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
    0

    Comment number 659.

    fracking do's camron stand for the economy and his pocket money or the naturu Eco system and us human beings who live in it.

    after American reports on how fracking efects the land beawera

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 658.

    "MUST get behind"?

    We are not reduced purely to 'imagination' if we ask how might choices like fracking be handled in REAL democracy

    With informed agreement on equal partnership, sharing the desire to hand-on a world at least as fair as enjoyed by ourselves, IF we agree 'something has to be done', THEN we will settle on 'where'

    Before risking 'ground & water', would be free to agree other paths

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 657.

    Don't tell me how to think, Cameron.

    If I don't agree to the risks of fracking, then, that is my choice - not yours!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 656.

    A better idea, Dave. Why not set up a government-owned company to do fracking? it's cheap, reduces price for british people, why not get us some of the profit as well?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 655.

    We live in a very silly world. He have survived as a race for hundreds of thousands of years without oil, gas and coal. It's is not sustainable to burn these substances and should not be allowed to continue. We need to get back to basics and a simpler life.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 654.

    We should all get behind Chris Huhne and congratulate him on his new, highly paid job with a US energy firm who will get the benefit of his inside knowledge of government energy policy. To have obtained such a prominent role a mere three months after serving a prison sentence resulting from a criminal conviction, shows that rehabilitation works. It just works better for some people than others.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 653.

    When will these people learn that you can't keep taking and taking from the planet without things going horribly wrong !!!
    Sooner the better I'm beginning to think ... Humans really are a stupid self destructive animal

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 652.

    An oil & gas company in the US settled out of court with a family who brought evidence of a contaminated water supply causing burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.

    They then got a gagging order on the kids affected from ever talking about it in their lifetime.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/05/children-ban-talking-about-fracking

    Is it really that safe Dave ?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 651.

    Yet again, technologically illiterate politicians get it WRONG and go for the quick money grapping fix.
    The forcoming energy crisis of 2018-2025 will be entirely their fault, for not listening to the country's engineers for the last 30 years.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 650.

    I feel the only thing that will be going up, Mr Cameron, are share holders dividends and energy companies profits. And please stop using that tired old phrase "in it together" which is complete cow dung and not even funny anymore.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 649.

    Of course we should have fracking - to hell with the consequences, just as long as Dave and his mates can make some money. No doubt they'll be able to head off to somewhere fracking-free when it all gets too unpleasant here.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/11/texas-tragedy-ample-oil-no-water

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 648.

    90.daisy-b
    "Surely it would be better to insist that ALL new houses have solar power, preferably for everything, but at least for hot water. This could be subsidised [...]"
    Are you suggesting that new houses be surrounded by vast arrays of solar panels, because that is what would be necessary? And, of course, the tax-payer would pay the subsidies. Idiot count at the moment is 34, plus the editor.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 647.

    The biggest issue with this is why rush to grab the gas? It is not going anywhere. Only idiots would grab it all as fast as they can. It is
    sitting there safely stored for zero cost. In time we may find better ways of getting it out too. This obsession with exploit anything as much as possible in the here and now is crazy. Fossil fuels will only get more valuable, leave ours be, use up other's.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 646.

    Just checked the map, it looks like it ok for me to be in favour of full on fracking.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 645.

    Too many Greens still love a protest.
    They object to progress!
    We have approx 900 yrs of COAL under GB. Greens caused the coal fired power stations to be closed.
    They demand "green" energy, if we reply Nuclear is green, they object.
    Massive supplies of gas under UK, now here we go again.
    Protesters have existed a long time.
    They protested railways,flight and progress.
    Now luddites at it again!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 644.

    "get behind fracking"!?
    Dear Mr Cameron,some advice,"don't hold your breath"!
    Regards "The Country"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 643.

    Luke Caster
    Just now
    Cheaper energy, less carbon emissions more jobs

    not that much cheaper (if at all), actually more carbon/enviromantal devastation and more earthquakes, probably not many more jobs - more renawables could only do that
    and shale will run out so not renewable

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 642.

    The business case for fracking in the US is dodgy (see work by Richard Heinberg). So far it has only managed to exist as a result of investment money flowing in, and without it, it would collapse, i.e a ponzi scheme. It also needs lots of fresh water to run it, which is struggling to cope in the US, because its also needed for drinking!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 641.

    I'm more than happy to have an informed debate on fracking but to hold cameron to his word, lets have the evidence to make an informed decision. on another note, however, those who complain about NIMBYs usually do so from their own unaffected backyard

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 640.

    If people didn't moan about wind turbines so much, maybe we wouldn't need to frack!

 

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