OUR oil industry is clinging on to its presence in the North Sea in the hope that prices will rise and the glory days of sumptuous profits will return. Our oil billionaires no doubt dream of their past successes as they lounge in their mansions or pontificate on issues of national identity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would gasp a sigh of relief if another £330 billion-plus oil tax windfall came his way. But it’s all a sad oil pipe dream.

The game is almost up. The special relationship we, allegedly, have with the US, when they are not shunting us to the back of the trade deal queue, has been to no purpose. In fact the opposite is the case. One of the primary reasons for the loss of 120,000 North Sea-related jobs is the squalid fervour in the US to make a fast buck out of exploiting their oil and gas shale beds.

This impact of the US shale gas rush on oil prices cannot be overstated. The resultant low oil price has brought our North Sea industry to its knees. Now, to add insult to injury, we see the totally unacceptable spectacle of shipload after shipload of shale gas in the form of ethane about to be landed in the UK and Europe from America.

Ineos, the company awarded the majority of licences for a possible UK onshore fracking frenzy, believes its investment will bring US shale gas economics to Europe. Ineos has long planned for shale gas to be brought across oceans in ships so we can enjoy the fruits of this US-inspired new economics.

Why on earth has the UK Government accepted this situation? Are they happy for another 200,000 North Sea related jobs to disappear to the detriment of Scotland? More North Sea jobs will disappear and, more importantly, untold social damage will be inflicted on countries which try to copy the US fracking gamble, unless a halt is called to onshore fracking.

Developing countries with shale beds will find it irresistible not to copy the US example. These countries rely on water for survival more than oil or gas. Fracking uses millions of gallons of water for each well. For example, a recent article reported that according to an Ineos Shale invitation to tender document, Ineos may drill up to 10 wells per square mile and up to 396 wells in each of its UK licensed blocks. Each well may require millions of gallons of water being injected. All this water is polluted as a consequence and will require treatment before being somehow disposed of (perhaps dumped into the dying North Sea) or reused.

In recent times, flash floods have been commonplace in the UK. If a flash flood hits a contaminated water storage pond then the UK Government and Ineos would need to brace themselves for the mother of all reactions. The potential impact on less developed countries which go down the fracking route is frightening.

Scotland should set the moral example for others to follow. Renewables and only renewables should be the long-term energy fuel in Scotland. A campaign should be lodged to ban the transportation of shale gas across oceans.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not those of the Robert Gordon University or affiliates.