The Dash for Gas is Short Term Boom – Long Term Bust
On Saturday, The Independent’s Environment Editor, Tom Bawden, weighed the evidence on Fracking, without mentioning the Shale Gas Report undertaken by the researchers at the Tyndall Centre, commissioned by the Co-operative Bank.
We can stop extreme methods like shale gas and coal bed methane extraction now. We have a choice. We don’t have to wreck the environment to maintain our standard of living. Express your choice. Please tell your MP that you are against extreme methods of fossil fuel extraction.
Shale gas and coal bed methane extraction methods now threaten communities across the UK. In the government’s drive to incentivise the fossil fuel industry, feeding our addiction to oil and gas instead of investing in a renewable energy alternative, the taxpayer continues to finance tax allowances for smaller fields like shale gas and coal bed methane. These incentives can cost hundreds of millions of pounds. The tax breaks for the gas industry make £500 million of profit exempt from tax, at 32%, this creates a toxic subsidy of £160 million. This doesn’t include the subsidy that the gas industry receives for the cost of decommissioning their drilling sites. According to HMRC, it is the UK Government’s aim to“maximise the economic production of hydrocarbon reserves” working with industry to increase its subsidy for marginal fields and projects.
In their report concluded almost two years ago, the Tyndall Centre described in detail the dangers of fracking, from its contribution to increasing harmful release of methane (a concentrated greenhouse gas contributing to climate change 20 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon) as well as the danger to the water aquifers in the areas where drilling takes place. Water is essential to life itself and cannot be tainted.
Treasury has done little to disguise its disdain for supporting the renewable industry by creating a volatile and uncertain investment climate in continuously decreasing the amount of Feed in tariff for wind and solar. The tariffs have a different effect on the taxpayer, as it is not direct tax relief, like the subsidy for oil and gas. The Feed in tariffs are actually paid by the energy suppliers, eventually passed onto the consumer in their energy tariff. It can be seen as a form of investment in our clean energy future.
According to OFGEM, from the inception of the Feed in Tariff in April 2010 to June 2012, 248,000 renewable energy systems have been installed, creating more than 1GW of clean generation capacity – enough to power about 213,000 homes. Since 99% of these systems are solar photovoltaic (PV), this means that for the next 25 years, the sun will generate 1 GW of electricity for free! Were the government to support investment in the energy infrastructure, the electricity transmission system, energy suppliers may be incentivised to invest in renewables in order to reap the benefit of increased distributed generation. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
The burgeoning community energy movement has already started to make a real difference to our clean energy generation capacity. In the Southeast alone, about 235kW of solar electricity has been added to the grid by local community initiatives – enough to power about 50 homes. In Oxfordshire, the ambitious community group will replace the dirty Didcot power station by applying a power up and power down strategy – building renewable energy generation and transforming residential and commercial energy consumption. These strategies have been recommended by knowledgeable, reputable groups ranging from the Centre for Alternative technologies, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Ecofys. Any one of these reports is an interesting depiction of our future with 100% renewable energy generation.