Dec. 13 - Britain has lifted its ban on shale gas exploration as it aims to become a European leader in a sector that has transformed the U.S. energy market. Hayley Platt reports.
Two small earthquakes brought an end to shale gas exploration in the UK But 18 months on the government says fracking can now resume. The controversial process involves using hydraulic drills to create tiny explosions deep under ground. They split rock and release trapped natural gas. Britain's energy secretary says after studying a report on the quakes drilling can resume under strict controls. SOUNDBITE: Ed Davey MP, Energy Secretary, saying (English): "The evidence suggests that we can frack for shale gas safely, safe for people in their homes, in their communities as well as safe for the environment." For decades North Sea oil has supplied home grown energy. And so far only one company - Cuadrilla Resources - has a license to drill. But shale gas has transformed the U.S. energy market. And Britain is hoping it will do the same here. Ann Robinson, uSwitch. SOUNDBITE: Ann Robinson, uSwitch, saying (English): "I actually think it could has a beneficial effect on prices. Infact we're running out of gas in the north sea. It will reduce our dependency on gas. The government's said that gas is very much part of our mix of energy going forward. So yes the hope is that it will reduce prices and have an impact on all our bills." But environmentalists aren't convinced it's safe. SOUNDBITE: Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth, saying (English): "The European Commission has said it's at high risk but also at a global level. We know this is a fossil fuel, it's going to keep us hooked even more on fossil fuel at a time when we need to be rapidly moving away from fossil fuels and developing clean, green energy sources." Estimates about how much shale gas there is vary considerably. But the government clearly believes the prospect of another home grown energy source is worth exploring.