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
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living