Dan Byles is the Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire, and a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee. Follow Dan on Twitter.
The problem with trying to debate energy policy these days is the tendency for the argument to quickly polarise into two extreme views. Mediums such as twitter reduce discussion to over-simplistic view points, and nuanced debate can be virtually impossible. You're either a rabid green or a climate change denier. No middle ground allowed.
Discussions about shale gas and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) epitomise this problem. In the air war of soundbites and 140 character manifestos, shale gas is either a golden bullet and the answer to all our energy needs, or fracking is a dangerous and unproven activity that pollutes drinking water and could even cause Somerset to disappear under a volcano. As is usually the case in the real world rather than twitterland, the truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle.
I take a close interest in UK energy security and affordability, and shale gas has interested me for some time. Until now I have broadly been of the view that UK shale gas reserves were likely to be useful, but not game changing. This is pretty much the official view on shale gas, and is the conclusion the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee (on which I sit) came to following our inquiry into the subject last year. However, this is an industry that is developing and learning rapidly.
Last week I attended the UK Shale Summit in London to learn what the current state of play is, and to see where industry and geological experts think UK shale gas potential now stands. I spoke at the conference on the politics of energy and shale gas. We have also seen a spate of recent reports on shale gas from some highly credible organisations. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the International Energy Agency and the Institute of Directors have all published reports in the last few months that are at least broadly positive for shale gas.