Questions raised over shale gas jobs impact

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UK ministers have been challenged over claims that the shale gas industry could create more than 70,000 jobs.

Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex urged the government to be “careful, proportionate and responsible” when discussing sector’s potential.

He made the call after the Westminster coalition stepped up its drive to develop Britain’s shale gas reserves this week, unveiling a package of measures to encourage English local authorities and fracking opponents to “get on board”.

At energy questions in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Greatrex asked Energy Minister Michael Fallon how many jobs he expected the industry to create.

Mr Fallon said: “The survey conducted by the Institute of Directors estimated that more than 70,000 jobs could be created by the shale gas industry.

“We are in the initial stages of the industry, and we expect to have two to three years of exploration, so it is not possible at this stage to make a firm forecast of the number of jobs, but that is the Institute of Directors’ best estimate.

“In other countries where shale gas has been successfully extracted, however, there have been huge benefits to the economy and reductions in household and business bills.”

Mr Greatrex said: “I thank the minister for that reply, repeating the figure that was used by the prime minister, by Tory central office and by others earlier this week.

“Does the minister understand that addressing the legitimate environmental concerns about shale gas will require the government to be careful, proportionate and responsible regarding what they say about a yet unrecovered energy source?

“In that context, will he explain why neither he nor—as far as I am aware—his secretary of state has referred this morning to the findings of the detailed strategic environmental assessment undertaken by AMEC on behalf of his department?

“Those findings put the likely figure for full-time equivalent jobs at between 16,000 and 32,000 during peak construction in the next licensing round.”

The minister responded: “There have been a number of estimates, but, as I have said, it is far too early to be sure about the pace of shale gas extraction when we are still at the exploration stage.

“We have seen estimates from AMEC, and I have quoted the estimate from the Institute of Directors.”