The Economist: Why the debate over British shale gas extraction is for high stakes

THE BRITISH debate about shale gas extraction has made headlines today, following the publication of a government-commissioned study suggesting that the unconventional drilling technique can safely be tested further, despite apparently causing two small earthquakes near the northern resort town of Blackpool. The domestic argument is already trundling along familiar tramlines. Environmental campaign groups and left-wing newspapers have expressed concern, arguing that it would be better to focus on renewable energy sources. Right-wing newspapers have accused green activists of having a "general hostility to fossil fuels".

Similar debates can be found in several countries which have looked into the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to unlock gas and oil deposits from rock formations with the help of high-pressure injections of water and chemicals.

Yet the British debate could turn out to have an international twist, and one that makes it edgier than most.  MORE

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