War on fracking escalates as UK government goes ‘all out for shale’

war on fracking

UK government has announced it will go “all out for shale” despite fierce local opposition to fracking. Creative Commons: Push Europe, 2013

The UK government is “going all out for shale” as Prime Minister David Cameron offers new incentives to local councils willing to accept the controversial industry.

In a renewed attempt to win support for fracking, Cameron has doubled financial incentives to local authorities willing to accept shale expansion.

In the new pitch to shore up support for fracking, Cameron confirmed local authorities would be entitled to keep 100% of business rates from sites – up from 50% previously offered.

Labelled as “bribes” by environmental groups, they represent the government’s and Prime Minister David Cameron’s explicit aim to pursue fracking whatever the costs.

He’s hoping for around 40 new wells to be drilled over the next two years, following a recent decision, which could see two-thirds of the country, opened up to gas exploration.

The announcement comes as French oil major Total confirms it will invest in UK shale exploration, after France banned the process blamed for freshwater contamination and earth tremors.

Far from removing local opposition, Cameron’s “poisonous” new incentives are likely to further escalate the country’s war on fracking.

Today’s announcement has been met with strong warning from both environmental groups and MPs that these “sweeteners” will encourage councils to overlook potential damage to the countryside.

“Rather than being rewarded for protecting the natural environment, councils are getting their bonuses for letting fracking take place,” said Harry Huyton, head of energy policy for the RSPB.

Groups also warn that the government’s “boundless enthusiasm for shale” ignores the potential impacts on public health.

Residents in Barton Moss, Manchester, where protesters have been gathered since November, and Gainsborough, Lincolnshire are also out in force today so show the government that fracking is “unwanted, unsustainable and unsafe”.

Tracey Wright, a campaigner for No Dash for Gas said:

David Cameron’s so-called ‘sweetener’ is actually poisonous. It flouts democratic processes, attempts to bribe communities and councils and ultimately serves the interests of an industry which is unwanted, unsustainable and unsafe for people and climate. Cameron can be bought by big business but communities won’t be – we’ve seen that in Barton Moss and Balcombe.

Cameron’s continued pursuit of shale further highlights his disjointed approach to climate change.

Leading scientists offered words of praise for the Prime Minister over the weekend, for making the link between a run of recent floods in the UK and global warming – a move expected to cause friction with some Conservative backbenchers.

Such praise has been overshadowed, however, by Cameron’s contradictory attempts to “keep the nation hooked on climate-changing fossil fuels”.

Green groups warn today’s announcements dismiss the country’s renewable energy potential and undermine its attempts to tackle climate change.

Nick Molho, head of Climate and Energy Policy at WWF-UK said:

At a time when the Government has an important decision to make on our future climate change ambitions and in urging European partners to agree challenging emission reduction targets for the next 20 years, one has to hope that their boundless enthusiasm for shale gas will at least be matched by a similar willingness to rapidly decarbonise the UK’s energy system.

Otherwise, the UK’s commitments to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act and its stated ambition to rapidly grow Britain’s low-carbon industries will seriously lack credibility.

Concerns over the impact of fracking on freshwater resources, its potential for chemical contamination and its role in causing earth tremors have put the process at the heart of a fierce debate across Europe.

Across Eastern Europe local opposition has flared, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania, while the process has been banned in Bulgaria and France – upheld despite intensive pressure from the industry.

The European Commission is currently considering a host of new Europe-wide regulations on the shale industry – something the UK government is strongly lobbying against.

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