A proposal to drill into coal reserves near Keynsham has led to an important discussion about hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
Partly because of fears about earthquakes and contaminated water fracking is seen as a potentially risky technology. However, a detailed study by the Royal Academy of Engineers suggests otherwise.
In its report the Royal Academy of Engineers says that fracking can cause seismic events but small ones. These are smaller than those caused by coal mining as the energy release is less than that "released by the collapse of open voids in rock formations".
It also reports that the contamination of water in Pavillion, Wyoming, was caused by improper practices and that no reports of contaminated water wells in areas of shale gas drilling have shown the presence of any chemicals used in the process.
Interestingly such wells, in areas where fracking may be possible, often have a high level of naturally occurring methane.
The academy recommends careful regulation and monitoring to minimise risks and this is surely sensible. This is true for all forms of energy extraction while both coal and oil have their own risks.
As fracking technology has improved it has provided an energy boom in the United States. It has lowered the price of gas and reduced the country's reliance on imports.
A Reuters report said the UK has 60 years of onshore reserves and 300 years offshore – a huge 1,000 trillion cubic feet. If this technology will provide jobs in North East Somerset, can be well regulated and will give us lower heating bills it must at least be worth considering.