Households “right across the South” should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas, a senior minister has warned.
Michael Fallon says that in the next few weeks, a study by the water industry will conclude that fracking will not contaminate the water supply.
He told The Telegraph that places such as Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex will become centres of the potential source of energy. The Conservative minister, who has posts at the business and energy departments, said Britain had the scope to emulate US states such as Texas in exploiting shale gas.
Mr Fallon also pledged to block wind farms, saying that only one in three sites is being approved following planning restrictions.
In other comments, he said energy bills would be “pegged back” when the Coalition cuts green levies on power next month, and that the Conservatives could fight the next election on a promise to reduce taxes for lower-paid workers by increasing the income tax threshold above £10,000.
Mr Fallon was this week named minister of the year by The Spectator magazine because of his successful management of the Royal Mail privatisation.
He will now focus on trying to win wider acceptance for fracking.
Fears about the process are “myths” and it could provide “the most exciting home-grown source of energy we’ve seen for years”, he said. Fracking is a method of extracting small pockets of gas trapped in rocks by pumping in pressurised water. Advocates say it could produce large amounts of cheap energy, but critics fear it will cause environmental damage.
Water UK, which represents water companies, expressed fears about fracking earlier in the year and began a study.
Mr Fallon said its report will conclude that fracking is largely safe, and will say there is no risk of contamination of water supplies. The report will be part of a drive by the Government to dispel fears about shale gas, which have led to protests against energy firms considering fracking — protests backed by some Tory MPs.