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IN years to come, yesterday’s announcement of the mind-boggling amounts of shale gas beneath our feet may be seen as a game-changer for Britain.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important it could prove for us over the next century.

Just one site has an estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet of the stuff. That could theoretically supply us for 433 years. Even if we can only extract ten per cent it’ll last half a century.

It would be the biggest site in Europe. Alone it would make the UK a world leader in shale production.

Experts believe there will be other sites too — and far greater reserves off our coasts.

Depending on how much we can extract, shale is potentially bigger for us than North Sea oil.

It would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. It would make us independent of the unstable regimes we rely on to pipe gas into Britain.

It could slash gas bills, as it already has in the States.

There are fears the “fracking” process involved, blasting underground rock with water to release the gas, causes earthquakes. But they’ll be tiny tremors… if they happen.

There are fears it could pollute drinking water. But these are just that — fears.

Friends of the Earth say fracking is risky and argue we should put our faith in wind power. They need to get real.

The Government is right to forge ahead and make shale production as cheap, easy and painless as it can.

But it must also ensure it has substantial benefits for hard-up consumers, not just the gas firms.

Ofgem’s chilling warning yesterday of possible blackouts — just as we’re closing down viable power stations — shows what a crisis our energy supply is in.

Shale may be a few years off. But it is a golden opportunity we must embrace.

The Sun, 28 June 2013