Scots Govt. fracking ban ‘based on dogma’

The Scottish Government announced that it “will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland” — meaning there is an “effective ban” on fracking in Scotland.

UK Onshore Oil and Gas CEO Ken Cronin said the ban is a “poor decision” and said the Scottish Government prefers a future “where gas will have to be imported with the damage that will do to the economy and the environment.”

Cronin added: “This is a decision that is based on dogma not evidence or geo-political reality.”

Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs the decision followed an extensive period of evidence gathering and public engagement.

“The Scottish Government’s cautious, evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas included a four-month public consultation which received over 60,000 responses,” said the Scottish Government.

“Overall, approximately 99% of the consultation responses were opposed to fracking and fewer than 1% were in favour.

“Those opposed to fracking emphasised the potential for significant, long-lasting negative impacts on communities, health, environment, and climate; expressed scepticism about the ability of regulation to mitigate negative impacts; and were unconvinced about the value of any economic benefit or the contribution of unconventional oil and gas to Scotland’s energy mix.”

The Scottish Government has written to local authorities across Scotland to make clear that the directions that gave effect to a recent moratorium on fracking will remain in place.

A parliamentary vote will take place in the near future followed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Wheelhouse said: “Having taken account of the interests of the environment, our economy, public health and the overwhelming majority of public opinion, the decision I am announcing today means fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.

“We have undertaken one of the most far-reaching examinations of unconventional oil and gas ever carried out by any government, anywhere.

“We have not taken the process or the decision lightly. At every stage we have created opportunities for discourse and debate.

“The views expressed through our consultation demonstrated that communities across Scotland, particularly in densely populated areas where developments could potentially take place, are not convinced there is a strong national economic argument when balanced against the risk and disruption they anticipate in areas, such as transport, pollution, crucially, their health and wellbeing.

“It is clear that people across Scotland remain firmly opposed to fracking – this government has listened and taken decisive action.

“Scotland’s chemicals industry has conveyed strong views on the potential impact of shale on the sector.

“I want to be clear that regardless of our position on unconventional oil and gas, our support for Scotland’s industrial base and manufacturing is unwavering.

“Manufacturing and the chemicals industry continue to play a crucial role in the Scottish economy.

“The Scottish Government understands that a supportive fiscal regime, affordable energy, access to the right skills, and good infrastructure are all essential to future success.

“That is why this government will continue to support industry in a range of different ways in the months and years to come.”

UK Onshore Oil and Gas CEO Ken Cronin said: “The Scottish Government ignores the advice of its own independent experts and prefers a future where gas will have to be imported with the damage that will do to the economy and the environment.

“It turns its back on job creation, skills development, an increase in tax receipts and investment in communities.

“Over the last 20 years, 30 wells have been drilled and produce gas within the Central Belt, without any impact to the natural environment or public health.

“This is a poor decision, ignoring Scotland’s rich heritage and expertise in oil and gas.

“It is not based on the evidence from extensive independent research, which clearly states that with appropriate regulatory oversight and monitoring Scotland’s regulatory framework is sufficiently robust to manage onshore exploration and production.

“Today in Scotland, there are nearly two million homes and over 22,000 commercial businesses that are connected to gas.

“78% of domestic heating is provided by gas and 43% of all gas consumed is by industry.

“Currently over 50% of that gas is imported into the UK and set to rise significantly over the next few years.

“There is no viable or affordable alternative to Scottish natural gas from shale other than importing significant quantities of gas.

“It is interesting that Paul Wheelhouse should mention the Committee on Climate Change, who have in fact stated that the Scottish Government’s own target of having 80% of heating from low carbon sources by 2032 is ‘very unlikely to be feasible’, and that an onshore gas industry could fit well within Scotland’s climate change targets if certain conditions were met, which the industry was committed to doing.

“The reality is that it’s better for the planet to be producing our gas here rather than shipping it in across oceans from elsewhere, especially when Scotland has a petrochemicals industry so reliant on natural gas.

“But after today’s decision, the significant benefits from production will now be lost, and the opportunity to develop a robust future energy mix discarded.

“This is a decision that is based on dogma not evidence or geo-political reality.”

INEOS Shale said the decision to ban shale extraction in Scotland signals the Scottish Government “turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance.”

It said Scotland will miss out on the economic and employment benefits that will be enjoyed by the rest of the UK including an estimated 3,100 Scottish jobs.

Tom Pickering, Operations Director of INEOS Shale, said: “It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making.

“The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.”

INEOS Shale said recent figures on jobs and investment estimate that the shale industry is expected to bring in £33 billion of investment into England alone over the next two decades.

It said that as North Sea oil and gas declines, shale gas could offer Scotland a vital opportunity to revitalise its energy economy.

“With a report commissioned by the Scottish Government itself judging shale production safe, today’s decision seems bizarre,” said INEOS Shale.

Pickering continued: “Today’s decision is a slight on the dedicated professionalism that Scottish workers have pioneered in the North Sea.

“We lead the world in exploration safety, but I fear we will start to see large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work as the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to decline.”

INEOS Shale said a thriving Scottish shale industry would not only benefit local communities to the tune of an estimated £1 billion but would contribute to Scotland gaining energy independence.

“Shale Gas is fully backed by the UK government and the British Geological Survey, and offers the UK an opportunity to provide the energy our economy needs with reduced Co2 emissions,” said INEOS Shale.

Pickering concluded: “Natural gas will be needed by Scotland for the foreseeable future and production from the North Sea continues to decline.

“This decision, which beggars belief, means gas becomes a cost for the Scottish economy instead of an ongoing source of income.

“It speaks volumes about Scottish leadership on the world stage and sends a clear and negative message to any future investors in Scotland.

“Expert reports have clearly stated that this technology can be applied safely and responsibly – but it will be England that reaps the benefits.”