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UK ends moratorium on fracking

13 September 2022

Newly-elected UK Prime Minister Liz Truss announced an end to the moratorium on shale gas drilling in England on September 8 as she unveiled her plans to limit energy bill rises. The ban on fracking was introduced in 2019. Truss has backed fracking as a way to help boost the UK’s domestic gas supplies, saying the “huge reserves” of shale gas would help the UK become a net energy exporter by 2040.

Image: Cuadrilla Resources
Image: Cuadrilla Resources

However, the Prime Minister said that new sites for fracking should only go ahead if they have the support of the local community. Newspaper reports have said that energy companies may offer reduced energy bills in order to gain the support of locals.

The decision to end the moratorium came after it was revealed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) had still not published a British Geological Survey report into the possible effects of fracking, including earthquakes, which had been completed in early July. In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives said they would only support fracking if it could be scientifically proven that it is safe to do.

The report was commissioned by Kwasi Kwarteng, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, while he was business secretary. During the early phases of the Ukraine conflict, Kwarteng said that additional production, including fracking, would not materially affect the wholesale market price of fuel. He added that UK producers wouldn’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price because “they’re not charities”.

Campaigners have called for the government to publish the report so that the public can see the evidence on which the government based its decision. At the time of writing, the report is yet to be published however a BEIS spokesperson said it would be published in “due course”.

Cuadrilla Resources, currently the only company licensed to carry out fracking in the UK, has said the Government has made the right call. In response to the end of the moratorium, CEO Francis Egan said: “I am very pleased that the new Government has acted quickly to lift the moratorium. This is an entirely sensible decision and recognises that maximizing the UK’s domestic energy supply is vital if we are going to overcome the ongoing energy crisis and reduce the risk of it recurring in the future.

“The last few months have highlighted the risks associated with ever increasing reliance on expensive, uncertain, and higher emission gas imports. Without the strong measures set out today, the UK was set to import over two thirds of its gas by the end of the decade, exposing the British public and businesses to further risk of supply shortage and price hikes down the line.

“Any rational analysis of UK energy supply, including those put forward by the Climate Change Committee, recognise that our transition to Net Zero will require the continued use of gas until at least 2050. Today’s announcement sets the foundation for us to move towards gas self-sufficiency, and not be reliant on the whims of dictators, or the vagaries of international supply lines and prices.”

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