Fracking should get public support, says David Cameron

 
Environmentalists protesting against fracking Opponents of fracking fear environmental damage

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The whole of the country must "get behind fracking", which ought to get "real public support" once its benefits are explained, David Cameron has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said he wanted all of the UK to benefit from shale gas drilling - "north or south".

The prime minister moved to allay concerns about the technique, insisting it was safe if properly regulated.

Environmentalists fear it can cause small earth tremors, water contamination and environmental damage.

Fracking - short for "hydraulic fracturing" - involves drilling deep underground and releasing a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside.

A protester waving an anti-fracking placard greeted by a line of police Protesters say the case for safe shale gas extraction has not been made
A police line at a protest in Balcombe There has been a heavy police presence at anti-fracking protests
Police and protestors clash in Balcombe, West Sussex. Police and demonstrators clashed in Balcombe, where exploratory drilling has taken place
Protesters trying to get to a Cuadrilla truck in Balcombe Officers have had to escort vehicles from drilling company Cuadrilla in Balcombe
A drilling rig in Balcombe A drilling rig erected in Balcombe
Anti-fracking protest in Wigan Protesters greeted the prime minister on a recent visit to Wigan

Supporters say it is safe and argue it is essential to make the UK more energy self-sufficient.

The PM said it could create thousands of jobs as well as reduced energy bills.

Last month, Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford said fracking should be confined to "desolate" areas of northern England, for which he later apologised. He went on to acknowledge there were parts of both northern and southern England "less densely inhabited than others".

fracking graphic

The village of Balcombe, in West Sussex, has been a flashpoint in the debate, as protests spanning several days have been held against exploratory drilling in the area.

Mr Cameron wrote: "It's been suggested in recent weeks that we want fracking to be confined to certain parts of Britain. This is wrong.

"I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits - north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together.

"If neighbourhoods can really see the benefits - and get proper reassurance about the environment - then I don't see why fracking shouldn't get real public support."

He said fracking had "real potential to drive energy bills down".

"It's simple - gas and electric bills can go down when our home grown energy supply goes up," he added.

Analysis

Energy costs in the US have plummeted as a result of fracking.

Mr Cameron said the UK could not afford to miss out on a technology that would bring down bills, create up to 70,000 jobs and provide financial sweeteners to communities with drill rigs on their doorsteps.

Critics say scepticism is needed. The government's own energy department DECC says it's not clear whether fracking will bring down bills or not.

Some academics believe the jobs figures will be much lower.

And common sense suggests fracking is more likely in areas of the northern England where the population is lower than in the densely-populated Home Counties.

But campaigners disputed the prime minister's claims - calling on him to "come clean" about the role of lobbyists in advising the government.

"Experts from Ofgem to Deutsche Bank to drilling company Cuadrilla agree UK shale will not bring down bills because, unlike the US, the UK is part of a huge European gas market," said Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen.

"We've seen that foisting fracking on communities - south or north - doesn't work, and his comments are likely to further stir rebellion in the Home Counties, not quell it."

Mr Cameron said a study of 11 counties alone had found about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas "lying underneath Britain at the moment".

"To put that in context, even if we just extract a tenth of that figure, that's still the equivalent of 51 years' gas supply," he said.

And he insisted fracking could create more than 70,000 jobs.

"Just as with North Sea oil and gas, there could be a whole supply chain of new businesses, more investment and fresh expertise," he added.

'Real money'

The prime minster said energy firms had agreed to pay £100,000 "to every community situated near an exploratory well" and that, if shale gas was extracted, 1% of the revenue, "perhaps as much as £10m will go straight back to residents who live nearby".

"This is real money that could be used for a variety of purposes - from money off the council tax bill to investment in local schools," he said.

"It's important that local people share in the wealth generated by fracking."

Mr Cameron said the government "must make the case that fracking is safe".

"International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated," he added.

He pledged that "local people will not be cut out and ignored" and added: "We want people to get behind fracking, and a transparent planning process is an important ingredient."

And he insisted the countryside's "landscapes and scenery" would not damaged by drilling, adding: "The huge benefits of shale gas outweigh any very minor change to the landscape."

Last week, the prime minister told factory workers in Darwen, Lancashire, it would be a "big mistake" to miss out on the benefits of fracking, adding the country was "missing out big time at the moment".

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  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 1080.

    The UK should invest in renewable energy not fracking. There is a lot of untapped potential for much safer renewable energy in the UK. Fracking has too many environmental and other risks. Communities would not be properly recompensed either- the fracking companies will only be interested in making a profit. Investment in renewable energy would create jobs.

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 964.

    This is what winds me up about this country. Technology which could potentially revolutionise the energy industry in the UK and make us independent of gas imports, perhaps allow us to prosper as a nation again. The issue, people with too much time on their hands running around protesting about it.

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 706.

    Gas is a world commodity.It would be stupid to use it up charging ourselves less for it.There is no situation where fracked gas will lower prices. Nor should it.We do not want it thrown away at low cost to industry so they can export for a while only due to the fuel subsidy of us not getting the market price for it. The longer we do not touch it the more it will become worth to future generations.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 704.

    There is one very simple problem with fracking that any primary school pupil could explain to you... it is still a method for extracting fossil fuel, whatever you believe about protecting the environment, the simple truth is THEY WILL RUN OUT. Even the gas and oil industry now realise this! There is absolutely no option other than to find new sources of energy, anything else is a waste of time.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 637.

    Good for Mr Cameron emphasising the excellent safety record for fracking and the need for proper procedure and regulation.

    Of course we need new nuclear ASAP and renewables but as long as we do need fossil fuels in makes sense to use those in our own country where possible.

    There is an oil well near where I live it causes so little disruption I doubt that most people even know where it is!

 

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