Minister says all of UK must be open for fracking

NO PART of Britain should be considered off-limits when it comes to fracking for shale gas, the energy minister responsible has told City A.M.

Michael Fallon said anywhere with shale gas reserves must be open for drilling, despite concerns about the environmental effect of the process used to extract the fuel.

“What would be quite wrong is to be sitting on a huge amount of shale gas and not find out whether it can be extracted cheaply and simply,” he said in an interview.

“North or south, it will only be allowed if it is safe and poses no risk to the environment. If it’s approved by the council and they have the necessary permits then we need to explore the potential of shale.”

Successful extraction of shale gas has revolutionised the US energy market, causing prices to tumble and catching the eye of UK politicians who believe it can bring down domestic energy bills,

An analysis commissioned by the government last month suggested that UK gas prices are likely to fall 10 per cent by 2020 as a result of the global shale boom.

Despite this there is a growing British opposition to fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rocks. The opposition came to public attention at last week’s protests in the Sussex village of Balcombe.

“Developers have got to engage earlier with villages and deal with some of the ludicrous myths,” Fallon said. “Fracking is a very widespread technique used the world over without some of the damage suggested.”

He insisted that the existing planning system provides suitable protection for national parks and designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

David Cameron yesterday gave his support to fracking, telling an audience in Lancashire that Britain would be “making a big mistake as a nation” if it failed to seize the opportunity presented by shale gas.

The Prime Minister also dealt with environmental fears: “There’s no question of having earthquakes and fire coming out of taps.”