By Jonathan Davies
The benefits of shale gas have been "completely oversold", according to energy experts.
The government has made the case for shale gas and fracking, the controversial method of extracting it, claiming it will boost the economy with lower energy prices and greater energy security over the winter. The Treasury has even said that potential benefit of shale gas is "too big to ignore".
But the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) believes those benefits are "hype" and "lacking in evidence".
The UKERC said the shale gas is such a new concept that it is impossible to know how much can be extracted and how much it is worth.
“It is very frustrating to keep hearing that shale gas is going to solve our energy problems — there’s no evidence for that whatsoever... it's hype”, Prof Jim Watson, UKERC research director, told BBC News.
“It’s extraordinary that ministers keep making these statements. They clearly want to create a narrative. But we are researchers — we deal in facts, not narratives. And at the moment there is no evidence on how shale gas will develop in the UK.
“Shale gas has been completely oversold. Where ministers got this rhetoric from I have absolutely no idea. It’s very misleading for the public.”
The Chancellor George Osborne has raised the possibility of revenues made from shale gas in the North could be held in a "sovereign wealth fund". But fellow UKERC Professor Mike Bradshaw doesn't believe it is a realistic plan.
“Talk about a bonanza is incredible,” he said. “It hasn’t happened and it might never happen. Even if shale gas does get developed in the north of England, the extra amount of money generated will probably be relatively small - so the fund will be even smaller.”
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