Tackling global warming while still keeping the lights on is the “biggest environmental challenge ever” – and gas is part of the answer, according to former Greenpeace UK executive director Stephen Tindale.
Writing in The Sun, Mr Tindale argues that renewable energy is the best long-term answer, but it is far from ready to become the UK’s primary form of electricity generation.
“For the next few decades at least, gas is an essential part of the answer to Britain’s energy crisis,” he says.
Global warming: “Fracking is not the problem but a central part of the answer”
As in some parts of Australia, fracking will be needed to develop the UK’s onshore gas resources.
Mr Tindale says well-regulated fracking does not pose major environmental problems.
“As a lifelong champion of the Green cause, I’m convinced that fracking is not the problem but a central part of the answer,” he writes.
“Earlier this month the Government approved a shale gas project in Lancashire.
“That’s a great start, but that’s all it is. We need dozens more like it if Britain is to meet our energy needs in the decades to come.
“And if activist groups including Greenpeace really want to help the environment, they should stop protesting about projects like this and let them be built as quickly as possible.”
Natural gas production delivers real environmental benefits.
Replacing coal with natural gas reduces emissions significantly. In 2014, US greenhouse gas emissions were 9% below 2005 levels thanks largely to the country’s growing use of shale gas.
Because gas-fired generation can be quickly switched on and off, natural gas can also enable the phased introduction of intermittent wind and solar energy. Developing gas-fired capacity in step with any expansion in renewables allows us to optimise emissions reduction without undermining energy security.
Combining hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with horizontal drilling reduces the number of wells needed to develop a gas resource. This means the development’s surface footprint is much lower than in traditional gas fields, and only a fraction of the area required to develop an equivalent amount of wind or solar energy.