Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out firmly in favour of fracking for shale gas in Britain by warning that without it, the UK could “lose ground” in the “tough” global race for economic success.
The declaration comes against a backdrop of huge local resistance to fracking or hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas in the village of Balcombe for the last fortnight, which has galvanised debate on the new energy source.
Arguing shale gas is a natural step on from the nation’s Industrial Revolution, Mr Cameron wrote in a letter to the Telegraph: “If we don’t back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills and make our country more competitive.”
He cited the success of the United States’ shale gas bonanza: “Just look at the United States: they’ve got more than 10,000 fracking wells opening up each year and their gas prices are three-and-a-half times lower than here.”
Even if the UK has a “fraction” of that success, he went on, “It’s simple – gas and electric bills can go down when our home-grown energy supply goes up.”
In what could be seen as an attempt to persuade middle England away from ‘nimby’ tendencies, the Coalition leader referred to benefits for local communities from fracking, such as the £100,000 sweetener companies have agreed to give every community near an exploratory well.
The Prime Minister added: “I don’t see why fracking shouldn’t receive real public support. Local people will not be cut out and ignored.”
The Conservative MP also talked down fears of environmental crisis: “When all is said and done, one myth still remains – that fracking damages our countryside. I just don’t agree with this.”
He said: “International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated.”
As for concern about damaging areas of natural beauty, this won’t happen, claimed the Prime Minister: “Shale gas pads are relatively small – about the size of a cricket pitch.”