Environmental think tanks have criticised the Government’s decision to lift the moratorium on fracking, and have raised doubts over its potential to help meet the UK’s energy needs.
Joe Tetlow, senior political adviser at Green Alliance, slammed fracking as a “red herring” and argued it was both unpopular with voters and ineffective at driving down energy costs for consumers.
He told City A.M.: “Fracking won’t bring down the market price of gas. The Government’s own polling shows it’s deeply unpopular and backbench MPs hate it. It beggars belief that the government wishes to expend political capital and waste energy on this red herring, when they could be focussing attention on expanding clean cheap energy like onshore wind and solar, while insulating Britain’s leaky housing stock.”
Cara Jenkinson, Cities Manager at climate think tank Ashden slammed fracking as a “nonsense” that makes no sense environmentally, socially or politically.
She said: “Fracking is not consistent with the government’s own net zero goals and is a distraction that should be nipped in the bud right now. Funding and focusing on renewables, which are now the cheapest form of energy is a no-brainer, and supporting a nationwide energy efficiency programme. There’s also huge opposition people living in potential fracking areas because of possible environmental hazards, so this is a political disaster zone.”
Fracking revived in push for supply security
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into boreholes deep underground to fracture rock and release shale gas.
Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) has regularly cited data from the British Geological Society (BGS), estimating there could be as much as 37.6tn cubic metres of shale gas available for extraction.
If ten per cent was recoverable, it argues this would be enough to help meet the country’s energy needs for the next five decades.
The practice remains controversial – with the three test sites established in the UK drawing fierce local opposition – amid concerns over tremors, which saw fracking discontinued in 2019.
Nevertheless, Downing Street has announced it has ended the three year moratorium and will consider fracking developments “where there is local support.”
Prime Minister Liz Truss is determined to boost the UK’s energy independence by ramping up generation across the country – building on the supply security strategy earlier this year that committed to a historic expansion of renewables, nuclear power and oil and gas exploration.
This follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a squeeze on Kremlin-backed gas flows into Europe.
Polling problems persist for fracking
The Government’s most recent polling – conducted last autumn – found just 17 per cent of the public supported fracking, compared with 87 per cent who backed other energy sources such as renewables.
UKOOG has pledged to work with the Government and local communities over potential shale gas extraction sites.
This could potentially include compensation and lower energy bills for people living near shale extraction sites.
It was also prepared to help facilitate testing and exploration following the latest BGS survey, which suggested more data collection is needed in the UK to establish fracking’s safety and potential.
Commenting on the revival of fracking, Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the Prime Minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”