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.


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

    Comment number 299.

    "He should also tell the protesters to go and get jobs."

    Already got one thanks and it's a very good one

    Now I want to protect everything else good in my life.

    My kids future, my home, the environment, yes selfish git aren't I, do I care for you and your fuel hungry family? NO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    "..London has always been the most populated area of England...London with more shale and other gasses than lsewhr in the country and should be the first for fracking. then a programme could be rolled out across the country..."
    ..Sound reasoning but please don't encourage the already rapidly increasing number of Londoners seeking a better life in Derbyshire/Cheshire/Cumbria etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Post 279 with falls in the price of solar panels solar power is virtually profitable without subsidies now in the south of the UK. The issue of what to do at night and in the winter does require an alternative though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    David Cameron, When you find yourself in a hole, it is better to stop digging. (Or fracking more hydrocarbons when the world is already on the verge of uncontrolled climate change.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    I used to live in next village to Balcombe,these thoughtless toffs are only worried about house prices falling,during miners strike these where the types who sneered at people fighting for their livelihoods and communities,add the obligatory 'green brigade' (do these people work and contribute?) and you have a bunch of middle class nimbies with no morals or principles,they can 'frack' off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Bye Bye English country side !! No more holidays for me in the countryside. Now I will explore Scotland and Ireland for a change. I need to invest my money more in the fracking companies. I will make a killing, while normal Britishers are screwed left and right.

  • Comment number 293.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Our energy policy has been highjacked by climate zealots with a visceral hatred for conventional fuels for the last decade. Our power supplies are now in a parlous state- our bills grossly inflated by renewable subsidy obligations for unreliable power supplies. The BBC, for shame, supported and promoted it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    the more they dig the closer they get to the old ones.

    this how peter mandelson's egg and the labour strategy bible (the necronomicon) was found in 1978

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Is Fracking like picking the bones of a carcase for every last ounce of sinew?

    Why are the Government not backing alternative energy fully instead of asking us to support this? Not all options of alternative supply works but we must start leading the world in its development now. Less short term views please Dave

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    268 The Saudis could have killed fracking by expanding output but they have not probably because they cannot sources state the Saudis will stop exporting oil around 2030 keeping their supplies to themselves from then on. Fracking has a 60% depletion rate after the first year of the well the US boom will be over & in sharp decline by 2018.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    There's a simple solution for all the Little Englanders complaining about foreign companies set to make money from shale gas: buy their shares.

    You needn't buy a lot if you haven't much money to spare, but at least when the taps eventually start running you can enjoy a smile every time you receive a dividend.

    Oh, I forgot. You don't like smiling, do you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    New way of polluting our water supply for profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Norway invests all oil and gas profits into the publicly owned trust fund to ensure Norwegians and their next generations benefit from their natural resources. All profits from British natural resources go exclusively into private pockets without anything left for ordinary people and their children. This country is a flipping joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    What benefits? The only people who will do well are people like George Osbourne's father in law who works for one of these companies (they get their money's worth!).

    The gas will be sold in a global market and any decrease in price will be a) tiny as the change in supply is small on that scale and b) never ever ever passed on to consumers by the scammers masquerading as energy companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    How can Dave say it will bring down energy bills?

    Doesn't he know Thatcher privatised these companies in the 80's?

    How can he know what they will decide to charge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Here we have a blog on fracking but nothing on the Labour idiot Chris Bryant how biased can the BBC get I wonder. All leftie whingers on here today.
    This site sometimes looks like a home for homeless anarchists and other agitators?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Fracking is really perfectly safe and the hysteria whipped up in this country about it by so-called 'enviromentalists' is silly. Unfortunately this lets's the Tories get away with seeming to be champions of reason. What we need to ensure is that we all benefit not just the energy companies and I do not trust the Tories with ensuring that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Frack David Camerons constituency!

    You're all in this together!

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    268.John_from_Hendon - "......I am not defending Dave, but he has the occasional good idea......"

    He does, but his omnishambolic dog of Government make a mess of putting any good ideas into practice - look at the debacle that is the Universal Credit....

    ....a great idea but will in practice, due to utter Govrnment incompetance, see the gap between wages & nebefits get SMALLER....


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