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UK government’s pursuit of fracking exposes flawed climate strategy

pursuit of fracking

The UK government is under fire again as it tries to remove obstacles to fracking in the UK. Creative Commons: Daniel Foster, 2013

The UK government is being accused of “incredible complacency” on climate change, as it’s moves to overhaul trespassing laws shows the extreme lengths it will go to in pursuit of its shale dream and exposes its flawed climate and energy strategy.

The government is looking at changing the laws to allow companies to frack under people’s home without even having to ask permission, amid concerns that efforts could otherwise be stymied by lengthy and costly court proceedings.

Expected to be published for consultation in coming months, the moves could be the most controversial attempts to date by Prime Minister David Cameron to encourage fracking.

It follows attempts by Greenpeace to use the existing laws to block fracking and encourage thousands of landowners in shale-rich areas to declare they do not give consent to drilling.

The move is the latest in a long line of attempts by the UK government to clear a path for companies wanting to invest in UK fracking.

It aims to remove the remaining obstacles to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne’s fracking dream, dealing with those communities which can not be bought by the “bribes” being offered to councils and local communities who allow fracking.

But Cameron and Osborne’s blind push for shale is leaving them increasingly isolated, as critics warn the fracking fairytale could be “devastatingly false”.

As Cameron travelled to Davos last week to sell his fracking dream to Europe, critics were quick to point out the industry may not offer the silver bullet the UK government hopes for.

This included former Climate and Energy Minister, Chris Huhne who warned the dream is “not a vision but a fantasy”.

Writing in the Guardian he said:

The Cameron song is that Britain is going to be “re-shoring” businesses– the opposite of offshoring – in part because of cheap gas as fracking takes off: prices will fall as they have in the US, where they are just a third of Europe’s prices. British consumers, whose bills will be halved, will doff their caps to Tory ministers who made possible this revolution of cheap energy. Grateful billionaires will come gambolling back to bring new business to Bradford and Bolton.

This is not a vision but a fantasy. Britain’s geology has not yet been proved as suitable for fracking. Poland underwent a frenzy of over-excited hype about its shale gas deposits, only to be cruelly disappointed by the detailed geology. The same may happen here.

Meanwhile, concerns over water contaminationmethane leakage and a risk of earthquakes from fracking have seen Tory council chiefs, even in the Chancellor’s own shale-rich constituency, oppose the shale industry.

And the UK government’s “incredible complacency” to climate is further revealed as it moves to scrap environmental protections and slash spending on climate adaptation.

New figures show that the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will spend just £17.2 million on domestic “climate change initiatives” this year – a 41% decline on the previous 12 months.

The figures will likely fuel fears that the UK will be further exposed to risks from flooding and other global warming consequences.

With the UK still dealing with the impacts of flooding early this year and forecast for more rain, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson facing anger across the country and commentators warn the “shocking figures should worry everyone”.

Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle says it highlights the government “incredible complacency” to climate change and its “unwillingness to accept the science on climate change”.

Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute said:

These shocking figures should worry everyone in the UK. Defra is the lead government department for climate change adaptation and is primarily responsible for making the UK resilient to the impacts of global warming, such as increased flood risk.

The rollbacks will also work to further undermine the country’s standing in Europe as country’s fight back against the UK’s opposition to strong 2030 climate and energy goals.

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