ANDREW LEWER COLUMN: Don't dismiss shale gas as a fuel solution

The 9/11 attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon were the modern era’s most acute ‘Do you remember what you were doing when…?’ moment, writes Andrew Lewer MP.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Friday, 18th March 2022, 1:23 pm
Updated Friday, 18th March 2022, 1:24 pm
Wind power is currently not a sufficient alternative power source

That is until February 24, 2022, when Russian troops began their bloody invasion into Ukraine. Things will never be the same again.

The invasion of Poland in 1939, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 are three other examples of life-changing historical moments.

We now have big decisions to make and some of them need to be made fast. We must recalibrate our priorities to defend ourselves militarily, economically and socially.

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Some of our biggest policy stances, especially on defence and energy, have now been exposed as being not fit for purpose.

This is not just a British problem. The German energy policy has been disastrous for relying so much on Russian natural gas (with, indeed, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder having served as a director of the Russian gas giant, Rosneft).

This dependence could well have contributed to the Putin calculus to invade Ukraine.

We are in a perfect energy storm. Before this current crisis, the rush to net zero meant that with the West shutting its coal-fired power stations and the German decision to shut down its nuclear power sector, the demand for natural gas increased, which led to wholesale price increases.

Combined with the restart of the world economy following the Covid pandemic, that sudden surge in demand led to an equal surge in wholesale gas prices. Now, with Russia engaged in a major conflict, we will see more energy price shocks.

These energy prices are just not sustainable for ordinary families or for our economy. Let us be honest: We all became complacent about our energy security and now we must address it. Fast!

The German Green Party, who built their 50-year-old political base on the end of nuclear power in Germany has reversed its position and nuclear power is back on the energy agenda there.

On the British front, last week I co-signed a letter to the secretary of state for business, urging him not to permanently seal our onshore shale gas wells, which was due to take place before the end of March.

The secretary of state stated at the despatch box last week “it did not necessarily make any sense to concrete over the wells”, suggesting common sense may have prevailed?

Just over 20 years ago we were completely energy sufficient and a net exporter of natural gas. The race to transition fossil fuels has meant we now rely on a mixture of Norwegian and Middle Eastern countries for our gas supplies. This includes Russia at 3%.

This has been a mistake and we need to change direction. Energy supplies and shale gas production must be looked at again. We have rich reserves of the stuff in this country and we should be in a position to use this asset as, yes, we continue to transition away from fossil fuels and bridge the gap until other sources come online.

To meet demand, shale gas has real potential to drive down your gas bills. Alternatives like wind power cannot meet the demand and you already pay a premium on your bill to subsidise this sector.

Look at a photograph of Northampton in 1899 and compare it to one from 1927. The transformation from all horses and carts to virtually none is striking. This is the same period of time as from now until 2050, the year of the goal of Net Zero.

This could still be achieved, but realism and an acceptance of an uneven pace along the journey need to be accepted, never more so than in the face of the grave challenges we now confront due to the terrible events in Ukraine.