What is the APPG on Unconventional Oil and Gas actually for?

appgOne of our readers has contacted us with a guest post which is reproduced below. It makes very interesting reading:

There has been some condemnation recently of MP Kevin Hollinrake, who was a Vice Chair of the APPG on Unconventional Oil and Gas. He resigned when he was made aware that it was funded by the industry.

I was reminded that this APPG does not appear to be very active, despite information about fracking being of crucial and time critical importance to the North of England; and in particular the APPG has recently cancelled two events that would/could have been enlightening.

The APPG comprises 19 MPs of whom 11 are Conservative, and has some 90 associated members from academia, the industry, environmental and community groups. It was formed to provide a forum for transparent, evidence based discussion around the issue of unconventional oil and gas development in the UK. Their website says there are still many unanswered questions such as:

  • How much shale gas or oil is realistically recoverable, and at what price?
  • What are the real environmental effects of fracking, and what would be the effect on local communities?
  • What impact could shale gas or oil production at scale have on climate change commitments?
  • What could be the impact, if any, on UK energy prices?

According to the website there was a meeting in mid-July to discuss the implications of the new Government, for the UK shale industry and future regulation of the sector, and then nothing until late October, when Andrea Leadsom MP addressed the APPG on the Government’s priorities for UK shale and the role of shale in the energy mix. The next meeting is, I am told late February, and will be a research analyst’s view on the economics of shale in the UK and the global gas market.

All well and good, but government priorities, followed some months later by an economic viewpoint, is not comparable to having hard facts and actual experience to discuss.

Which brings me to the two cancelled events….

One was a presentation by the Task Force planned for early December, which was cancelled about a week before it was due, with no new date set. It seems to me that this would have generated lively debate, not least around the statement by Lord Chris Smith, that shale gas does not have viability in the medium term, now that CCS has been cancelled.

The other key event was to have been “Better Regulation and Lessons from Canada “; and would have featured Jim Ellis, President and CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator, and Professor John Loughhead, the DECC Chief Scientific Advisor. It was billed thus “the event will examine regulation of shale in the Canadian province and what lessons could be learnt here in the UK. “

It should have been held in late November but was cancelled a mere 12 days beforehand, with no explanation. Which seems odd, given that Mr Ellis must have booked his flights several weeks earlier, so what happened? Did Prof Loughhead suddenly find he had another more pressing engagement?

It might be that the committee of MPs are meeting in private and discussing the Task Force report or the latest on the EPA report on Water Contamination, but there is nothing on the website to suggest that they are, and a long standing associate member has no knowledge of any such meetings.

There is however no substitute for face to face questioning, for example of the Task Force and nothing whatsoever to compare with tackling the nitty-gritty of Canada’s experience, with Alberta’s own Regulator.

It is particularly disappointing for us in the North West, that this event was cancelled, as it would have been particularly valuable for both the Planning Inspectorate (who start work on the 9th February ) and for Greg Clark, the SoS for DCLG who will make the final decision.

I strongly suspect that time has run out and these events cannot be rescheduled before the Inspector starts work.

Nigel Mills, The Chair of the APPG, says :-

“my hope is that the fledgling UK industry is sincere about having an informed debate, and is eager to support work done to lift up all the stones and peer beneath them”

Kevin Hollinrake might well have been remiss in his research, but the real scandal is that the APPG is not bothering to lift the stones and peer beneath them.

And is the North West going to suffer the consequences ?

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