Ineos Takes Fracking Plea to UK Labour

25.10.2016 -

With its warnings that ignoring the benefits of shale gas exploitation would have dire consequences for society having fallen on deaf ears in Scotland, Ineos has taken its case to the leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Commenting on the party’s recent announcement that it would ban fracking outright if it came to power, Ineos in an open letter to Corbyn said a ban on fracking would mean a reliance on “unstable and illiberal regimes” for energy imports. Executives of the Swiss-based group wrote similar messages to Labour members of the devolved Scottish Parliament.

Gary Haywood, CEO of Ineos Shale, told Corbyn he was “deeply disappointed” with Labour’s stance, unveiled at the party's annual conference. “This is not a shale gas versus renewables debate, both are needed in our energy mix in the decades ahead,” he said. “Those who are opposed to extracting natural gas must be called upon to articulate what they would do to fulfil societal energy and materials needs.

“As North Sea reserves decline,” Haywood said, “it falls upon us to find new sources of energy to maintain the standard of living that we have become accustomed to. We currently import almost 60% of our gas, and this figure will only climb in the coming years.”

Boring deeper into the same figurative drill hole opened by other Ineos executives, including the group’s chairman, Jim Ratcliffe, Haywood cited a report commissioned by the Scottish Government, which has a moratorium on fracking, to back Ineos’ position that a fracking industry could be developed safely. He also repeated claims that embracing shale gas could reverse the collapse in manufacturing experienced by the UK economy over the past several decades and transform communities across some of the poorest parts of the country.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for the Scottish Labour party told a national newspaper that the party will not back away from plans to ban onshore shale exploitation. “The science tells us that the last thing we need is another fossil fuel when the long-term direction of our economy and our energy strategy has to be investing in renewables, rather than drilling in populated parts of the UK including central Scotland.”

A recent UK nationwide poll found that 83% of those questioned were in favor of renewable energies such as wind and solar power, while only 34% were in favor of shale gas exploitation. In a report just published by the University of Stirling in Scotland, the authors argue that fracking cannot be adequately regulated, as evidence from peer-reviewed papers shows that UK government agencies lack the staff and resources to protect the public from pollution risks.

“While a lot of political capital has been invested in the promise of best regulatory and best industry practices in the UK, in reality the regulatory agencies who might oversee the industry have suffered cutbacks and do not have the necessary capacity or expertise,” Professor Andrew Watterson and Dr. Will Dinan assert.

By contrast, UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), which represents the shale gas industry, said the UK and Scottish regulatory system, “which is among the most stringent in the world, ensures we evaluate all potential risk.”