A “329-fold reduction in environmental impacts” would be needed to make natural gas “fracking” as sustainable an electricity generation option as wind or solar power, The Independent reports, citing a new study in the journal Science of The Total Environment.
The study team, led by Prof. Adisa Azapagic of the University of Manchester, ranked shale gas seventh out of nine possible generation options after accounting for a range of environmental, economic, and social factors.
“Previous studies focused mainly on environmental aspects of shale gas, largely in the U.S., with scant information on socio-economic aspects,” Azapagic said. But a more complete comparison with other fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear generation “enables us to evaluate its overall sustainability rather than focusing on single issues, such as water pollution, traffic, and noise, which have dominated the debate on shale gas so far.”
The wider lens places shale gas “above coal, but far below renewable options such as wind and solar photovoltaic energy, which were at the top of the rankings,” The Independent reports. For the UK, where full-scale shale gas production is considered to be a couple of years away, “the future scenario in which shale gas comprised 1% of electricity production was more sustainable than the one in which it comprised 8%.”
The research result shows that “the case for fracking is simply falling apart,” said Greenpeace UK senior campaigner Emma Gibson.
“The government’s own figures show that the amount of electricity generated by burning gas is expected to halve by 2025, and by then renewables will have overtaken gas as Britain’s main power source,” she added. “The UK doesn’t need fracking in its energy future, and can’t afford it, either, if Britain wants to honour its climate commitments.”