Fracking could bring opportunity

Fracking could bring Scotland some real economic benefits according to union GMB and firms like Ineos
Fracking could bring Scotland some real economic benefits according to union GMB and firms like Ineos

We at GMB Scotland welcome the sensible intervention by the representative body for the UK’s onshore oil and gas industry (UKOOG) to the Scottish government’s consultation on fracking.

The UKOOG response and the launch of its new website – www.gas4scotland.scot – lays out economic and employment opportunities presented by fracking, bringing much needed balance to the debate.

The industry body’s response follows on from a recent report produced by the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy, Natural Gas in the Energy Policy of the UK and Scotland, commissioned by GMB Scotland, which states the choice facing Scotland is “not one of whether to include gas in our energy mix for the foreseeable future, but where the gas will come from”.

Against the backdrop of rising fuel poverty in Scotland, the GMB has been pressing the case for an honest debate about Scotland’s energy future, urging politicians to fully examine the cost, environmental and employment implications of winding-down domestic gas production.

The debate around fracking among Scotland’s political elite is mired in hypocrisy because, as UKOOG rightly points out, we’ve been fracking the North Sea for decades and been more than happy to reap the rewards.

The GMB’s own recent report shows we are increasingly dependent on imported gas and our energy consumption demands cannot be met without gas. Abandoning gas production makes no sense – we need to be pragmatic about fracking.

The vast majority of Scottish homes are heated by gas while fuel poverty levels are on the up. Is the Scottish government suggesting people will have to rip out their gas boilers and replace them with electric heating which will increase bills three fold?

That’s just not credible. When you factor the prospect of consumers being forced to go cap in hand to countries like Russia and Qatar for their gas needs, we suspect the vast majority of people in Scotland would have similar concerns.

The idea that we can affordably heat our homes, power our economy and sustain thousands of jobs without domestic gas production is just pie in the sky politics and the main losers will be hard working Scots and the poorest in our society.

This is a sensible intervention by UKOOG which tackles the superficial demonisation of domestic gas production and lays out the economic and employment opportunities a properly regulated fracking industry could offer Scotland.

As Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer for the gas industry, said: “The call for a fact based review of the pros and cons of fracking, rather than short-sighted promises of an outright ban, is exactly what is needed as the UK decides where it will get its energy from.

“If the hysteria, hype and, on occasion, lies that surround hydraulic shale gas extraction are parked in favour of honest debate, the UK public could come to an informed conclusion.

“Renewables will continue to be a key and growing part of the energy mix that powers our economy.”