Can you imagine a thriving post industrial city in Lancashire with an unemployment rate of just two per cent, where its people are some of the happiest in England?
A town where public services are fully funded no matter what level of spending cuts central government impose? I can – and that city could be Preston.
In 1816, Preston became the first town outside of London to embrace gas and use it to light their streets and homes. This allowed for the mills to open throughout the night providing greater employment prospects for the people. Now, nearly 200 years on, Preston has a chance to become world leaders in gas once again.
The discovery of shale gas deposits in Lancashire, if properly utilised, can do to Preston what oil has done to Aberdeen. Scotland’s third city has thrived for the past 40 years thanks to North Sea oil to become one of the most economically active and prosperous cities in the UK. With lower, more stable energy bills and guaranteed long term revenue for all local authorities where fracking is allowed to commence, the benefits would be shared across the region and everyone would see the benefit. It is even suggested that the first 100 fracking sites could create as many as 74,000 new jobs in the UK with Lancashire receiving the lion’s share.
In the US where they have pioneered in this field, gas prices have plummeted and as a result, heavy industry is returning with record numbers in employment.
The US is now tipped to become the world’s biggest gas producer as early as next year. Meanwhile Europe still languishes as major gas importers where price and supply rely on the whims of Vladimir Putin.
I don’t want to see our gas supplies cut off as it would lead to a hike in heating bills that many of us would struggle to afford. I want to see the UK invest in energy security in the form of shale gas that could transform our economy.
It’s time for Preston to become the new capital of our future gas industry.
Paul Nuttall is an MEP and deputy leader of UKIP