Shale gas: fracking hell or the future of energy?

Sunday 19 October, 13.20 until 13.40, Conservatory, Barbican Special topical sessions

This Battle Bite session is part of a special series of informal conversations between Battle of Ideas speakers on topics in the news, programmed in the days leading up to the festival to ensure they are as topical as possible. All Battle Bite sessions are free and open to non ticket holders.

Britain, like many other countries, is struggling to obtain cheap, reliable, low-carbon energy. With global demand expected to double by 2050, energy has become an increasing concern for policymakers.

So the emergence of shale gas – a potentially low-cost, lower-carbon source of energy available here in the UK – ought to be a relief to many. Instead it has attracted noisy opposition from environmentalists, concerned about the continued use of fossil fuels, and NIMBYs worried about their localities being blighted by drilling.

What, though, are the alternatives? In the UK, some have raised the possibility that blackouts could soon become a regular feature of our lives. Over the past few years, EU rules have led to the closure of many coal-fired power stations and, following prevarication by politicians, the generating capacity to replace these stations will not be available immediately. For the second half of this decade, the gap between peak demand and total power-station capacity will be close to zero.

Shale gas ticks many of the right boxes. If only in the medium term, is it Britain’s energy future or should we avoid it for the sake of the planet?

James Woudhuysen
visiting professor, London South Bank University

Rob Lyons
science and technology director, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Economy Forum

Produced by
Jake Unsworth trainee solicitor, Bond Dickinson; convenor, Debating Matters Ambassadors

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