Public support for fracking drops in UK

fracking 3‘The government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public’

Staff Report

Support for fracking is at an all-time low in the UK, with nearly half the respondents in an annual poll expressing concerns about water quality.

The September 2016 survey found that there has been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last 12 months, with levels of support now standing at just 37.3 percent whereas opposition to fracking in the UK now stands at 41 percent.

The University of Nottingham ‘Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ has been running since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the UK public believes to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source.

Support for fracking has been dropping since 2013, when there were large anti-fracking protests in Sussex. Whether or not the protests were the actual trigger, public support has continued to decline over a three-year period.

The September 2016 the survey saw the number of respondents associating shale gas with water contamination increase to over 49 per cent, the highest level since the survey began.

In a press release, the university said the public in the UK apparently hasn’t been convinced by industry arguments that shale gas is a clean energy source. In the March 2012 survey, only 25.3 per cent considered shale gas to be clean, compared with 44.8 per cent who did not, giving a negative rating of -19.5 per cent. Since then, this gap has widened significantly and in September 2016 stands at nearly -26.5 per cent – the largest negative differential in the history of the survey.

The survey also asked whether shale gas should be part of the UK energy mix, alongside a range of alternatives including fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy sources. Since this question was first posed in July 2013, shale gas continues to lag behind other energy sources and according to this latest survey, it remains the energy source the UK public are least likely to want in the UK’s 2025 energy mix.

Long-term implications

Professor Sarah O’Hara from the School of Geography at the University and co-director of the survey, said: “The sharp downturn in support for the extraction and use of shale gas in the UK over the last 12 months is hugely significant, as is the fact that for the first time since we began running the survey in March 2012 more people are against shale gas extraction than in favour.

“It is clear that people are not only concerned about possible impact on their immediate environment, something that dominated early debates around shale gas but importantly are beginning to think more broadly about the implications for greenhouse gas emissions and future climate change.”

Professor Mathew Humphrey from the School of Politics and International Relations at the University and co-director of the survey, said: “In over four years of running The University of Nottingham shale gas survey, these are the most negative overall results that we have seen, just at the time when the government has approved the UK’s first horizontally drilled well in Lancashire.

“The downturn in public attitudes that we first saw after the Balcombe protests in 2013 has persisted for far longer than we might have expected. This may partly reflect lower energy prices making the apparent need for shale gas less urgent, and so less worthy of the potential risks. The results show that the government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public.”

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