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 959.

    Re #706
    The longer we do not touch it [gas] the more it will become worth to future generations.

    There's nothing you can do with gas other than burn it. Unlike oil which can be processed to create dozens of useful plastics/polyesters, etc.

    Btw. For all global warming aficionados: If permafrost starts to melt billions of tons of methane would be released and used as a combustible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    RichDY ....I have a fracking job mate. It is called being self employed, and if I wish to spend some of my day sat reading these comments, I will.
    You think that everyone replying on this thread is a lay-about? You, sir are an idiot. Not everyone fits into your notion of what we should all be doing between 9am and 5pm.
    Bet you're a southerner to boot.... or a banker type.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    Cameron is a dreadful communicator. People are objecting wrongly about the so called dangers of fracking, but Cameron does not attempt to allay their fears with scientific facts to knock down the Guardian's anti fracking policies. Fire coming out of taps is not necessarily due to fracking and earthquakes are also wrong. But Cameron just comes out with platitudes. We need the gas and quickly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    You need plenty of water for fracking.

    Thames Water has been criticised for paying no corporation tax in its last financial year, when it made pre-tax profits of £145m. According to the latest available accounts, the company has paid total dividends to its shareholders of £1.18bn over the past five years

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    The map above is the same as that used by the National Coal Board , for coal deposits and mining areas in the 1980`s. Those Nationalised pits that were not sold off to UK Coal plc were closed for economic reasons (Heavily subsidised European coal)
    My point being;
    The mines are still there and do collapse occasionally, Is fracking going to help this situation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    If only Cameron invested more into our nation's considerable intelligence and creative talent in designing more sources of renewable power, then the UK would once again be world leaders and create an Energy Revolution in the same way we created the Industrial Revolution. We've been digging fossil fuel out the ground for 270 years, time to look forward to the next 250.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    Me, having studied fracking for some time am now convinced it is incredibly risky and potentially very dangerous to the water table, the stability of rock strata and the contamination issues, but hey, its only the Earth right, what does that matter in the face of cheap fuel...

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Fracking + Nuclear - Wind = Cheaper Energy + Lower Emissions + Reduction in Fuel Poverty

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    They are just starting the next stage of future energy provision in France, the experimental fusion reactor. This will probably take 25-30 years to be commercially available. If oil extracted by fracking can give us that vital breathing space until it is, then by all means go ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    Not only can locals gain from £100,000 initial bribe but imagine all those extra "gagging" payments like people who live near fracking receive in the US? Why if its safe?

    Plus they will say a fortune on heating/cooking when they can set fire to the tap water.

    Is there a correlation between how much in favour people are of fracking and the distance they live from the water supplies? Hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    "There is one very simple problem with fracking that any primary school pupil could explain to you ..."

    I doubt that very much.

    "There is absolutely no option other than to find new sources of energy, anything else is a waste of time."

    Developing existing energy sources for the interim period is not a waste of time.

    Of course rhetoric beats intelligent argument on HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    Biogas from all our landfill waste, sewerage, and animal waste is what should get public funding. Stop our methane leaking, and burn it for energy instead.

    This is not what the distorted gas market wants though, as this would bring the prices back to a point where fracking made no sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    Just another bad decision to be made under Mr Camerons rule. Unsatisfied with tearing society to shreds with budget cuts, he is now urging us to destroy the very land beneath our feet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    Now that fracking is on the agenda, the politicians are going to be unusually concerned about the elderly freezing to death due to sky high gas prices by profiteering energy companies. The only saviour our the British elderly is to frack. Save your granny, support energy companies fracking our countryside. Don't support real solution, nationalisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    Criminal Neanderthals. "We are all in it together" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I can't believe that he's still using that

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Apart from, how anyone can think that pumping carcinogens into the ground is safe, where are all these supposed profits going to come from if fracking will produce such abundant cheap energy? Are we just meant to burn more fossil fuels, with no regard for global warming, just so greedy energy companies can continue to make obscene profits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    Cameron has provided no valid reasons to get behind fracking, other than an attempt to buy people off with selfish financial self centered self interest.

    Government want the income, companys want the profits.

    If anything, profits from any fracking should be put into a long term UK energy sustainability initiative to pay for/subsidise public owned green energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    Fracking was never about lowering fuel prices. It's about expanding our economy, creating thousands of new jobs and bringing worldwide investment to areas across the UK. I don't see any problem with fracking. Imagine if offshore oilfield drilling did not exist, and they proposed to start now. Can you imagine peoples reaction? Yet, because we have been bought up with it, there is no problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    PM or one of his cronies will no doubt profit from it somewhere along the line. They certainly don't do anything for the good of the people they farm, excuse me, serve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    Fracking is proving to be dangerous and polluting in the US but legal action threats and even non-disclosure agreements doctors are made to sign are keeping it quiet. Considering the consensus is that we can burn only 1/3 of the fossil fuel supplies we have access to over the next 50 years, why are we even looking for more? If we cannot use what we have explain the point of finding more?


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