Fracking bosses: "it's like pushing sh**e uphill"

Posted by kcumming — 6 November 2013 at 12:36pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Jiri Rezac/ Greenpeace

Two things struck me about the appearance of fracking bosses in front of the House of Lords' Economic Affairs Committee yesterday.

First, these guys are annoyed. Despite best efforts and a lot of bit-chomping, they remain stranded in the shale gas starting blocks, having only managed to drill a total of three exploratory wells in England and partially fracture one. Cuadrilla’s Francis Egan: “I wouldn’t call that an accelerated exploration project”.

He and IGas CEO Andrew Austin are finding the planning and regulatory regime burdensome, and they’re disappointed that Government agencies (namely the Environment Agency) are not doing more to help with PR efforts. “Regulatory bodies should play a more active role in the early stages of consultation, reassuring members of the community,” said Mr Egan. He reckons that when he says there’s no link between fracking and cancer no one listens, and he needs some back up.

“We know we have an uphill PR challenge,” admitted Mr Austin.

“The pace of regulation needs to pick up considerably,” said Egan. “We’d like to be getting on with it.” You can see why. Investors must be breathing heavily down their necks, given recent headlines like “Shale Gas Hiatus” (The Times), and “Fracking rules pose threat to UK shale” (Proactive Investors).

Anti-fracking campaigners across the country should take heart. Nothing much has changed for these companies in a year. The CEOs talked of new hurdles appearing just as old ones are overcome - by which they mean fresh pockets of protest, growing public unease, and new planning and regulatory requirements.

The second thing that stood out for me was their admittance that fracking will not reduce household bills. They were crystal clear about this - gas prices will not go down because of UK shale, infact “If the price [of gas] goes up it goes up,” said Egan.

I will be very interested to see if David Cameron dares stand up in public again and asserts the opposite (something he is wont to do).

Final point, jobs figures – slippery as all hell, according to Egan, and very difficult to predict. “You’ll have workers eating at local burger bars,” offered Andrew Austin helpfully.

Do you think they’ll be having fries with that?

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