David Cameron to insist that people living in the south of England must accept fracking, as he sets out his argument for the controversial way of extracting gas in his strongest terms yet.
David Cameron is to insist that people living in the south of England must accept fracking, as he sets out his argument for the controversial method of extracting gas in the strongest terms yet.
The Prime Minister will use an article in The Daily Telegraph to make clear that people in the South as well as the North of England will have to allow fracking, insisting “we are all in this together” in the battle to find sources of cheap energy for Britain.
Mr Cameron set out the economic benefits including cheaper energy bills for millions, tens of thousands of jobs and windfalls for communities which are sitting on vast reserves of shale gas.
He also pledged that fracking would not damage Britain’s countryside and would only result in a “very minor change to the landscape”.
The British Geological Survey said in June that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas in northern England alone.
The intervention will be seen as an attempt by Mr Cameron to repair the damage done Lord Howell of Guildford, a former Government adviser and George Osborne’s father in law, who said two week ago that gas fracking should only take place in the North East because it was filled with “desolate” areas.
Mr Cameron, who represents an Oxfordshire constituency, said that it was wrong to suggest that fracking should only be confined to the north of England, where fewer people live. He said: “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.”
The technique, which involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract natural gas, has dramatically cut energy bills in the USA.
Ministers are hoping that it could do the same in the UK however campaigners and local people are bitterly fighting drilling.
Mr Cameron made clear that the potential benefits are too good to ignore. He said that fracking has “real potential to drive energy bills down”, adding: “It’s simple – gas and electric bills can go down when our home grown energy supply goes up.
“We’re not turning our back on low carbon energy, but these sources aren’t enough – we need a mix. Latest estimates suggest that there’s about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying underneath Britain at the moment – and that study only covers eleven counties.
“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.”
There were also large rewards on offer to communities which find themselves sitting on vast reserves. He said: “Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well – somewhere where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists.
“If shale gas is then extracted, one per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10million – 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. It’s important that local people share in the wealth generated by fracking.”
Mr Cameron also insisted a drive to increase fracking in Britain would lead to the creation of more than 70,000 jobs in a North Sea oil-type boom.
He also tried to tackle the persistent argument that fracking was not safe and risked poisoning local water sources.
He said: “We must make the case that fracking is safe. International evidence shows there is no evidence why fracking should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated.
“And the regulatory system in this country is one of the most stringent in the world. If any shale gas well were to pose a risk of pollution then we have all the powers we need to close it down.”