Next prime minister will be pro-fracking, TV debates reveal

Both candidates signal support for shale gas ‘if local communities support it’

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 27 July 2022 11:12 BST
Tory leadership race: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss support fracking

The UK’s next prime minister will be pro-fracking, last night’s leadership debate revealed, with both candidates for the job saying they would allow drilling for shale gas to go ahead "if local communities support it".

Campaigners for fracking were delighted by the promises by Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, recognising it as a "huge U-turn" after the moratorium on fracking put in place by Boris Johnson’s government in 2019.

Climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Forum, which runs the Net Zero Watch campaign against government efforts to tackle the worsening climate crisis, said Ms Truss and Mr Sunak’s announcements were a "big breakthrough".

On Twitter the organisation wrote: "The next PM will finally abandon BorisJohnson’s crazy fracking ban. Both[candidates for PM] pledge to give the green light to fracking if local communities don’t object. We have been campaigning for years for this to happen."

But the caveat that local communities must support fracking in order for it to go ahead has also been interpreted as failing to support fracking – as polls show support for new fossil fuel drilling is tiny.

Leo Hickman, editor of climate science website Carbon Brief tweeted: "They both say ‘yes, but…’ to fracking knowing full well local communities won’t support it. So, in essence, they are admitting it won’t happen."

An editorial in The Sun today, which has long backed fracking, recognised the caveat as a major obstacle. It said: "Shale gas could provide us with crucial cheap energy for years. It cannot be up to locals to have a veto."

Meanwhile, the candidates’ stance on fracking has been compared to their attitude to onshore wind, which Mr Sunak has ruled out even if local communities support it.

Supporters of fracking in the UK have said it will result in "much lower energy bills", but this is not the case.

Even the government has admitted that the relatively small amounts of gas extracted by private companies will be sold on the open market and will not be enough to dent gas prices.

Earlier this year, business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "Additional 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."

The Green Party’s co-leader Carla Denyer told The Independent: "It is very worrying that the two people vying to become our next Prime Minister want to reverse the fracking ban and further deepen our country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

"The Conservatives are increasingly out of step with the majority of British people’s views and with evidence-based policy on climate and energy."

She added: "Fracking will not bring down fuel bills for people who are struggling and will cause yet more damage to local communities and to the climate.

"The most effective and sustainable way of bringing down the cost of living and tackling the climate crisis is to invest in insulating houses and massively ramping up renewable energy, while providing people with the immediate financial support they need now. Fracking is an expensive and dangerous distraction from that urgent goal."

As well as the CO2 which pours into the atmosphere from burning fracked gas, fracking has also “dramatically increased” global methane emissions in the past decade, studies have shown.

Along with the burning of fossil fuels, the release of methane from fracking is "globally significant", with the boom in shale gas production already contributing to the rise in average temperatures.

Methane is 85 times more potent at causing warming than CO2 over a 20 year period and around 30 times as powerful over 100 years.

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