Leading article

Britain needs to get fracking

Not since the discovery of North Sea oil has the country had such an incredible opportunity

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

That democracy is a superior form of government to any other goes without saying. But in order to function, it has to be conducted in such a way and on such a scale as to ensure that the people or their elected representatives are making decisions based on genuine alternatives. With this week’s decision by Lancashire County Council to reject a second application for fracking on a site near Blackpool, something has gone seriously wrong. An important national issue has been allowed to be settled according to purely local concerns.

Warned by their lawyers that there were no environmental or safety grounds for rejecting the application, councillors instead voted to throw it out on the grounds that it would have an ‘adverse urbanising effect on the landscape’ — this, about a temporary drilling rig. While it might be understandable that locals should be concerned about development on their doorstep, they would have made a very different decision, of course, had the consequence of rejecting a fracking rig been to deprive themselves of an energy supply. Nationally, those are the alternatives on offer. The result of blocking the construction of energy infrastructure is a rapidly worsening energy crisis.

An energy policy which favours a switch to cleaner energy is a good thing, but not to the point where it threatens supplies. While planned closures of dirty coal power stations are well on schedule, the introduction of cleaner energy sources is falling well behind. During 2013, generating capacity in Britain fell by 4.9 per cent. Demand for electricity, on the other hand, fell by just 0.2 per cent. Year by year, we are creeping towards the point when power stations will be un-able to keep pace with peak demand, leading to blackouts along the lines of those experienced during Edward Heath’s three-day week.

It is absurd that we have ended up in this position, when environmental concerns and the demands for cheaper energy could both be served by a switch to gas. Those who oppose fracking on the grounds that gas is a fossil fuel overlook the fact that the gas would be replacing a form of energy which is far dirtier. The United States has massively reduced its carbon emissions, thanks not to a Kyoto-style reduction treaty but its embrace of fracking. Anyone serious about cutting UK emissions (rather than about throwing -subsidy to green energy) should back fracking wholeheartedly.

A direct switch from coal to renewable energy — as many protestors demand — is simply not an option. It is now painfully obvious that wind turbines are no use; they produced just 1 per cent of electricity on the coldest day of this year, because the weather was so calm. Wind farms make their owners rich, and taxpayers poorer. It is encouraging to see Amber Rudd, the new Energy Secretary, acting quickly to stop more money being wasted on them. Already, with 15 per cent of electricity generated by renewables, consumers are paying £50 million a year to the owners of wind farms to switch them off when energy generation exceeds demand.

We now have the experience of other countries to draw on, too. Denmark claims to generate 48 per cent of its power from renewable sources, but only gets by thanks to importing 17 per cent of its electricity from coal–powered German plants.

Lancashire’s rejection of fracking is not necessarily final. Cuadrilla, the applicant, can appeal, in which case the matter may end up being decided by communities secretary Greg Clark. As he knows, if Britain manages to extract only 10 per cent of the shale gas which is mainly in Lancashire and -Yorkshire, it will be enough to produce 25 years of gas supply. Fracking has brought jobs and prosperity to American rustbelt states, and lowered gas prices to less than half that of Europe. Not since the discovery of North Sea oil has the country been offered such an incredible opportunity.

To match it, we need a planning system that recognises from the outset that infrastructure projects of national importance can only sensibly be decided by national government. It is one thing for local planning authorities to be given powers to lay down what style of housing may be built in their areas, and whether a chip shop should be allowed to open on the high street, but give local councils the ability to block power stations, roads and airports, and nothing is ever going to be built.

The government has rightly given its blessing to fracking, but it is about time that its rhetoric was matched by coherent practical support. This was difficult in the era of coalition, thanks to the Liberal Democrats. Now they have a majority, the Conservatives have the chance to proceed apace. They did not expect to be in this position, and cannot be expected to publish a bold Conservative energy plan immediately. But there really ought to be one by the time Parliament returns in the autumn. There is not much time to waste.

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Show comments
  • Will Douglas-Mann

    Why can I object to a wind turbine, but not to fracking?

    • John WB

      That’s the most sensible comment you’ve made.

  • Will Douglas-Mann

    Why can I object to a wind turbine but not to fracking?

    • KingEric

      Because wind turbines require massive subsidies and can not be relied on to provide a consistent source of power whilst fracking will cut utility bills for all and provide a consistent supply of power?

      • The Mushy Pea

        Not true. They will probably be cheaper than new gas in a few years (as will solar). It already is in the US. The problem is with competing with grandfathered coal and gas, paid for or supported by state decades ago. Also since the subsidies for wind are paid by electricity bills – and wind lowers the wholesale price (by feeding in a zero marginal cost), it may not actually increase bills by much at all. (see http://www.carboncommentary.com/blog/2015/1/30/61cxv056sxrzkiertunetxoavsq8dn)

        What wind and solar do do is lower profits for utilities and generators.. hence the push back…

        • Billy___Bob

          The whole point of “renewables” is to punish the poor with higher utility bills so that rich people can fly in pivate jets all over the world to preach that poor people should pay even higher power bills. Subsidies for wind and solar should come from a surtax on rich peoples income and rich peoples homes and cars.

        • Phillip2

          They will never be cheaper because of the intermittency problem, which means they need 100% backup. Do away with wind and solar and operate the backup power stations efficiently. Cheaper electricity for all.

        • mark

          Do away with the subsidy and then see how long wind and solar last

      • UKSteve

        Such bullsh1t, really. American, I’m guessing?

        • KingEric

          No and no idea why you say my post is bullsh1t. Are you saying that wind turbines don’t have subsidies and that they are always consistently there to provide energy when required? Are you also saying that fracking has not cut US energy costs? I think you’ll find that all those statements are true. The only bullsh1t is coming from you.

          • Jiveen

            Natural environment can be considered as a subsidy.

          • UKSteve

            It looks like ‘yes’. It’s because you are advocating fracking – for the UK – when it has caused so many problems world-wide, as I’ve previously shown.

            We are a tiny island, with medium – large centres of population, and any problems as we’ve seen in, e.g the US, are going to be catastrophic for us. I doubt anyone has fully considered the implication of the loss of aquifers, it would leave us with reservoirs only. The dash for profit usually is the cause.

            I never said anything about subsidies, you are one of those foolish people that needs to construct a straw man. 16% of our (UK) electricity and 8% of our gas bills fund ‘renewables’ and Cameron’s changes this weekend mean that they’ll get another £1.5bn. All for supplying 8% of our grid – on a really, really good day. What a great shame the war criminal Blair wasn’t commissioning 4 new nuclear power stations instead of illegally invading other people’s countries and causing 600,000 deaths, mostly under 8 years old.

            Fracking has cut energy costs in the US, but you are comparing vastly different economic and energy market models and calling them ‘the same’.

            Learn to develop an argument.

      • Pacificweather

        How will it cut utility bills? The government propose to allow the drillers to sell our gas to us via commercial markets where it is typically traded 8 times before it is sold to us. If the government proposed that the drillers were paid for their work and the gas sold to us directly by the British Shale Gas Corporation the we would not only get cheaper gas but much of the opposition would disappear.

        • mmac1968

          Because over supply drives down costs. The US reserves added to the market forced OPEC to more than half the cost of oil. Unfortunately for the government their tax revenues are reduced which directly pays the unemployed etc.

          • Pacificweather

            Or even the employed.

          • mmac1968

            If state sector

          • Pacificweather

            Shops, cafés, hotels, office cleaners and restaurants mostly but even book binders. All 3.2 million of them costing the taxpayer £13.7 billion annually. That’s just for those in full time employment. Oil prices fell but retail gas prices haven’t. Fracking could provide us with cheaper gas but the government will ensure it doesn’t.

        • mmac1968

          Market forces, over abundance drives down cost. But as mentioned at the start, that is not what the state wants. I believe in this instance it is a national asset and like North sea oil should not have been privatised. Our manufacturing costs would plummet and huge employment would ensue. I agree monopolies do the public no favours.

  • The Mushy Pea

    So it’s fine to oppose onshore wind, solar farms, bad houses and the like, but not fracking? Make up your minds.

    • Mary Ann

      Wind and solar farms are left wing, fracking is right wing

      • KingEric

        Wind and solar farms require large subsidies to provide unreliable and small amounts of enrgy. The large subsidies and other green levies also mean the public’s utility bills are more expensive. Fracking requires no subsidies, will provide reliable energy for a reduced price to all and, on top of that will generate a source of revenue for the country. It’s so obvious but your political orientation won’t let you see it.

        • LG

          It’s only cheap if you ignore the external costs of burning hydrocarbons.

      • Pacificweather

        Is that because of subsidies? Like the annual £13.7 billion employer subsidy to keep 3.2 million people in full time work. You are right. Subsidising Capital is the very worst form of Socialism.

        • mmac1968

          Firstly the subsidy is not greater than the tax paid, so the treasury is still better off. Secondly people have self worth and are less wasteful when money is earnt. The worst form of Socialism is to assume that we are all equal, we are obviously not. Not fair but that’s life and as such I respect the job a dustman does as much as a doctor. Both need doing but people of different qualities neefed fill either post. Unless I missed a Uni course created by the previous government for bin men, women or persons.

          • Pacificweather

            The subsidy is much greater than the tax paid, self evidently, or it would not be a subsidy. You may be an old fashioned socialist still wedded to market distorting business subsidies but the rest of us have moved on even if our governments have not. Employment should produce taxes not taxes employment. How can the deficit be eliminated if the government subsidises employers? Igmmigrants are supposed to generate tax to keep our OAPs not consume tax. What is the point of having them otherwise? It is the same kind of thinking that put Greece where it is today.

          • mmac1968

            A subsidy is greater than the tax paid is not self evident. It is like saying smoking costs the NHS 3 billion but ignores the fact it raises 12 billion. All taxes raised must get used somewhere. I am certainly not a socialist. I believe you should not get anything if you did not pay in and I apply that to medical care or housing. The UK is trapped in a social nightmare where it is assumed the state is responsible for the upbringing and welfare of all, until the day they die. I have spent 25 years in Asia and people are resilient, hard working, caring and family orientated. What they expect from the state is security and to be left alone. The UK has created a welfare monster and it is why millions are clamoring to join this sinking ship. Just a few more and the entire project will collapse. Osborne is saddled with a system he can do little about, the great unwashed like turkeys won’t vote for change. And whilst businesses are raped by local councils and saddled with unrealistic employment laws the government is returning tax so they will employ people they could not afford to. Tax and NI should be fixed at 15% and you should only get out what you paid in.

          • Pacificweather

            Osborne has a very simple solution to the welfare “monster” he has perpetuated. He can (and probably will) raise the minimum wage. How much tax does £6.50 an hour raise in comparison to £250 per week in Housing Benefit even without WTC in addition? You are living in cloud cuckoo land.

          • mmac1968

            Raising the minimum wage will not fix the probotyom, turning off the welfare tap will. Any twat who is getting 26k a year for free at the expense of those who earn minimum wage, requires 500 people to pay 50 quid in tax. A system rewarding the bone idle who can earn double of those at the bottom. So I know the system does not work, hence unique revenue raisers like carbon tax to fill the ever widening gap. Cuckoo land is ignoring the reality of where we are which is what I am stating, not the fix. Again stop welfare, cap it to the contribution etc and tax can fall and product cost similarly. Hence everything in Asia is cheaper, but you have to work.

          • Pacificweather

            I see the employer subsidies are not an argument you wish to persue. You are much happier with the assumption that the unemployed are the sole consumers of welfare. If 1.049 million working full time and in receipt of HB at £90.44 per week and 3.2 million working full time and receiving £2,770 p.a. in WTC is something you are happy to pay for so Amazon and Starbucks don’t have to pay a living wage then that is up to you. I think these days you represent the minority.

          • mmac1968

            If the minority is the team that one the election then you are correct. I do not believe in the politics of envy or higher rate tax. If you want it, work hard and save. As to tax a percentage is a percentage no mater which way it is cut, the more you earn the more you pay. If international companies avoid tax on profit and the inland revenue wishes to complain then this is rediculous, as they set the tax laws. The franchise owners pay tax and so do their employees so who is being punished when the shop is boycotted.

          • Pacificweather

            I believe only about half of the minority that voted for this government would support it. It is, after all, a Labour initiative that many would disagree with in principle. You tell me you believe in motherhood and apple pie and I can only reply to that: what is to dislike about either. The only thing it has to do with the discussion in hand is that for someone who dislikes higher tax rates it is strange to accept £13.7 billion of extra tax not being used to reduce the deficit when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has identified a £12.5 billion hole in his welfare budget. It will be interesting to see if the Chancellor leans more towards your solution or mine. I think we won’t have long to wait. In true politician style he may do some and some.

  • SackTheJuggler

    Why not try a few sites in the home counties first? Show us northerners that it’s safe. Otherwise, the cynics among us might get the idea that this is more about lining the pockets of a few city spivs at the expense of our environment than it is about energy security.

    • Patrick G Cox

      They already do. Near Gatwick and several other sites on the south coast.

      • Refracktion

        There is no fracking using HVHF techniques near Gatwick Patrick or any other sites on the South coast. Only one site in the UK has ever been fracked using HVHF and that is at Preese Hall in the North. Give us up here a Wytch farm or two and give the home counties 500 HVHF frack pads and we’ll see if the politicians change their tune eh?

        • Anna

          I live in Sussex, High Weald, but I still agree with you. The North is equally as precious as the South.

      • Anna

        Wrong. Please get your facts right before posting incorrect information.
        The ONLY place in the uk that has actually been ‘fracked’ using the new type technology ( started in late 90’s in US) using HIGH PRESSURE + CHEMICALS, SO FAR was the Fylde in 2011, that resulted in the earthquakes/ban. UNconventional extraction is VERY different to conventional ( ie. existing onshore oil wells) Do some research..please..

      • Anna

        Horse Hill Gatwick has been test drilled and only has planning permission for conventional extraction. NOT fracking. ( despite the made up stories HHD are telling trying to mislead potential investors in the project) David Lenigas could’nt be more of a cowboy if he had ridden into town wearing chaps’n’spurs…

      • Anna

        Cuardilla DO have permission to return to Balcombe, HOWEVER approx 1 yr has already passed, so they only have another year, and the oil price makes OIL extraction financially UNviable right now. Its far cheaper to buy in.
        There is very little GAS under the Weald of Sussex, mostly OIL, which is why the push is on in the north.
        This spectator article is lacking in facts unfortunately.

    • mmac1968

      Either way we need oil and gas, our supplies are shipped from across the world to meet our needs. The US has become self sufficient on gas and oil and is now exporting to us from the same process. I can not find a single disaster associated with fracking but plenty of scare mongering stories. “Lining their pockets” I assume you are referring to the top hatted elite who roast children whilst you the saintly poor rove around the country knitting your own jumpers whilst claiming the dole. If the benefits of cheaper fuel drives down costs of transportation, manufacture and food supplies and creates jobs and there is no disaster then you are fools to ignore the benefits which pay benefits.

      • Daniel Hazelton
        • Daniel Hazelton
          • mmac1968

            I am old enough to have lived through the 1970’s when the science was a closed matter and the next mini ice age was starting. North sea oil did not destroy the eco system and the world has not heated up for the last 16 years. As above, we will use this resource no matter where it’s imported from. If India and China build a new power station every week and the CC doom mongers are correct (actually a big tax wheeze to continue a broken western economic system of people on welfare) we are ducked anyway. The North is riddled like Cheese with mines and then filled with water. Still no doom. The local councils decision will be undone as it is biased in favour of a small noisy unscientific crowd of non local rabble. Might be wrong, we’ll see.

        • mmac1968

          Why a link to a video about peadophiles you wanker.

          • Daniel Hazelton

            In reference to this statement – “I assume you are referring to the top hatted elite who roast children
            whilst you the saintly poor rove around the country knitting your own
            jumpers whilst claiming the dole.” and yes i work

  • UnionJihack

    If local communities do not see the benefit of fracking because they do not appear to be benefiting from/owning it, then we will go round in circles ad infinitum I am afraid.

  • Will Douglas-Mann

    How can you be so sure shale gas is replacing coal, rather than being in addition? We would have to find a way to make sure it stays in the ground rather than being shipped to India if fracking is to make a difference.

    • Pacificweather

      The British Shale Gas Corporation.

  • Phillip2

    It may not be until the grid goes dark because of intermittency of wind and solar as
    increasingly uneconomic flexible conventional generation is shut in the UK that the general public will understand. The UK seems determined to run this unfortunate experiment to have blackouts as a feature of our electricity system. The UK is likely to succeed soon in
    experimentally proving the grid instability ‘blackout’ hypothesis. The
    question is when, not if. We need to get fracking, build gas-fired power stations and close useless and intermittent (hence unreliable) renewables (or unreliables and ruinables) as they are known.

    • KingEric

      It beats me that with the obvious benefits that the US has reaped from fracking, areas that are crying out for investment aren’t falling over themselves to embrace this new source of cheap and relitavely clean power.

      • Will Douglas-Mann

        Not sure how it benefits me, with all the extra traffic and the profits all going to Quadrilllla or the Crown.

        • Billy___Bob

          By “the Crown” do you mean the NHS and all the other social programs in the UK?

          • John WB

            That clearly hadn’t occurred to Douglas-Mann, but that’s what we are dealing with.

          • Pacificweather

            It probably occurred to him that as gas is traded 8 times between the drill head and the consumer there won’t be much profit for the Crown or price fall for the consumer. Of course, we could pay the drillers and sell the gas to the consumer through the British Shale Gas Corporation to bypass the market. That would reduce the opposition.

          • John WB

            That would be why Ineos has applied for licences to drill for shale gas then would it. Another who thinks they know everything but know nothing.

          • Pacificweather

            Enlighten me great guru.

    • The Mushy Pea

      Funny but Germany and Denmark have the two most stable grids in Europe, and both have a lot more renewables than we do.

  • Precambrian

    Yup, there is nothing idiotic about an activity that might threaten the water table….

    We have coal. LOTS of coal. Burn it (with carbon capture if need be) and stop pushing this nonsense.

  • Alpha Farnell

    I do not understand the mentality. It’s abundant, it’s ours, it’s cheap, it’s accessible. This country has gone mad.

    • El_Sid

      Gas in place may be abundant – but we don’t know how abundant economically-extractable gas is. If you look at what’s happened in places like Poland and Romania, people got all excited about the potential but the reality has been that a lot less was extractable than first hoped. Don’t get me wrong, we need to test UK rocks to see how much can actually be extracted, but we can’t assume a bonanza given current data.

      The other thing you can’t assume is that shale hydrocarbons are cheap. There’s lots of reasons why market prices are what they are, from the weather to our increasing integration with a European market that is largely linked to the price of oil. One big hint comes from the cash flow of the big shale companies in the US – since forever they’ve been promising to turn cashflow positive but they never quite seem to manage it. There’s also plenty of reasons why wells are more expensive in the UK, from a longer planning process to tighter environmental regulations to eg more restrictions on working hours – in the desert there’s no neighbours to complain if you work through the night.

  • ClaritaCJarrell

    22222Ultra Income source by spectator < Find Here

  • G B

    Take a look at some of the fracking nightmares where the ground water and aquifers have been permanently contaminated. Where people are dying of respiratory problems and the environment is being slowly poisoned. UTube ‘voices from the coal field’ and see how Australia have been affected, huge areas of Philadelphia also. These are not imaginary problems. How can people be concerned about carbon emissions and then be prepared to damage our ecosystem so comprehensively.

  • UKSteve

    I see no-one’s had the b4lls to put their name to this tripe.

    Go ahead idiots, if you want to screw up the acquifers, which has happened in other countries.

  • Paulo Rodrigues

    You say no environmental and safety grounds for banning fracking and yet the redacted sections of the government’s DEFRA report on fracking says otherwise

    Previously omitted sections reveal today say that:

    House prices near fracking wells were likely to fall, and there was a
    potential reduction of up to 7% in property values within a mile of

    Properties within a one- to five-mile radius of fracking sites may incur additional insurance costs.

    Leakage of waste fluids from fracking processes has resulted in environmental damage in the US.

    Even if contaminated surface water did not directly impact on
    drinking-water supplies, fracking could affect human health indirectly
    through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock or agricultural
    products. It concluded that the UK regulatory regime was “likely to be
    more robust” but the impact on water-resource availability, aquatic
    habitats and ecosystems, and water quality was “uncertain”.

    • TonyN

      Suggest that you read the report, and the caveats that it provides on all those points, rather than the misleading summaries of what it says that are now appearing all over the web.

  • John Smith

    Why are we closing down perfectly good Coal generating capacity?
    Oh Ed Miliband’s climate change act, in collusion with the hapless EU

    • Mary Ann

      Why did we close down the mines?

      • John Smith

        Because the coal was too expensive?

      • Gilbert White

        Because Mary Anne probably did not want either herself or her children to work in the dirty dangerous environment that is a mine?

  • Mary Ann

    The oil has been there for millions of years, and can not be replaced, we still don’t know when we are going to find the answers to all our fuel needs so how about leaving something for our grandchildren’s children.

  • Howard

    It’ll also seriously diminish our need for Saudi oil, which will diminish our money supply to them, which will diminish their arsenal supply to ISIS.

    • Pacificweather

      And their armament purchases from us.

  • Matthew Williams

    This newspaper is a government stooge. The people have SAID NO! Leaders who we all know are bent can go jump in a lake. Bye bye facists.

    • Ridcully

      “The people,” i.e. you and your shouty mates.

  • Paul Caporino

    Bad move. Don’t do it. American states such as Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas that had rarely had earthquakes in the past have now had unprecidentedly high numbers of earthquakes and tremors since those states have allowed fracking, not to mention the pollution and ruination of groundwater supplies.

  • clens

    Yes please frack up your own backyard but not everyone else’s. Some of us would rather have solar and onshore wind than a nasty polluting and dangerous industry forced undemocratically upon us.

  • yodaddy51

    I live in St.Louis Mo. We have no oil here,but up in North Dakota they have lots of it. Along with lots of high paying jobs, taxes for the state etc.. and as far as know they are still drinking the water.

  • Radford_NG

    So many people oppose fracking even though all *scientific* evidence proves it is safe.The same people say all *scientific* evidence proves man-made climate change is true.
    So many people who say *scientific* evidence proves fracking is safe reject man-made climate change even though all *scientific* evidence proves it is true.

    How do you work that out?There is a lot of scientism/Lysencoism about.

  • Anna

    Bizarrely just as the rest of the world is giving up on unconventional gas/oil extraction, (incidentally parts of the US. DO now have serious water contamination problems that are not ‘repairable’ FACT)

    Yet this ridiculous UK government is determined to ‘try it’ and see ?!
    Yes lets risk our DRINKING WATERfor £. What could possibly go wrong?
    Even Bloomberg is reporting the imminent implosion of shale.. “Drillers’ debt ballooned to $235 billion at the end of the first quarter” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-18/next-threat-to-u-s-shale-rising-interest-payments

    FRACKING is a PONZI scheme. Come on Spectator, do a little research work, you are supposed to be informative.. very disappointed.

  • Anna

    The US. shale industry is now $235BILLION in DEBT at the end of the 1st qtr.. come on research research..

  • David Burley

    If the switch to green energy is falling behind, then our government ought to ramp it up. Refusing to allow new onshore wind farm proposals is sheer folly. And the deliberate slowing down of the programme to insulate our homes and so reduce our demand was another example of short-sighted folly. I winder why they did test? Ah yes because the fossil fuel lobby appears to pull the strings.
    Instead of HS2 we should go for RASE – Renewable And Sustainable Energy.
    (I made that name up).

  • David Burley

    The reason fracking “lowered gas prices to less than half that of Europe” is because USA could not export it and gas supply outstripped demand. UK can export gas – and does, so we will not see energy prices fall by more than 2 to 4%.
    BUT when USA completes its gas liquification plants and starts exporting shale gas we will see gas prices rise, and Americans will realise they’ve been conned.
    I’m amazed a journalist is still touting the energy price argument as it was disproved back in 2013.

  • Shaun de Bauch

    If you want the shale gas in Lancashire come try and get it lol

  • Mr Creosote

    Greg Clark introduced the NPPF back in 2012, but only now is this beginning to increase the supply of housing. Both he and Osbourne should grasp the shale nettle now and take important national decisions out of the hands of local planning authorities and the Nimbys.

  • KilowattTyler

    OK – don’t bother with fracking in Sussex or oop North or anywhere on land in the UK.
    Stick to exploiting resources off-shore and far,far beneath the waves where drinking water and scenery are absent. See link below:


    Permit underground gasification of coal on condition that (i) only offshore fields be exploited, and (ii) all carbon dioxide generated (by conversion of the gas produced to hydrogen; or by burning the gas to produce electricity) were captured and returned underground.
    If these conditions were met we would have a clean and abundant energy source far into the future, dwarfing the energy available from fracked gas or North Sea oil.