I am writing to raise my serious concerns about the planed shale gas exploration in (your area) and across Portugal. Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ shale rocks for gas poses serious risks to the environment and health and deepens our reliance on gas when we urgently need to decarbonise our energy system.
Various reports by reputable organisations, which include the UNDP identifies water contamination, leakages to soil, negative health impacts and land clearance as high-risk concerns. There are also economic risks to important farming, fishing and the tourism sectors across Portugal and especially in the Algarve.
Exploitation of shale gas resources would seriously undermine efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and meet legally binding climate change targets. According to various international experts, including the Committee on Climate Change, Portugal amongst many other nations needs to urgently reduce the use of gas and to increase energy use from renewable sources.
There is considerable evidence from the US that fracking leads to contaminated water supplies.
Results from two interim studies carried out by the US Environmental Protection Agency near the town of Pavilion, Wyoming, have found that fracking led to contamination of groundwater. Studies in the US have also linked fracking to increased air pollution and respiratory problems. Monitoring in Texas has found levels of benzene –a known carcinogen– more than five times permitted limits near shale gas wells.
There are also various reports that link Fracking to an increase in earthquakes in areas where fracking operations occur. Taking into account Portugal's high sceismic risk, I believe it's a risk not worth taking.
Finally, shale gas is unlikely to cut energy bills –according to Deutsche Bank “we do not expect the impact of shale gas production on EU gas prices to be anywhere near as great as has been the case with US” – and with such a high carbon price to pay it should have no role in our future energy system.
Instead we need a rapid switch to renewable energy and a focus on reducing our energy use to ensure a clean, safe, affordable and secure energy supply. A recent report for the Renewable Energy Association by Innovas concluded that the renewable energy industry could support thousands of new jobs by 2020. Research by Ernst & Young has shown wind power provides twice as many jobs as gas.
I ask you to request your colleagues and other representatives in the Portuguese government, at the local and national level to endorse and support a halt on fracking in Portugal and to carry out a full scientific assessment into the risks including climate change.
I look forward to hearing from you.