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Fracking – is the gas price bubble about to burst?

This article is over 10 years, 6 months old
Issue 2365

Sections of Britain’s ruling class are desperate to find a magic solution that can end the crisis. Some hope copying the US fracking boom could be it.

But even in the US the economic benefits haven’t matched the hype.

A pro-fracking report by consultants Price Waterhouse Cooper found two ways it helped the bosses. Producers of metals, chemicals and other products used in fracking have benefited.

Manufacturing firms—which consume around a third of US energy—could save almost £8 billion a year on their gas bills.

This is miniscule as a contribution to “recovery” compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent bailing out banks in the US.

And to workers it means even less. The unemployment rate is still high and is rising. Fracking has perhaps been a victim of its own success. It helped bring about a fall in US gas prices so dramatic that fracking firms made a net loss last year. But cheap supplies from the US have undercut investments in fracking elsewhere.

Australia’s hopes of becoming the Pacific gas hub seem to be fading. Almost £70 billion worth of planned projects are “at risk” because of jittery investors.

US geoscientist David Hughes has warned that once the most accessible shale rocks are drained then the fracking miracle will struggle to sustain itself.

He predicts, “The cheap price bubble will burst within two to four years. The supply bubble will burst perhaps 10 to 15 years later.”

And the New York Times has published thousands of leaked documents from industry insiders comparing shale gas to a fraudulent “Ponzi scheme”.

Far from boosting the economy, fracking will require huge state support—and workers will be expected to foot the bill.

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