The British Geological Survey estimates of huge potential reserves of shale gas in the north-west are being hailed as key to the UK’s energy future (Report, 28 June). But we must be wary of false promises. The successful exploitation of these reserves is not a given, and the environmental and community impacts of extraction will be substantial.
Shale has the potential to bring in substantial tax revenue but is this really the long-term solution to our energy needs? There is plenty of research to show that the marginal price of gas will not be affected. At best, energy prices may rise more slowly than they might otherwise.
Surely, in jumping from one unsustainable energy source to the next, we are just storing up problems for the future, when supplies will be tighter and the risks of insecurity greater? Given the choice between a very large hole in the ground, and clean, renewable energy with fantastic demand-side management and energy-efficient technologies, a combined resource that won’t expire and will leave positive long-lasting annuity, I know which I would choose.
CEO & founder, Good Energy
• Luckily for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which commissioned it, the British Geological Survey was able to draw upon memoirs written before the latest wave of early retirements and redundancies degraded its expertise. So while Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Rochdale are covered by state-of-the-art 1:50,000 maps based on fresh 1:10,000 surveys, when it comes to selecting potential drilling sites, the coast from Bootle to Fleetwood (mantled with peat and other, often vulnerable, superficial deposits) has only outdated, sometimes Victorian, surveys. The same goes for much of Cheshire and Yorkshire underlain by the Bowland shales at suitable depths. Furthermore, with a third of Britain not covered by anything approaching modern standards, now that systematic geological mapping is ending, for the lack of a few million a year, future governments will make expensive planning mistakes. Unforeseen ground conditions are often used as an excuse to cover up inadequate site investigations.
When it comes to the long-term disposal of high-level nuclear waste, another decade has been wasted during which the BGS could have been funded to explore in depth geologically stable areas such as Hertfordshire and Suffolk with no foreseeable deep mineral potential.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire