Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has faced a series of attacks from the Tory backbenches over the government’s plan to lift the England moratorium on fracking.
Rees-Mogg today told MPs that opposition to lifting of the fracking ban was “sheer Luddite-ry”, after the government last night released a British Geological Survey (BGS) into the practice.
The government has argued that the exploration of shale gas through fracking will boost the UK’s energy supplies and that there is not enough evidence to suggest it will cause dangerous earth tremors.
Tory Fylde MP Mark Menzies, a member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), snapped back at Rees-Mogg to say “there is nothing Luddite about the people of Lancashire or of Fylde”.
“I want to start by saying how disappointed I am that parliament was not informed about this before the media. That as a local member of parliament I was not given the courtesy, despite having requested for two weeks [and] contacting [Rees-Mogg] to get information.
“Can we be crystal clear on one thing – the Prime Minister at the Manchester hustings … made it crystal clear – no ifs, no buts, no caveats – that fracking would only take place in the United Kingdom where there was local consent.”
Conservative MPs Scott Benton and Ruth Edwards said their respective constituents have grave concerns about fracking.
East Yorkshire Tory MP Sir Greg Knight told the House of Commons that “forecasting the currents of seismic events as a result of fracking remains a challenge to the experts”.
He said: “Is it not, therefore, creating a risk of an unknown quantity to pursue shale gas exploration at the present time? Is he aware the safety of the public is not a currency which some of us choose to speculate?”
Rees-Mogg said “the movement on the ground level that we have from construction is more than double, is about double, than what we have had from any instance with shale gas”.
“Bringing on this supply will bring us cheaper energy which we need. That will help our constituents, it secures our supply, which will ensure our businesses will be able to continue whatever the weather,” he said.
The newly released review has outlined that the UK only has a limited current understanding of domestic geology and onshore shale resources, and the challenges of modelling geological activity in relatively complex geology sometimes found in the country’s shale locations.
The government believes more sites need to be drilled to gather clearer data and improve the evidence base, with multiple developers are keen to assist with this process.
So far, only three test wells have been hydraulically fractured in the UK to date.
A moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2019 amid concerns over tremors, and the Conservative manifesto in December 2019 said the party would “not support fracking unless the science shows categorically it can be done safely”.