Give people mineral rights and ‘get fracking’ – Mayor of London says

Boris Johnson - Mayor of London
Source: Wikicommons

The Mayor of London said that the law should be changed so that “mineral rights” belonged to the landowner, rather than the Crown.” In an article for the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson, said that “the shale gas revolution [in the UK] is underwhelming to the point of absurdity” and called for an American-style laws where landowners hold rights to any hydrocarbons under their property.

So far the U.S. has been the only country to fully capitalise on its shale energy resources. The law in the U.S. states that individuals own the rights to all minerals excavated from their land, turning many landowners into ‘shaleionners’. The potential for a huge financial gain fuels American wildcatter culture; a phenomenon completely absent in the UK.

Boris Johnson attributes the disappointing lack of progress in UK shale exploration to the fact that “in America the landholder has the rights to all the minerals beneath – all the way to the centre of the earth. Here, the rights to gas and oil are vested with the Crown.”

“The result is” – he contiunes – “that no landowner, large or small, has any automatic commercial interest in the discovery of shale gas beneath their property. No wonder the shires are in revolt against fracking. It is no surprise that everyone is a Numby when they are told that what is under their back yard is not theirs, but belongs to the Queen!”

The change to the 1934 Petroleum (Production) Act, he believes, would give the people of England the incentive to “get fracking at last.”

Mr Johnson’s views are in clear opposition to the Government’s attitude towards shale in the UK, as ministers are currently preparing to change the law so that households cannot even prevent fracking taking place beneath their home – let alone dictate the commercial terms for exploration. In an earlier development the Parliament decided that running gas pipelines under private property doesn’t constitute trespassing.

Meanwhile, The British Geological Survey reported today that Scotland has estimated 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and six billion barrels of shale oil; considerably less than the estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet in the north of England and 4.4 billion barrels in the south.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s clear that there’s not going to be a shale gas or oil bonanza in Scotland any time soon.

“While this study should change nothing about Scotland’s aim to decarbonise its power sector and go fully renewable, in the wider interests of tackling climate change it’s time for Scottish ministers to commit to start leaving some fossil fuels, including shale gas, in the ground.

“Only last week it was revealed that Scotland is now generating record amounts of renewable electricity, while other studies have shown we could generate all of our electricity needs without the need for new fossil fuel burning.

“Whether it is shale gas, coal or oil, Scotland really needs to begin transitioning away from polluting fossil fuels.”

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