Lee Petts: why I’m campaigning for supply chain SMEs
Until now, the recent focus of onshore oil and gas development in the UK has centred mostly on the activities of a handful of exploration companies searching for shale gas, and the response they’ve been met with by protestors.
Many people see the exploration companies and their financial backers as vast corporate entities with deep pockets, and that can weather the delays that have been experienced in recent years as policymakers and communities get to grips with what a new shale gas industry might mean for the economy and the environment.
But much of the work is actually performed by SMEs in the supply chain – small companies, employing local people, that have been trying to get on with diligently and quietly delivering the products and services they provide. And, quite frankly, they’re hurting right now.
In fact, supply chain SMEs are disproportionately impacted by the continuing uncertainties. They’re put off from investing in new people and equipment and, in some cases, they’re having to consider cutting back and laying people off because, unlike operators and their investors, they simply don’t have access to seemingly limitless amounts of cash.
But they’re also part of the solution. Research shows that SMEs are more trusted by the public, and I think they have a role to play in helping to overcome some of the fears that have grown up around shale gas and other forms of energy extraction.
Supply chain SMEs also need the support of Government though. If the onshore oil and gas industry does grow here, demand for people and companies with the necessary skills and experience will increase, but there’s a very real risk that this demand will be met not by small, local, British companies but by large overseas businesses instead.
That’s why I’m campaigning for supply chain SMEs.
I believe that nation’s interests as a whole, and particularly at a community level, will be best served by a shale gas supply chain that is dominated by smaller companies, helping to make this all about the extraction of British energy, for the British people using mostly British companies.