'Lancashire is not Texas': Russian oil and gas ban under review, says minister as fracking call rejected

A ban on Russian oil and gas imports to the UK is under “urgent review” as part of sanctions against the Kremlin for the invasion of Ukraine, an energy minister has said.

By Sean Gleaves
Monday, 7th March 2022, 5:56 pm

But Tory frontbencher Lord Callanan poured cold water on calls to restart domestic fracking in the drive secure supply in the face of the conflict, triggered by Vladimir Putin, which has further fanned already spiralling fuel costs.

There were “severe environmental problems” with shale gas production, said the Conservative peer, who pointed out that “Lancashire is not Texas” - being much more heavily populated.

A moratorium was imposed on fracking in November 2019 after it caused two minor earthquakes in the county.

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Fracking equipment on Preston New Road

Responding to an urgent question in Parliament, Lord Callanan said: “We have imposed the most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen.

“Although there is currently no ban on Russian oil and gas imports, this is under urgent review.

“However, the UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas. In 2021 it made up less than 4 per cent of our supply.

“Most of our gas came from domestic production and reliable suppliers, such as Norway.

“To boost energy security, we need to generate more domestic renewable power.”

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Pressing the Government, Conservative former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said: “Whilst all want a cleaner, greener future, surely we have a duty to put the maximum pressure on President Putin at this time when the situation in Ukraine is beyond grim.

“Should we not therefore be developing our own resources in the North Sea, our own resources through fracking, our own resources through nuclear power in order to guarantee security of supply which surely must be the first duty of any Government?”

Lord Callanan said: “Of course we should be putting maximum pressure on Putin because of his appalling actions. Of course we should be continuing to invest in the North Sea for our domestic production and of course we should be continuing to invest in nuclear power and renewables.

“The one point I would differ with him slightly is on fracking, which I am afraid is not the silver bullet many people think.”

Former chief of the defence staff and independent crossbencher Lord Stirrup said: “Russia is the immediate focus, but will the Government take a wider strategic view and set urgent work in hand to reduce our dependence on the supply of resources, goods and services from all autocracies and most particularly China?”

Lord Callanan said: “We need to have a diverse mix of energy and we ned to generate as much of our own power as possible, but he makes a good po0int about reducing our dependence on autocracies.”

He added: “We have already banned all Russian oil and gas tankers entering UK ports and we are looking to go further and ban cargoes from Russia as well.”

Tory former defence minister Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton said: “Whilst I accept it is no silver bullet, is the real question in the short term not if the Government is going to start fracking but when?”

Lord Callanan said: “I understand the attraction of this as an option, but there are some severe environmental problems with fracking operations.

“Lancashire is not Texas. It is much more heavily populated.”

He added: “It is a relatively unproven technology in the UK.

“The reality is that it would be many years if not decades before we got meaningful quantities of gas out of the ground, even if we could resolve all of the environmental problems.

“None of that would affect the current price. We wouldn’t be producing anywhere near enough gas to affect the high prices in an international market.

“Much as I would love it to be the case, it really is not the silver bullet that people think it is.”

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