Green Light For Fracking: Labour Announces Support
Ministers are expected to allow a firm to resume a controversial method known as fracking to exploit what it says are huge shale gas reserves off Lancashire.
Cuadrilla had to stop test-drilling in 2011 after fracking caused two minor earthquakes near Blackpool.
The decision due later will be watched closely by the industry and opponents.
Meanwhile, government advisers say a dependence on gas could force household bills much higher than relying on renewable energy and nuclear power.
Fracking is a technique that involves drilling holes deep into the ground, then causing tiny explosions that fracture shale rocks to release the gas trapped inside.
In the US the technique has led to lower energy prices but has also been blamed for polluting water supplies.
Cuadrilla has said it could supply a quarter of the UK’s gas needs from the untapped resources in Lancashire and the government is expected to allow it to resume fracking, but under strict environmental conditions.
The government has already indicated its backing for such moves by proposing tax relief for shale gas and producing a gas generation strategy.
The chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources, Francis Egan, has said his company is ready to press ahead quickly if it gets the green light.
The decision on fracking would also have an impact on other companies looking to get involved in the business in other parts of the UK.
Cuadrilla has four exploration drilling sites in Lancashire – three on the Fylde at Westby, Singleton and Weeton, and one at Banks in west Lancashire.
Environmental campaigners are strongly against the move.
Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “A green light to fracking would spell bad news for local communities and their environment, jeopardise UK climate change targets and help keep the nation hooked on dirty gas for decades.
“Gambling on shale gas is a risk we don’t need to take – developing our huge clean power potential and cutting energy waste will create jobs, reduce our fossil fuel dependency and keep the lights on.”
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: “Labour has always said that fracking should only go ahead if it is shown to be safe and environmentally sound.”
She added: “The idea that this form of gas extraction can have the same impact here in the UK as it has had on gas prices in the United States is considered wishful thinking by most experts.”
The decision comes as government adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, warned in a report that shale gas would have little impact on the level of energy bills in the UK.