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Fracking: science and scepticism

A report on Prospect's panel discussion on fracking

By Prospect  

Last night Prospect hosted a public event on “Fracking: science and scepticism. Perspectives from the US and the UK” at the Royal Society with Durham Energy Institute, one of Durham University’s eight Research Institutes.

There was a panel of high-profile speakers, including Professor Robert B. Jackson of Duke University, a leading US expert who came over especially for the event; Professor Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth, who regularly appears on the BBC; Dan Byles MP, Chair of APPG for Unconventional Gas and Chair of All Party Environment Group; and Louise Gray, environmental correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. The event was chaired by Professor Richard Davies, director of the Durham Energy Institute.

It was a spirited event, and a wide range of views were represented—both on the panel and in the audience.

The British government has approved the start of exploratory hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the UK, and the implications of this move were discussed. Professor Jackson said that there was “a lot of potential for shale gas that has already been recognised in the United States.”

Byles acknowledged that views on the subject are “very polarised,” with some arguing that shale gas is an “unmitigated disaster” and others saying that it will mean “no more energy security problems and that the price of gas will come down.” The truth, he said, “is going to be somewhere in the middle.”

The results of research led by Professor Davies were also announced yesterday. His study found that fracking very rarely causes earthquakes that can be felt.

Professor Jackson commented on this in a BBC interview. It was also discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Today and in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail.

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