Calls to abandon net zero to tackle the energy crisis are short sighted
These are worrying times. As we emerge from the pandemic, global energy costs have spiralled, a situation exacerbated by sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Whether at the petrol pumps or with the arrival of their energy bill, people right now are feeling the squeeze.
In response, we are seeing short-sighted calls to abandon net zero targets and resume hydraulic fracturing.
I am MP for Fylde, the only constituency where shale gas drilling reached an extraction phase. I have always kept an open mind about “fracking”, choosing to fight for gold standard regulation and the traffic light system which monitored seismic activity.
The 2019 tremors, registering 2.9 on the Richter scale, proved that Fylde’s geology cannot sustain Hydraulic Fracturing, particularly in such a densely populated area. This was the second such incident to result in the suspension of drilling and a national moratorium.
Pivoting to domestic renewable and nuclear energy could stabilise prices and avoid the need for expensive emergency action
It is a mistake to believe resuming work at Preston New Road can solve the UK’s energy supply issues. This would be little more than token fracking, barely scratching the surface of our energy needs but causing significant opposition.
This sentiment was echoed by Iain Conn, CEO of Centrica, in a recent BBC interview. The industry’s alternative is ramping up exploration, proposing that the midlands and the north be carpeted with shale gas wells. This, for me, is a non-starter.
To resolve the challenges in our energy sector, we must consider both demand and supply side solutions - whether that be investing in home insulation, which can cut heating costs by up to 20 per cent.
In the short term, we must maximise all recoverable reserves in the North Sea, whilst simultaneously looking towards a sustainable energy supply for the United Kingdom that delivers jobs and investment. Fylde can be at the heart of this.
Home to Springfields, the UK’s only civil nuclear fuel manufacturing site, Fylde is already a key part of the North-West Nuclear Arc – a corridor of high skilled, well-paid jobs, stretching from Anglesey to Cumbria which demonstrates our region’s potential.
I have often spoken about the need to maintain our sovereign nuclear fuels manufacturing capability, ensuring we are not reliant on foreign powers to keep the lights on. The same is true of our wider energy need, reliance on energy imports are a significant drain on our national balance of payments.
Opinium polling shows that the British public, regardless of political leanings, are twice as likely to support renewable and nuclear energy, as opposed to alternative methods to reduce our reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Backing for nuclear and renewables, demonstrates that reservations about fracking is not NIMBYism, but a real desire to decarbonise our economy. To level up the UK regions, we must seize the opportunities before us, investing in renewables and accelerating new nuclear projects, including the Small Modular Reactor fleets.
This is just the start.
The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind, including a sizeable presence in the Irish Sea off Fylde. With the right support, windfarm development can be shortened from two decades to two years, potentially allowing us to surpass the government’s previous estimates of 60,000 sector jobs by 2030. Lancashire is ready to make low-cost low-carbon energy a reality and to export our expertise.
The government has already intervened to soften the blow of rising energy bills. Pre-emptive action to reduce our consumption and pivoting to domestic renewable and nuclear energy could stabilise prices and avoid the need for expensive emergency action in future.
The question is complex, but fracking is simply not the answer.
Mark Menzies is the Conservative MP for Fylde and a member of the Conservative Environment Network.
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