Submission to inquiry on ‘Environmental risks of fracking’ by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee

This is a submission by the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science and the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. It focuses in particular on the implications of fracking for the UK’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This submission builds on the evidence collected in the course of the study ‘A UK ‘dash’ for smart gas’ (Bassi et al., 2013).

The main points of this submission:

  • Shifting from coal to natural gas – either from conventional or unconventional domestic sources, or from imports – for electricity generation could help the UK power sector to decarbonise in the near term. Gas-fired power plants could also play an important back-up role as the share of renewable electricity in generation increases.
  • In the longer term, gas-fired power plants will have to be either replaced by low-carbon alternatives or fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) if the UK is to comply with its emission reduction targets.
  • A lower risk option would be a ‘dash’ for smart gas, where natural gas, including domestic shale gas, is used judiciously in those areas where it offers the greatest value in decarbonising the power sector, preventing the undesirable lock in of infrastructure for fossil fuels.