As the USA contemplated the prospect of relying on foreign nations to supply of most of its gas requirements, mining companies in the country devised a cost-effective method for extracting shale gas. The discovery prompted a rush of explorations, which revealed substantial shale gas reserves – enough, in fact, to fuel the US for the next century. Unfortunately, drilling for shale gas has allegedly produced several unforeseen consequences, including the contamination of domestic water supplies and the suspension of major green energy initiatives.
As investigators in the US determine whether the apparent presence of methane gas in water supplies has been caused by shale drilling, as claimed by many residents, the UK Government has rejected calls for a moratorium on shale gas exploration until research and legislation have identified and controlled potential hazards.
The chief executive of The Co-operative Financial Services, Neville Richardson, said: “We are calling for a moratorium on any further exploitation of shale gas, which will allow the wider environmental concerns to be fully exposed and addressed.”
Paul Monaghan, of Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre, added: “There should be no fracturing of rock for shale gas until legislation can catch up. We are aghast Government accepted the assurances of industry on this while their own consultation had not even finished. There was a shale gas rush in the US and now they are looking into the implications – we need to do it the other way round.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change rejected the calls for a moratorium, stating the firm currently undertaking drilling in Lancashire, Cuadrilla, is exercising the “utmost care”.
Aside from domestic health implications, the exploration of shale gas in the UK and US could seriously affect the global effort to curtail carbon emissions. If shale gas is exploited for use in central heating systems, it is quite likely that the burning of fossil fuels will continue unabated until the new reserves are depleted.
Professor Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre, wrote: “In an energy hungry world any new fossil fuel resource will only lead to additional carbon emissions. In the case of shale gas there is also a significant risk its use will delay the introduction of renewable energy alternatives.”