Britain "going all out for shale" while a French firm invests big

While certain of their European counterparts have indiscriminately subsidized any and all forms of renewable energy while simultaneously maintaining bans on hydraulic fracturing and drawing down on their nuclear energy sources (resulting in skyrocketing energy prices and the subsequent resurgence of coal-generated power, ahem), British Prime Minister David Cameron has been fighting a long and tedious battle (mainly against vociferously determined groups of eco-radicals) to finally let the shale exploration proceed apace within the United Kingdom.

Britain’s currently bloated electricity prices have become a major political issue and will definitely figure in their upcoming elections, and Cameron has been trying to get out in front of the problem by finally lifting the fracking ban in December and now coming through on the tax incentives he promised for the industry to get the permitting process started. Environmentalists doth protest, of course:

David Cameron is to declarethat his government is “going all out for shale” as he announces that councils will be entitled to keep 100% of business rates raised from fracking sites in a deal expected to generate millions of pounds for local authorities.

In a renewed attempt to win support for the controversial expansion of fracking, the prime minister will also say that revenues generated by shale gas companies could be paid directly in cash to homeowners living nearby. …

Jane Thomas, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, likened the decision to grant councils 100% of business rates from shale gas companies to a bribe. Thomas said: “Today’s announcement from the government that councils can keep all the business rate revenue they receive from fracking companies marks a new low in the government’s attempts to curry fracking favour with local people.

Unfortunately for these fastidiously opposed eco-groups, the global energy industry is already starting to show interest in Britain’s natural-gas potential, and a major French energy company just became the first to announce that they plan to invest big, via the WSJ:

France’s Total SA said Monday it bought a 40% stake in two shale-gas exploration licenses in the U.K.—marking the first time one of the world’s major oil companies has turned its attention to Britain’s unconventional gas reserves.

The move is a tiny one by global energy industry standards—representing an initial investment of under $50 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Total didn’t announce Monday the amount it plans to invest. But Total’s decision is a significant vote of confidence in Britain’s shale-gas prospects, and could be a boost to the government in London, which has sought to lure big companies to develop shale. …

Total is planning to spend about $45 million in drilling for appraisal in the two licenses, the person also said.

Britain still has its own green-energy goals and it’s too soon to know if they’ll be able to replicate the successes of the United States’ shale boom, but by finally embracing fracking, they are well on their way to becoming an island of relative energy sanity amidst other European countries’ backfiring ambitions.