Environment: Green lobby dismay as fracking is given the go-ahead

Autumn Statement

Fracking, the controversial technology for releasing underground shale gas, is likely to get the go-ahead next week as part of a major new strategy for maximising the use of gas as a low-cost fuel.

This is bitterly criticised by environmentalists, who highlight the risks of fracking and claim that the renewed emphasis on a fossil fuel, instead of renewable energy, for electricity generation puts a major question mark against Britain’s ability to meet targets for cutting carbon emissions.

Mr Osborne gave a strong signal that he intends to water down Britain’s commitment to cutting  emissions over the next 15 years, threatening tens of billions of pounds of vital investment in renewable energy generators.

Britain would be able to produce far more energy from gas, he said, if the carbon ceiling for the five years to the end of 2027 “is revised upwards and emissions reductions are more gradual”. Fracking has been suspended since May last year after earthquakes were caused in the Blackpool area by sub-surface operations and there are other fears about the technology, such as contamination of groundwater.

But an independent science panel has recommended it should continue, as long as there are tight safety restrictions. Mr Osborne’s announcement of a new government department –  an Office for Unconventional Gas – was intended to pave the way for an extensive safety regime to be put in place so that fracking can resume. A formal go-ahead is expected next week.

Hydraulic fracturing, to give it its full name, is at the heart of the Chancellor’s “dash for gas” which envisages that up to 30 power stations  may be needed by 2030. The technique involves the fracturing of shale rock deep underground, to release the gas inside, by pumping in a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under very high pressure.

There are indications that there may be extensive reserves of shale gas under the countryside, and Mr Osborne is looking at them to provide cheap energy. The exploitation of such reserves in the US has led to a sharp fall in gas prices. “We don’t want British families and business to be left behind, as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” the Chancellor said.

Caroline Lucas , the Green Party MP, said: “This reckless move, driven by ideology not evidence, risks locking the UK into an expensive, polluting fossil-fuel future”

Dr Robert Gross, who advised the Department for Energy and Climate Change on the recent Energy Bill, said: “This is very regrettable..”

Even with the dash-to-gas, Britain desperately needs substantial investment in wind, solar, biomass, water and other renewable energy projects. However, figures released this week show potential investors are being put off because of uncertainty about subsidy levels and the Government’s commitment to reduce emissions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map