THE man known as the “Frack Master” is urging people in East Yorkshire to get behind fracking – or risk losing out to other areas of the UK that choose to exploit their shale gas reserves.
Chris Faulkner, chief executive of Breitling Energy Corporation, is on a mission to “open up” the conversation about fracking during his visit to the UK.
He is confident that fracking will come to the UK and urges East Yorkshire to embrace it and “get ahead” of the game.
In an interview with the Mail, he advised people not to let fear or misinformation stop them from investigating the potential offered by fracking, which involves the extraction of gas from underground rocks.
“Seize the moment and get comfortable with the idea of fracking,” he says as we sit in a Westminster office overlooking the Thames, where he has just spent an hour briefing politicians.
“Have the conversation. Don’t give into scaremongering.”
“Politicians need to think about how unhappy folks would be with them if they neglect an opportunity to keep the lights on and the heat on and if they adopt the anti-fracking banner and people live on to see other areas that have chosen to frack flourishing while your area is not.”
Ever since drilling companies suggested that trillions of cubic feet of shale gas might be recoverable from underneath parts of northern England, the word “fracking” has become synonymous with controversy.
Environmental campaigners point to the United States, where fracking has revolutionised the energy industry but also given rise to concerns about contamination of water supplies and even minor tremors.
That may sound far-fetched but in 2011, Blackpool experienced two small earthquakes measuring 1.5 and 2.2 on the Richter Scale following local fracking – something Mr Faulkner dismisses as merely a “microsiesmic event”.
This summer saw Green Party MP Caroline Lucas arrested for her part in a series of anti-fracking protests.
She was among several people arrested outside the gates of the energy firm Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex.
A day of action saw separate protests at the firm’s offices in Lichfield, Staffordshire; the offices of the PR firm Bell Pottinger, who represent Cuadrilla, the constituency office of the Paymaster General, Francis Maude, whose Horsham constituency includes Balcombe, and the home of George Osborne’s father-in-law Lord Howell, a former energy minister.
“The thing people have been most worried is about water contamination,” Says Mr Faulkner, who also used his trip to address the leaders of the UK oil and gas industry as Energy Live 2013.
“Where we live there are thousands of wells and my family and I drink the water every day.
“If I thought it was unsafe, I certainly wouldn’t be living on top of it.
“I wouldn’t have wells drilled under by home.”
He also claims that three separate studies have been carried about by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in America that have found no link between water contamination and fracking.
“The EPA, under president Obama, has been ordered to do a study on this on three separate occasions.
“Obama is not a fan of our industry.
“In not one of those reports was one incident found of water contamination due to fracking.
“In the era of social media that we live in, don’t you think that for one moment if there had been an incident the whole world wouldn’t know about it?
“People don’t want to accept that the process is safe when it is properly regulated.”
Mr Faulkner claims that the real reason environmentalists hate fracking is the risk they believe it poses to the renewables industry.
“Environmentalists hate natural gas not because of the effect they think it is going to have on the environment, but because they think it will stymie investment in renewable technology,” he said.
“But natural gas works hand in hand with renewable energy.
“The reality is that if you are going to rely on only renewable energy then you are going to end up paying more in electricity.
“I am not saying not to continue investing in renewables – fracking or bust – but it should be part of the energy mix; it works; it is clean and we have a lot of it.”
Mr Faulkner claims that if the UK extracts just 10 per cent of its shale gas reserves, it will power the country for the next 50 years.
That is why he believes the UK’s politicians will eventually throw their support behind fracking.
Prime Minister David Cameron has already voiced his support for the practice by calling upon the whole country to “get behind fracking” earlier this year.
Mr Faulkner said: “David Cameron supports it and a lot of other politicians support it.
“This is not just about energy for one or two years, this is energy for half a century, so I think it is unlikely that they will not go for that opportunity
“Last winter the UK was just six hours away from running out of gas.
“The controversial idea of fracking goes out of the window if people start dying because there is no energy to heat their homes.”
Besides, Mr Faulkner claims the US has already fulfilled the role of the “guinea pig”.
“The UK should appreciate the gift that has been given to it by Mother Nature,” he said.
“My message to politicians is stop, take a breath, take a step back and let’s have an informed conversation about this.
“With an indigenous natural resource of this size, politicians have a duty to the country to have an energy security policy at the forefront of the conversation on fracking.”