• Environment secretary wants fracking in rural areas

    28th January 2014 | News | Claire
  • Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has insisted he wants to see fracking “all over rural parts of the UK”.

    Mr Paterson said the controversial mining technique would boost jobs and growth, and there was a robust regime for ensuring safety.

    But he also admitted opponents of the practice were winning the war for public opinion – suggesting that was in part because they wear “exciting clothes”. The comments came as the Tory Cabinet minister gave evidence to peers on the Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

    Senior government figures including David Cameron have highlighted the potential benefits of fracking – where materials are pumped into rock under pressure to fracture it and extract gas.

    However, critics have questioned claims that it could bring down energy prices and be worth billions of pounds a year to the economy.

    Concerns have also been raised that the technique can cause earthquakes and environmental damage.

    But Mr Paterson told the committee that a minor earthquake happened “every single day” somewhere in Britain, and insisted there were rigorous checks on the effects of the mining.

    “I would like to see shale gas exploration all over rural parts of the UK, because I think it will bring wealth and prosperity and jobs,” he said.

    He said there was a limit to how effectively “a politician in a suit” could advocate fracking, and called on all supporters to help make the case.

    “There is a large problem with public opinion,” Mr Paterson said. “Those who are opposed have made all the running…

    “We are behind the curve. These opponents have been getting a lot of media coverage, they get a lot of television coverage.

    “They wear exciting clothes, they have exciting banners, they have easy quick slogans.

    “A lot of the stuff has been misleading, but they have made the running.”

    Fracking involves injecting high pressure water and chemicals into shale rock to blast out trapped natural gas.

    A Government document has identified large areas of eastern and southern England as having the best potential for “shale gas” – with large deposits found in Dorset and Somerset.

    The Department for Energy and Climate Change report last year included maps indicating types of shale in Devon and even Cornwall, but said that the peninsula is considered “unattractive” as a primary shale gas target”.