After debating GM foods at its inaugural sitting in September, the Rational Parliament returns on 26 November to debate fracking and shale gas. This week, we're gearing up for the session by bringing you opinions from people on both sides of the argument. Today, MP Angela Smith, highlights the need for evidence based discussion. Inspired? Book your tickets for the event here.

Politicians in the UK faces huge challenges in terms of developing effective energy policies which ensure we keep the lights on, power our industries and de-carbonise our economy.

That much is obvious.

But what is not so obvious is the need to shape energy policy within the context of a sensible, mature debate about the future energy needs of the country. To do otherwise is to risk the wrong decisions being taken and a greater risk of a significant loss in our economic capacity, especially in relation to manufacturing.

The debate we need has to focus on finding answers to some key questions. How should the energy market be structured? How should it be regulated? How do we use taxation to raise monies for investment in renewables, while at the same time incentivising carbon reductions by users? Is the 2030 target for decarbonising the UK economy realistic? Would it be more sensible to look at a longer time frame for decarbonisation, as called for by the German Chemical Industries Association, VCI, allowing more time for industry to adapt successfully without losing competitiveness? Do we need a European level approach to green taxation and renewables investment? How do we ensure that the very industries we depend on for renewable technologies are not damaged by green taxation and energy prices more generally? Do we need to develop new, domestic fossil fuel resources, in order to help secure energy supply as we move along towards decarbonisation?

Complex and difficult as these questions are, the one easy point to recognsze immediately is the need to ensure that any political decision emerging on energy should be based on science and evidence; in other words, based on a debate that is rational and which thoroughly investigates the issues in an open-minded way.

This applies as much to the question of whether or not we exploit our shale gas resources as to any of the other energy-related question on the table. There are many considerations to be made when determining whether or not to "frack", not the least of these being whether or not the technology and the techniques involved can be deployed at a reasonable level of risk. Has the industry, which for many years now has been developing in the US, sufficiently matured to make it possible for the UK to take on the mantle of being a second-order developer of the industry, opening up possibilities across Europe? The industry is confident it can answer these questions positively; it needs to explain its evidence clearly, especially to a sometimes sceptical British public.

Other considerations on shale gas are more broadly economic and political. What would be the geo-political impact of developing the shale gas industry in Europe? How would it impact on pricing structures? Will it reduce energy costs, medium to long term, as it has done in the US?

Beyond these immediate questions, one has to also ask whether or not the shale gas industry has anything to offer our manufacturing base more generally. Will it help stabilise energy supply and energy price? And how much of a contribution could be made by some of the gases released by shale extraction techniques in the manufacturing processes so important to delivering a low carbon economy?

All these issues are relevant to the necessary debate on shale gas extraction and demonstrate how complex an issue it is. For some, however, the issue will always be a straightforward one – we should not be extracting and exploiting yet another fossil fuel at a time when we are recognising that climate change is damaging the planet. I reject this approach to the issue. Yes, we need to decarbonise. But how we decarbonise and how long it will take us to get there are questions that remain unresolved. It is also my very strong view that we need to be pragmatic; if in the process of transformation to a low carbon economy we are likely to experience gaps in energy supply, then surely it would be better to exploit a fossil fuel with lower emissions than say, coal?

It is incumbent on politicians to remain open-minded and pragmatic about the potential offered by shale gas extraction. We need to listen to the debate and base our decisions on whether or not to "frack" on a rational assessment of the issues in question.

For other points of view, read our previous fracking articles from Rational Parliament host Adam Smith and researchers Joseph Dutton & Michael Bradshaw from the University of Leicester

Book your tickets to debate fracking at The Rational Parliament here