Shale gas extraction in the UK: What the people think?
Applications are invited for a three-year fully funded PhD studentship (BGS/UoN) based in the Schools of Geography and Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. The award starts in October 2012 and covers tuition fees (Home/EU rate) and a maintenance grant (£13,590 in 12/13).
The emergence of shale gas on the energy landscape has been nothing short of astounding. In the space of a few years it has gone from being a little known and little used energy resource to one that has been heralded by some as a game changer not only capable of bridging the looming gap
between supply and demand but also serving as a lynchpin in the transition to a low carbon economy. In the US, for example, the speed at which shale gas has been developed and bought to market has been spectacular with a recent forecast suggesting that by 2035 shale gas could account for almost 50% of the country's natural gas production (Kefferputz, 2010) and, in the process, help the US to shift from being a net importer to a net exporter of gas (IEA, 2012).
But while much has made about the potential positives of shale gas, it has rapidly become mired in controversy with significant concerns being voiced about both the manner in which it is mined and its use. Grass roots activist argue that the technique of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to extract
shale gas not only pollutes ground and surface waters but is endangering human and animal health. The occurrences of earthquakes in areas that are being fracked have also been a cause of considerable alarm. Moreover, there are concerns that while natural gas produces only half of the GHG emissions of coal (www.epa.gov/cleanrgy/energy-and-you/affect/natural-gas.html), the emergence of this ‘new’ energy source will derail efforts to increase renewables and have a negative impact on GHG emissions and thus future climate. The furore around shale gas explorations that emerged in the US in the late 2000s has prompted a rising swell of local environmental opposition in other parts of the globe where the potential for shale gas production is being explored.
In the UK shale gas developments are at a very early stage but opposition to shale gas extraction has been much reported in the UK press with well over a 1000 articles in mainstream UK newspapers and numerous reports on news and current affairs programmes.
The aim of this project is to explore how perceptions of shale gas amongst the British population are being shaped by reporting in the media. It will build on information already collected in three UK wide surveys undertaken by YouGov between March and June 2012 to examine how information presented by the media is understood and interpreted by different sectors of UK society (e.g. gender, age, educational level etc) and to develop a greater understanding of how shale gas is perceived in the UK. A range of qualitative and quantitative techniques will be employed in this study including semi-structured interviews with a arrange of stakeholder groups, content analysis and quanta rive analysis of survey data.
The project will be supervised by Professor Sarah O'Hara (Geography), Dr. Mat Humphrey (Politics and International Relations) and Professor Mike Stephenson (British Geological Survey).
Applicants must have at least a good 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Politics or Sociology and preferably an ESRC recognised Masters qualification. Enquiries regarding this opportunity should be directed to Sarah O'Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for applications is September 8th 2012.
Posted on Monday 13th August 2012