008 and it is predicted that production will expand further to meet a significant proportion of US gas demand in the next 20 years.
The rapid growth of shale gas production in the US has raised interest in the UK, with a number of businesses beginning activities, particularly on the Fylde coast of North West England.