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Leading article: Earth tremors are not the biggest risk from fracking

Yesterday the Government was advised that the risk of earthquakes from "fracking" – hydraulic fracturing of underground shale deposits to release the natural gas stored within them – was not sufficient to prevent the technology being exploited in Britain, as long as strict seismic precautions were taken. The point needs to be made that, even if the earthquake risk is deemed acceptable, there are other aspects of fracking that should be of concern, not least the pollution of groundwater by the chemicals used in the process, as has happened in the United States.

Ultimately, though, there is a bigger objection. A new age of shale gas holds the risk that the decarbonisation of the UK energy system, essential if we are to meet our demanding climate change targets, will be pushed back and back. Mass use of shale gas would make these targets unattainable, unless they were reached via carbon capture and storage – a technology whose future is still uncertain. The one should not be developed without the other.