The Conservative leader of the hard-right Net Zero Group this morning announced a co-ordinated call for a revival of Britain’s fracking industry, in response to the Ukraine-worsened gas crisis.
Dover MP Craig Mackinlay’s appearance on LBC Radio coincided with oil hitting $130 a barrel on European markets, up $30 in less than a week. Gas also tripled to nearly 620 pence per therm on day-ahead contracts, against 170 pence only on 1 March.
The MP’s group is co-ordinating a letter to prime minister Johnson from Conservatives asking for the technology to be revived.
Fracking was suspended in November 2019 in the UK, following repeated earth tremors of up to 2.9 on the Richter scale, fears of polluted water courses, and extensive protests at sites such as Preston New Road and at Horse Hill in Surrey.
The Dover MP cited a new paper from the Oil and Gas Authority, which he claimed said that earlier safety fears had been ‘over blown
“At this time of gas crisis and geopolitical crisis”, MacKinlay told presenter Nick Ferrari, “it would be very remiss of any government not to look at the potential of any supply which could be helpful to the whole of Europe”.
“Fracking may have the answer”.
The MP said the prices per therm of gas – equivalent, according to the MP, to around 30 kWh –are now at £5, equivalent to around 12 pence per kWh.
Current retail prices of around 3.5 to 4 pence per kWh are set to rise to 7 pence next month, said McKinlay. At such spot prices rates, more suppliers would soon be joining nearly 30 failed challenger firms in bankruptcy, the MP believes.
If gas’s long term settlement value could be engineered down from £5 to around £ 2 per therm, that would mean £ 1 trillion of cost not being spent abroad, and creating 74,000 jobs, said Mackinlay, citing calculations from the Institute of Directors, increasing tax revenues.
Domestically fracked gas would have a carbon footprint half the size of imported LNG, as well as helping Britain’s balance of payments, said the MP.
Mackinlay added that “minor inconveniences” – by which he may have meant earth tremors, traffic disruption and polluted aquifers – could be tolerated if it meant Britain not contributing to the financing of Putin’s ‘war machine’.
Caps on two fracking test sites in Lancashire are due to be cemented over later this month.
With continental Europe estimated to rely on sanctioned Russia for 65% of its gas, onetime energy trader and former minister Alan Duncan MP told the Today programme that at such prices risks non-substitutable gas no longer being available to western European purchasers.
In the US, hydraulic fracturing of deep rocks to extract methane saw its 15 year boom bust into bankruptcies in the late 20-teens, amid a mountain of unserviceable debt, and the suspected suicide of one fracking boss.
In other news, Conservative former energy minister Lord Greg Barker today resigned as executive chairman director of EN+, the Anglo-Russian aluminium miner and hydropower company. Joan MacNaughton, the only other Brit on the all-Russian board, also stepped down.