Public support for fracking has officially nosedived

A fracking protest sign and Theresa May
Steve Topple

It’s official: public support for fracking has dropped considerably. But don’t take our word for it. Because the figures come from the government itself.

Fracking: under the microscope

Campaign group Friends of the Earth describes fracking as:

a process to extract oil or gas from shale rock… A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped down the well at very high pressure. This fractures the rock and when the pressure is released, the gas or oil flows back up the well.

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The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) does a quarterly survey of public opinion on energy. And it’s now released the latest results.

Oh dear…

Public support for fracking has dropped by 12 percentage points since December 2013; although it increased by two percentage points between September 2017 and September 2018. Meanwhile, opposition has risen from 21% in December 2013 to 31% in September 2018; it peaked at 36% in September 2017:

Public attitude to fracking September 2018

The top three reasons for people opposing fracking were:

  • Loss/destruction of natural environment (58%).
  • Not a safe process (27%).
  • Earthquakes (26%).

And as the BEIS survey noted [pdf, p15], the more knowledge people have about fracking, the more likely they are to oppose it.

But looking at the situation with fracking, it’s no surprise support has dropped and opposition has grown.

Fracking chaos

The fracking industry is contentious. Many people are against it; not least because of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s been linked to polluted drinking water and earthquakes. Studies also appear to show links to low birth weights, premature births, and a possible increased risk of breast cancer. The Canary has followed opposition from local residents where fracking has begun. And it’s been robust.

The Conservative government is moving forward with fracking anyway. A statement in May then a policy paper in July effectively gave the green light for firms to frack up and down the country.

But already, the government’s green light for fracking is causing uproar.

Local uproar

Preston New Road in Lancashire is at the centre of a row over frackingCuadrilla runs the site, which has pitted it against local people. In July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. But the decision drew more protests from locals. Then, a judge jailed three activists (whom another judge promptly freed). But after a court casebad weather and protests stopped it, Cuadrilla finally began work on Monday 15 October. This was met with more protests.

Then, the earthquakes began.

11 earthquakes in a week?

As The Canary has been following, the British Geological Survey (BGS) has recorded 36 tremors near to Preston New Road since Thursday 18 October. The strongest of these happened on 29 October, with a magnitude of 1.1. The BGS said it was felt in Blackpool. Cuadrilla has stopped work several times, due to the magnitude of the tremors breaching the government’s traffic light system:

Government fracking traffic light system

Boo hoo

Bear in mind, the BEIS surveyed the public before the earthquakes began at Preston New Road. So, it’s anyone’s guess just how much more support for fracking will collapse. But as campaign group Frack Free Lancashire told The Canary:

The widening gap between opposition and support is hardly surprising and neither is the fact that more than twice as many oppose shale gas as support it.

This polling clearly shows that acceptance of the industry’s claims for shale gas benefits is vanishing even amongst their supporters.

It would appear that people are at last seeing through the industry’s spin, and once the impact of the recent earthquakes… filter through we would expect the gap between opposition and support to widen again.

Indeed, it will be telling to see what the next quarter’s survey results show. But in the meantime, none of this bodes well for the fracking industry. And moreover, neither does it for the government. What a crying shame.

Get Involved!

– Support Frack Free Lancashire and Preston New Road Action Group.

Featured image via Glen Black and Guardian News – YouTube

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