Despite a ban in France, law suits in the US and campaigns in Canada and Europe MPs have rejected calls for a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the UK.
'Fracking', or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into underground shale formations to crack the rock and release methane gas. Environmental concerns include contamination by the fracking fluids and from gas leaking into water supplies, creating risks of explosions in homes and businesses.
Reports in the US have found hundreds of chemicals in use, some of them potentially toxic, including methanol, naphthalene, benzene and lead. In the UK, shale gas company Cuadrilla Resources uses only three, including a lubricant commonly found in cosmetics, hydrochloric acid, and a biocide commonly used to purify drinking water.
Recent research also suggests that, rather than lowering greenhouse gas emissions as its proponents have suggested, shale gas could have a greenhouse gas footprint that’s significantly worse than conventional gas, and even as bad or worse than coal. But the energy select committee said environmental problems associated with it in the US could be overcome by "tight regulation and good industry practice."