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Shale gas a common-sense energy choice, London says

British government aims to ease import burden with domestic gas reserves.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Shale gas a common-sense energy choice, London says
British Geological Survey begins new baseline studies at potential hydraulic fracturing site just as the government aims to accelerate the industry. Photo courtesy of the BGS

LONDON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Natural gas from shale can be the energy bridge toward a greener future while at the same providing economic stimulus, the British government said.

The British government estimates shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.

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Andrea Leadsom, minister of state at Department of Energy and Climate, said a shale gas industry would help ensure energy security and potentially add 65,000 new jobs to the British economy.

"Operators will pay communities $150,000 for each exploration well site plus 1 percent of production revenue, worth between $7.5 million and $15 million, to be used as the community sees fit," she added.

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Shale gas is in its infancy in the country, though the government moved recently to fast-track the permit process, saying local councils were dragging their feet.

Environmental advocacy groups, meanwhile, have expressed reservations over shale exploitation. British advocacy group Friends of the Earth said hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, poses "unacceptable risks" to public health and the environment.

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Leadsom said natural gas drawn from shale could serve as a bridge fuel as the economy moves away from coal and toward more environmentally friendly alternatives.

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"The anti-fracking lobby seem to think there is a bottomless pit of bill-payers' money to fund renewable energy generation," she said. "There isn't, and even if there was, we would still need gas -- as a reliable source of electricity when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow."

The British Geological Survey in August said it was leading a consortium tasked with a baseline environmental survey in Yorkshire, where Third Energy U.K. Gas Ltd. has submitted an application to use hydraulic fracturing at one well site.

BGS already started environmental surveys in Lancashire, where shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources aims to start a fracking campaign.

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