Sir Richard Dearlove has warned Britain’s rush to net zero was ‘admirable but completely unrealistic’, while urging Europe to depart from Russian gas dependency and explore other options for securing gas supplies, including fracking.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, Sir Richard argued Britain should adopt a gas-to-nuclear policy – producing ‘the sort of quality gas the Americans produce through fracking’, as well as developing small nuclear reactors.
Sir Richard said UK shale gas would be essential to help Europeans move away from Russian gas imports amid the possibility of a long-term conflict with Russia.
He said: "We have to have sufficient gas storage and supplies.
“What the European powers that are dependent on Russian gas need is a sort of Berlin airlift of gas supplies to Europe as quickly and as fast as possible, so we change the energy equation.”
His comments come a week after it emerged Derbyshire Council is considering plans for coal mining and fracking and fracking in the county.
The Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan identifies a ‘coal bearing strata at surface’.
The plan says oil and gas had been worked at places including Hardstoft and Ironville, while exploratorys well have been sunk at Shirebrook and Heath.
However, it rates the prospects of extracting gas from mines in Derbyshire’s coalfields as ‘poor’.
The report says there is ‘little potential’ for underground coal gasification in Derbyshire and there has been ‘no known commercial interest at present’, but quotes oil and gas development as being encouraged in mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas.
It details there is currently an effective moratorium on any further hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, consents following seismic activity generated from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire in 2018.
It says the exploration of extracting gas from shale should only be supported if it can be done in a safe and sustainable way, led by science, causes only minimal disturbance and prevents the risk of damage.
The report says: “Modern society and the benefits it enjoys are highly dependent on the continued supply of energy, and while the Government seeks to transform energy supply to be derived principally from non-fossil fuel, clean technologies, the continued supply of oil and gas will still be required during this transition.
“In view of the lack of knowledge about the location and scale of economically viable oil and gas resources, the plan will maintain their supply by adopting an approach which allows for their exploration, appraisal and production.”
In response, campaign group Transition Chesterfield said: “If Derbyshire Council spent more time and effort in reducing energy demand – e.g. promoting insulation of homes and buildings or reduction of traffic – and developing renewable energy sources then there would be no need to exploit and extract more climate wrecking fossil fuel energy.
“The council needs to wake up and recognise the devastating consequences of climate change which we are already seeing.
“We should be taking urgent steps to reduce emissions of carbon, not facilitating the extraction of more unnecessary and damaging fossil fuels.”