Could fracking bring cheap energy to the UK?

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Fracking firms promise to bring cheap gas to the UK - but at what price?
Fracking firms promise to bring cheap gas to the UK - but at what price? Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Falling energy prices? Bills going down? A glut of cheap, natural gas less dirty than coal so less costly in terms of cash and carbon? An American dream?

That's the promise that some make looking at the experience of the US where shale gas, that in simple terms is blasted out the ground using water and chemicals in a process called 'fracking', has turned the energy market upside down.

Electricity and gas prices have been pushed down dramatically - they've sunk to the lowest level in ten years across the Atlantic.

An anti-fracking protest
An anti-fracking protest Credit: ITV News

By suggesting that extraction of shale can restart, a panel of government experts will raise hopes that that could happen here. But there are not one, but two obstacles that stand in the way the same kind of energy revolution here:

First, shale extraction can make the earth move. It caused two mini earthquakes near Blackpool and even with stricter safeguards, concerns will remain. Crucially, the Government's report today has not looked at potential water contamination which is also considered a potential risk.

Second, opposition to the technology is very vocal in the US. In France, it has even been banned. Environmental groups and campaigns like 'Frack Off' will not let the issue rest.