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 979.

    The truth is we have no answers to the energy crisis. Renewables are great but are limited in capacity and are not 24/7. Nuclear is good except for a 1000 year legacy. Fossil fuels work but they pollute. Futuristic solutions like Fusion are the real long term answer but are 50 years away.
    There is no option but to use every resource available until we have something better. Fracking is survival

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Ever wonder why micro schemes aren't wholeheartedly encouraged ?

    I don't give a monkeys how much this is marked down.

    I write the truth.

    The so called ' government ' really isn't what you perceive it to be.

    There is such a thing as society, but ' parliament ' is simply a meeting place for business people, nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    I'm very apprehensive. It would seem to me that the gas is there for a reason, who are we to mess with the balance of Earth's resources? Even if it is perfectly safe to do so, we'll never see any real benefits, as people already sayng, government lures us all with "low bills" but that will never be the case, it'll just be something else for the government to get its filthy hands all over!

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    Can't wait to see fire coming out of my taps!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    Thanks folks. Every time you give me a double-digit minus rating I know for sure that I'm right!

    Just like "qwerty", "therealist", "Just_Jim" and OhMiGod" and a few others; they are all going down in flames too. There's hope for us yet. Just follow the minus signs!

    Keep on fracking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    Presumably Mr.Cameron will give the lead to us all, and show us that our fears about the environment are unjustified, by arranging for the next exploration to take place in the grounds of his country home in Oxfordshire?

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    Fracking will only happen in the north where the rich tory voters don't live. The south will never a fracking Cameron can't afford to upset his core vote of the rich over 60s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    Here lies my problem with UK/US preaching developing countries like China, India about green energy/carbon emission.
    If we find oil, we will use it just the same. Environment is secondary to the politicians and they are trying to move it up the others' agenda. Now, why would anyone listen?

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    The bic "C" word again - Climate Change. We can't do anything about the climate. We didn't cause the last ice age or the breaking apart of Pangaea. Fracking is not the end of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    Great. Lets start Fracking right under his house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    This is going to be Cameron's poll tax, he has severely underestimated the opposition to this and is going to alienate a lot of traditional Conservative supporters as well as everyone else.

    By the way, what are the Conservatives actually supposed to be conserving, other than a super-rich elite?

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Where do all you NIMBYS you think oil comes from - it does not sit in some underground lake waiting to be pumped out - it is extracted using very similar processes to fracking - so it is not something new!

    Media also don't help by always using "controversial" when they should be impartially reporting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    Of course he wants public support.

    He, and his mates, must have loads of the money made from MPs expenses invested in companies like Cuadrilla.

    He'll be wondering how to make an income after 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    Ha ha, I see the usual collection of HYS beardie weirdos, Huff Post tin foil haters, Northern class war relics and Guardianistas are in full voice. Thank goodness outside the BBC's leftie "paradise" you are all ignored and we can get on with exploiting this valuable resource properly as we move toward nuclear. Hilarious people think "green power" is anything but a £1bn scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    I see there are large areas of the Cotswolds which are good for fracking - come on then Dave lets start there and see how it goes...

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 963.

    938 - says an unemployed man to an employed man reading this at lunch! You must be an MP!
    to all those in agreement with the PM - go to youtube and type in:
    "setting light to your tap water"
    as your search query.
    Low and behold videos of people setting fire to their tap water in recently fracked areas all over the USA. If you think that is acceptable, then I weep for your offspring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    The evidence against is flimsy. We need the gas. So long as we start the process carefully and slowly, why not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    I live in an area where we have huge wind farms off our shore and even large wind farms within our parish boundary.

    Two of the promises made were that thousands of jobs and millions of pounds in revenue would come to our area.

    We're still waiting ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    Perhaps, with this insane form of messing with our planet's geology, we will discover how come there once was, and appears no more to be, life on Mars.

    Add the potential damage from widescale fracking to the list of reasons why this may be mankind's last century, so superbly outlined by Martin Rees in "Our Final Century".

    Do the Bulligdon Boys have a vested stake? Do bears poo in the woods?


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