Don't lift fracking ban, government urged

Invest in insulation, energy efficiency and cheap renewables, says Friends of the Earth
  Published:  07 Sep 2022    |      3 minute read

Commenting on speculation that the fracking ban could be lifted tomorrow (Thursday), Friends of the Earth campaigner Danny Gross said:

“Fracking is disruptive, unpopular and will do little to boost energy security or bring down bills.

“Fossil fuels are at the root of so many of the problems we currently face.

“We need clean, modern solutions to the energy and climate crises. That means insulation, energy efficiency and developing cheap renewables like onshore wind and solar.”


Some top line facts

  • Commenting on energy security earlier this year (Feb 2022) former Business secretary and current Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng tweetedAdditional UK production won’t materially affect the wholesale market price. This includes fracking – UK producers won’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities.”
  • Mike Bradshaw, professor of global energy at Warwick University, wrote: “Even if the moratorium on fracking were to be lifted, it would take years of drilling before production could begin – far from the quick fix that some are calling for.”

Briefing: Why fracking must remain banned, permanently

1. It will do very little to help those suffering through the cost of living crisis

The current Chancellor said himself  that it would take years of exploration and development before fracking produced commercially viable gas, and that it would have no effect on energy prices in the short term.

But once sites become operational, there is nothing stopping fracking companies from selling their gas to the highest bidder on the global market, much like traditional gas and oil. The latest figures show  that UK gas exports actually increased in the first quarter of 2022 as energy prices escalated at home. With this in mind it’s unlikely that increasing domestic gas production will bring down energy costs.

Instead, a massive council-led, street-by-street programme to insulate the UK’s heat-leaking homes, targeting those most in need first, would help to bring down soaring bills for millions of households, and could be rolled out quickly to make a difference before next winter.

The government should also take full advantage of the UK’s renewable power potential to end our dependence on expensive and volatile gas. Renewables are far quicker and cheaper to develop than new fossil fuels, making investment in clean energy the practical choice to help those struggling now with rising living costs.

2. It’s deeply unpopular with communities impacted by fracking

Before the 2019 moratorium was introduced, fracking was met with fierce opposition by communities who resisted attempts by the industry to develop fracking locally.

Concerns were driven by a number of factors but particularly the potential damage and disruption that could be inflicted on the local environment, alongside the prospect of unpredictable earthquakes and the global climate impacts of burning and extracting shale gas.

Communities and frack free groups all over the country are on standby to mount fresh resistance should the government lift its moratorium.

Activists who opposed fracking in Lancashire have said  they won’t stand for it, while communities in Yorkshire say they will be ready  to protect their local environment.

3. It’s incompatible with curbing climate breakdown

Scientists agree  that the majority of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we’re to avoid further dangerous levels of global heating. Yet fracking will only add to the stockpile of fossil fuels we can’t afford to burn, making it harder to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees as internationally agreed.

4. The industry wants to relax regulations that reduce the risk of earthquakes

Lifting the moratorium on fracking opens the door to further attempts to weaken regulations designed to minimise the risk of earthquakes.

The Traffic Light System  (TLS), introduced in 2012, requires fracking companies to halt their operations for 18 hours if a seismic event of 0.5ML (local magnitude) or greater occurs. This is considered the “red light” threshold. It was introduced after tremors damaged the steel well casing at fracking company Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall site in Lancashire.

Before fracking was officially paused in England, the industry lobbied the government to relax these regulations, which fracking companies themselves previously agreed to. This would allow earthquakes 31 times larger and 177 times stronger to be triggered legally. Lifting the fracking ban could pave the way for bigger tremors, which could be devastating for surrounding communities and the environment.