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Shale gas - what genuine benefits does it offer?


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Something that has continued to dominate the media in recent months is shale gas - or rather, the extraction of it. While fracking polarises opinion, some real advantages can be derived from shale gas.

Here are a few examples of the genuine benefits that it offers:

Local communities could be in the money

Rather than focus on any negative impacts associated with fracking, the 'Shale Community Engagement Charter' promised that local areas will receive financial reward while shale rock drilling is carried out. The charter, as launched by the UK Onshore Operators Group, pledged £100,000 per exploratory shale site. Should gas or oil be discovered and produced from said site, the local community would be paid one per cent of revenues. According to The Telegraph, this could offer some areas up to £10 million over a 25-year period. 

More jobs and greater tax contributions

In the US, shale gas accounted for almost a quarter of its total gas production in 2010. The industry, according to reports, has created more than 600,000 jobs and has contributed billions of dollars to the economy in taxes. It's possible the same effects could be felt domestically should the UK's reserves be successfully tapped. A report by the Institute of Directors predicts 35,000 roles nationally, which might range from technology development to project management training.

Environmental benefits

While this remains a 'grey area', natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Although shale gas emissions are greater during the production stages, research has shown that its impact on the environment is only a little higher than that of 'conventional' gas. It is considerably more eco-friendly than oil or coal. Admittedly, more studies are required in this area, but the impact is not as significant as many people fear. 

A source of fuel when others are declining

It's a well-documented fact that fossil fuel reserves are running out. Shale sources, therefore, will provide vital fuel for years to come. In addition, it will prevent a monopoly (and price hikes imposed) by countries that export oil, chiefly in the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Cost reductions

This is another 'sticky' are - will costs be reduced? It's possible. Costs of natural gas and electricity to consumers in the US are said to have reduced since shale gas was produced. At the very least, prices could stabilise based on the fact that the UK would not be so reliant on other countries for its fuel supplies.

Author: Elizabeth Smythe

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