Is Osborne Planning a Fracking Planning Fast Track?
In the Autumn Statement
1.82 The Energy Bill, published in November 2012, will provide certainty to investors to bring forward up to £110 billion of investment in new infrastructure to meet the UK’s future energy needs. The Government’s Gas Generation Strategy will set out its view of the expected role for gas in the coming years. The Government expects up to 26 gigawatts (GW) of new gas capacity could be required by 2030 on current carbon budgets. If the fourth carbon budget is revised upwards and emissions reductions are more gradual, then up to 37 GW of new plant could be required. Support available for low carbon electricity investment through the Levy Control Framework up to 2020 will be capped at up to £7.6 billion per year (in 2012 prices) in 2020-21 – more than triple the £2.35 billion available in 2012-13. This will allow generators from both renewables and gas to invest with conﬁdence and provide protection for consumers.
1.83 To maximise economic production from UK natural gas resources, the Government will also establish an Ofﬁce for Unconventional Gas. This will join up responsibilities across government, provide a single point of contact for investors and ensure a simpliﬁed and streamlined regulatory process. The Government will also consult on the tax regime for shale gas.
A few points of note. The language assumes that the purpose of a carbon budget is to expend carbon to the max rather than to minimise it, and therefore the strong hint is that Carbon budgets will be relaxed and of course renewable subsidies will be capped to allow the gas expansion. This of course is turning UK carbon reduction policy on its head. Secondly the new OFFRACK or whatever its is called will have an inbuilt conflict of interesting that it will both regulate the negative impacts of the technology and promote it.
Will fracking become the first minerals extraction technology to come under the Major Infrastructure regime? There would be some sense in that in that experience suggests that even test drilling for both unconventional gas and conventional oil and gas are universally opposed.