Energy policy

Shale gas drilling rules to be eased despite overwhelming opposition

  • 26 Sep 2014, 13:45
  • Simon Evans

Fracking firms could benefit by up to £105 million a year from a legal change that is being pushed through despite overwhelming public opposition.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has long had plans to change the law so that drilling for shale gas deep under peoples' properties is no longer considered trespass.

Yesterday DECC said it would go ahead with the change. That's despite the opposition of 99 per cent of the 40,647 people that responded to a public consultation on the plans.

Trespass no more

To extract shale gas from deep under the UK, firms plan to drill into shale rocks and then split them apart with high-pressure water, chemicals and sand. This takes place at depths at least several hundred meters below the surface.

Under current law, drilling fracking wells under peoples' homes constitutes trespass. This would not prevent fracking from taking place. But it would entail a potentially lengthy legal process that would be expected to lead to compensation for landowners. Case law suggests this compensation would be relatively minimal.

The government held a public consultation until mid-August on plans to change the law to speed up the process. It would formalise a standard compensation package for communities affected by drilling.

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UK and Germany balk at coal exit plea

  • 19 Sep 2014, 16:25
  • Simon Evans

Earlier this week a major global report explained how the world could tackle climate change while growing the economy, at no extra cost.

One of its top recommendations was for rich countries to get out of coal as quickly as possible. It said these countries should immediately promise to stop building new coal plants and to accelerate the closure of old power stations.

That sounds like a pretty simple ask. So are the EU's major coal users like the UK and Germany up for an accelerated coal phase-out? Not exactly, it turns out.

Cut coal for growth and climate

The coal exit plea comes from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate's New Climate Economy report. The UK government and others set up the commission to investigate whether the global economy could continue to grow while tackling the risks of climate change.

The report finds that most of the emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous warming could be made at no additional cost to the economy, if there is "strong and broad implementation" of its ten point plan. The findings were backed by UK climate secretary Ed Davey.

The report puts special emphasis on reducing coal emissions. Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels and is responsible for three-quarters of all power sector emissions despite only providing two-fifths of power. So getting out of coal is an "essential feature" of climate action, the report says, and it is "critical" to limit further coal expansion.

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Scotland decides: What independence could mean for the country’s climate and energy policies

  • 17 Sep 2014, 14:10
  • Simon Evans & Mat Hope

Scotland's voters are set to decide whether the country will separate from the rest of the UK.

Here's our guide to what independence might mean for the country's climate and energy policies.

Scotland would get the lion's share of North Sea oil and gas tax revenues, but might have to forego some of it to keep the sector going

One of the  largest economic prizes at stake in the referendum is North Sea oil and gas.

The Scottish government says Scotland would have a right to 90 per cent of future North sea oil and gas tax revenues. The UK government says it's more like  73-88 per cent.

The split largely depends on where the maritime border  would be drawn. The final boundary would have to be negotiated between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 At 11.52.55Source: HM Government " Scotland analysis: Borders and citizenship"

It also depends on how much oil is worth in future and how much it costs to extract. In 2012/13 an 84 per cent share of North sea tax revenues was worth £5.6 billion. But future revenues are  highly uncertain.

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