Wales politics

'Wrong' to oppose fracking, former Greenpeace head says

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Media captionThe former head of Greenpeace Stephen Tindale says a moratorium on fracking is "not the correct approach"

The former head of Greenpeace has said the Welsh government is wrong to oppose fracking for shale gas.

Stephen Tindale, who led the charity in the UK between 2000 and 2005, said burning gas instead of coal would cut greenhouse emissions.

Applications to drill for gas have sparked protests, with opponents saying the process harms the environment.

The Welsh Government said it had told councils not to approve proposals to frack for gas.

But Mr Tindale said: "I think the Welsh politicians - like many politicians in England and Scotland - are reacting to that civil society pressure and saying it's not worth the politics of standing up and arguing in favour of shale gas."

He said it would be better to use gas from the UK rather than rely on imports from the Middle East.

"Renewables in my view are not the whole answer.

"They are a major part of the answer but they are not all of it and so we need to be a bit less tribal and say it's not renewables or nuclear or gas rather than coal - it's all of the above.

"We need to be less ideological and more pragmatic."

Mr Tindale has previously worked as an advisor to the UK's Task Force on Shale Gas, which was funded by the gas industry.

In its assembly election manifesto, Labour promised to maintain its "robust and unequivocal opposition to fracking".

Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives also oppose fracking, until it can be proved safe.

Powers to grant licences for onshore oil and gas extraction are due to be devolved from Westminster to Cardiff Bay via the Wales Bill.

The UK government has decided not to make fracking decisions in Wales in the meantime, and ministers in Cardiff Bay can already tell local councils to deny planning permission on fracking sites.

'Continued commitment'

Fracking - or hydraulic fracking - involves releasing gas from rock below the ground by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure.

There are no onshore fracking operations in the UK.

But the UK government last month gave permission to a drilling company to frack at a site in Lancashire.

In Wales, 14 licences to explore for gas have been issued.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have made clear our position on fracking in Wales.

"In March we extended the direction preventing local planning authorities from approving applications for such activities and this now includes underground coal gasification, showing our continued commitment to oppose fracking in Wales."

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