An enormous gasfield was discovered near the city of Blackpool in North West England by the Cuadrilla energy firm recently. It could contain up to two hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Recoverable reserves will probably be less but the discovery has the potential of providing Britain with affordable and abundant energy for decades to come nevertheless.
For comparison, the Groningen gasfield in the Netherlands, the largest in Europe, is estimated to contain less than a hundred trillion cubic feet of gas. The Troll field in Norwegian waters, the largest North Sea gasfield discovered to date, is approximately fifty trillion cubic feet recoverable. Both areas have supplied northwestern Europe with cheap energy for two generations and are likely to remain productive for many more years.
The Blackpool discovery should be heralded as a blessing. It could reduce Britain’s dependence on the import of foreign hydrocarbons and keep energy affordable for Britons well in the future. The problem, as the left leaning newspaper The Guardian puts it, “is the holes.” Locals fear shale gas exploration which allegedly contaminates ground water and causes earthquakes.
In seeking to expand across the region, [Cuadrilla] will face stiff opposition. Protesters are already mobilizing — a protest camp was set up near another of the company’s sites this summer and local groups in the areas affected are gathering support.
Shale gas extraction, or fracking, is lightly regulated in the United Kingdom, The Guardian laments, and the company drilling near Blackpool has “not explained this properly,” according to one local resident. A Green party lawmakers suggests in the same newspaper that the government institute a “moratorium” on shale gas exploration, “at least until the environmental and health effects are fully understood.”
The environmentalists would rather London continue to subsidize unprofitable “clean” energy and build windmills all over the country and the North Sea of course but it would be insane to let ignorance and fear of a new technology stand between Britain and maybe a century of cheap, relatively clean and stable domestic energy production.
There is probably shale gas to be found across the country. The Blackpool field alone could be good for decades of sustainable gas exploitation. Impose a “moratorium” on exploration and Britain will never know what it’s got — and convince it that “green” energy is the only viable alternative to Arab oil.