The Co-operative Calls For Moratorium On Shale Gas Extraction In The UK
Released on: January 21, 2011, 10:13 am
The Co-operative Group
January 21, 2011 - The Government should impose an immediate
moratorium on the extraction of natural gas from the UK’s shale
formations until all the ecological implications are fully understood.
That is the conclusion of a carefully considered report commissioned by The
Co-operative to coincide with the UK premiere of the award winning film, Gasland,
which shows the astonishing implications of shale gas extraction in the United
The report, written by the internationally respected Tyndall Centre, part of The
University of Manchester, highlights evidence from the US, where some residents of
Pennsylvania can now set fire to their drinking water, which suggests shale gas
extraction brings a significant risk of groundwater contamination.
Moreover, the exploitation of gas shales is bringing new greenhouse gas sources into
play and even a mid-range extraction scenario could see carbon dioxide levels rise
globally by some 5 parts per million by 2050. This will further reduce any slim
possibility of maintaining global temperature changes at or below 2˚C and
thereby increase the risk of entering a period of ‘dangerous climate change’.
The report concludes that until a sufficient evidence base is developed, a
precautionary approach to development in the UK is the only responsible action to
take to minimise the potential impact on global climate change.
With conventional natural gas reserves declining globally, shale gas has emerged as
a potentially significant new source of “unconventional gas”. In the United States,
production of shale gas expanded fivefold between 1990 and 2008 and it is predicted
that production will expand further to meet a significant proportion of US gas
demand in the next 20 years.
The rapid growth of shale gas production in the US has raised interest in the UK,
with a number of businesses beginning activities, particularly on the Fylde coast of
North West England.
In large measure, this expansion is possible because of the new technologies of
horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which make shale gas extraction more
The Report raises serious questions about environmental and human health risks,
+ The release, globally, of significant quantities of greenhouse gases into the
+ Potential groundwater contamination associated with chemicals used in the
hydraulic fracturing process and the mobilisation of heavy metals and hydrocarbons.
+ Resource issues including abstraction of significant quantities of water for
hydraulic fracturing processes and land use.
The report also looks at the explicit implications of exploiting shale gas within
the UK, which is likely to give rise to a range of additional challenges, including:
+ The UK is densely populated and consequently any wells associated with shale gas
extraction are likely to be relatively close to population centres.
+ The proximity of such extraction will give rise to a range of local concerns
including noise pollution, high levels of truck movements and considerable land use
Neville Richardson, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Financial Services, said: “On the face of it new natural gas finds appear to be good news, but this important
report highlights the significant gaps in our knowledge when it comes to
understanding the impacts of shale gas extraction.
“That is why 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
“Our members have been fully supportive of our on-going Toxic Fuels campaign in which we have highlighted the issues associated with tar
sands, and as a responsible institutional investor we will continue to engage with
energy companies in order to ensure they act responsibly and work to support the
development of sustainable energy sources.”
Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre,
University of Manchester, said: “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. Consequently, if we are serious about avoiding dangerous climate change, the only safe place for shale gas remains in the ground.”
In looking at global emissions from shale gas consumption, three scenarios were
prepared that utilised varying degrees of reserve exploitation. The resulting
increase in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide ranged from 3 to 11 parts
per million by 2050.
Contact Details: Dave Smith
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5614
Mob: 07702 152771
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