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Energy Minister: South East Of England Must Accept Shale Gas Exploration

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Joe Murphy, The London Evening Standard

The South East must accept shale gas exploration for the sake of Britain’s economic future, Energy Minister Michael Fallon declared today.

He stepped after Surrey-based peer Lord Howell caused outrage by saying “desolate” areas of the North East should be targeted instead.

“It cannot be right to confine it to areas of the industrial North,” he told the Evening Standard.

“Shale exists under towns, villages and countryside. Shale gas is everywhere and could well be in quantity under attractive areas of the country as well as industrial areas.”

The Tory minister was cool about the remarks made by Lord Howell of Guildford, who is George Osborne’s father in law and a former Energy Secretary.

“He has apologised and it’s probably best left there,” he said. Lord Howell has been widely condemned by northern politicians and bishops for suggesting drilling should avoid the South.

But he said the South could become “the second biggest area of shale in Britain” and everyone would benefit from the extraction.

“If we can extract shale gas as cheaply and efficiently as they have done in he United States, everybody benefits,” he said.

Pointing out that a survey of the North West had found twice as much shale gas potential as previously believed, he said the same might be true of the South.

“The same survey is now being done of the southern base, roughly from Dorset through Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent,” he said.

“We will know in March whether there is much more there than was originally thought.”

He accepted that many communities would be worried and acknowledged there would be a big impact on some areas.

“There’s certainly disturbance involved, especially in the very early years of fracturing, and it’s right the community should be compensated.

“That’s why there is compensation to the community of £100,000 per exploration well and then one per cent of profits, which could amount to several million pounds.”

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