She has some interesting comments about shale gas development in the UK:
For Lucas, the big problem with fracking has nothing to do with the risk that it will cause earthquakes, contaminate the water table or pollute the soil. In fact, she thinks it possible that stringent regulations could minimise those risks. "It's not that fracking itself is necessarily worse than ordinary gas extraction. It's the fact that we're just about to put into place a whole new infrastructure for a whole new fossil-fuel industry, at exactly the time when we need to be reducing our emissions." The problem, in other words, is climate change.I've long been of the opinion that, at the upper levels of various NGOs and political groups, the primary opposition to shale gas is derived from a the climate change angle, not local pollution. The scare stories about earthquakes and pollution are a stalking horse for the real issue. Climate change concerns are unlikely to mobilise local support in any significant way, hence the need to exaggerate local impacts in order to foment local opposition. It's refreshing that Caroline Lucas has come clean about this.
She also accepts that we will continue to burn gas in this country for some time to come:
Some environmentalists argue that shale gas is the obvious answer to our energy needs, until we've worked out how to power the country with renewables. Lucas accepts that we do need gas to tide us over, "but I would prefer to keep importing it from Norway, for example, because it will be easier to turn that tap off than it would be to dismantle an entire new industry that we had deliberately incentivised."So it seems that Caroline Lucas and I are mainly in agreement. Shale gas extraction doesn't pose any particular risk beyond that common to all forms of hydrocarbon extraction, with which we are very familiar with in the UK. Moreover, we will continue to burn gas in this country. Our only point of difference is where that gas will come from.
The UK currently imports 40% of our gas, and without domestic shale production this is expected to increase to 75% by 2030 as the North Sea runs down. This will cost us over £15 billion per year, money lost to the UK economy, paying no tax, creating no jobs, instead funding an air-conditioned world cup in Qatar and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. I believe that we should keep this £15 billion/yr in the UK, creating jobs both directly and in the supply chain, and paying taxes to the UK government, by developing a domestic shale gas industry. Caroline Lucas believes we should give £15 billion/yr to Qatar and Norway.
The final issue is whether a domestic shale gas industry would hamper the development of renewables? Evidence from the USA has shown that this is unlikely to be the case. Texas, home of the shale gas boom, is also one of the top states for wind energy, and renewable energy chiefs have sung the praises of the shale boom as beneficial to the growth of the renewables industry. Renewables are intermittent, meaning they need flexible backup systems. Gas turbines are the most flexible and responsive method of electricity generation, so coping with renewable intermittency becomes easier if gas supplies are cheap, secure and abundant.
Moreover, the development of renewables is primarily dependent on subsidy and support from government. A government losing £15 billion/yr to pay for gas imports is less likely to be in a position to offer support and subsidy than one sitting on an economy boosted by shale development. We've already seen how our current subsidy levels, which in truth are fairly meagre, have become so politically unpopular as the economy remains sluggish and energy bills rise.
I've discussed before how, in political terms, people who support shale extraction oppose renewable development, and vice versa. This has given the impression that the two technologies mutually exclude each other. In fact, they can be made to work together hand-in-hand.