Liz Truss must publish a recently completed review on fracking in the UK, green campaigners have urged, amid expectations the new prime minister will lift the moratorium on shale gas drilling immediately.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been sitting on a report delivered in early July by the British Geological Survey into the possible effects of fracking in the UK, including the danger of Earth tremors.
Truss spoke in favor of fracking during her campaign for the Tory leadershipand has also advocated expanding oil and gas production in the North Sea. It is thought she will announce an immediate end to the ban on fracking that was imposed in 2019 as part of her energy strategy on Thursday.
She has previously said that fracking should only take place where there was the support of the local community. The Telegraph reported that firms could offer a reduction in energy bills in order to secure community support.
Green campaigners told the Guardian the BGS report – commissioned by Kwasi Kwarteng, now chancellor of the exchequer, while he was business secretary – must be published, if the government was considering a return to fracking in the teeth of opposition from local groups around the country.
Dr Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “This survey should be published so we can all see the evidence on which the government chooses to make its decisions. However, the report is about the risk of fracking causing earthquakes – that’s not the only thing that informs any decision.”
Danny Gross, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, also called for publication of the report, and said the government must not lift the fracking ban.
He said: “It would be astonishing for the government to lift the fracking ban without also publishing the results of the British Geological Survey review, commissioned by the newly appointed chancellor.”
I added: “But even without the report we know it’s unnecessary, unpopular, incapable of easing the cost of living crisis and will only add more planet-warming emissions to our atmosphere. On the flipside, renewables are cheap, clean, quick to develop and liked by the public. Of the two, it’s clear which one is the pragmatic choice.”
Truss has already been warned this week by the government’s independent advisers on the climate, and on infrastructure, that increasing gas production from fracking will not bring down energy bills.
On Wednesday, the former Conservative environment secretary John Gummer and Sir John Armitt, who chair the Committee on Climate Change and the National Infrastructure Commission respectively, took the unprecedented step of jointly writing to Truss warning that ramping up gas production would not solve the problem.
They wrote: “The UK cannot address this crisis solely by increasing its production of natural gas. Greater domestic production of fossil fuels may improve energy security, particularly this winter.
“But our gas reserves – offshore or from shale – are too small to meaningfully impact the prices faced by UK consumers.”
The BGS said its report had been delivered to the government two months ago. A spokesperson said: “BEIS commissioned BGS to produce a report based on a desk-based study to address six questions related to recent scientific research on the hazard and risk from induced seismicity during hydraulic fracturing of shale rocks. The report was submitted to BEIS on the 5 July.”
A spokesperson for BEIS said the report would be published “in due course”.
Fracking was first attempted in the UK more than a decade agobut was plagued by a series of problems, including Earth tremors at its site in Lancashire. No gas has ever been commercially produced from fracking in the UK despite numerous attempts.
In 2019 the government stepped in with an effective moratorium on frackingruling that only if fracking could be proven not to cause Earth tremors could it go ahead.
Parr said there were additional concerns from fracking, including the possibility of serious health impacts, found in the US where fracking has been pursued at a vast scale. The impacts of fracking on the climate crisis must also be considered, he said.
“This survey will not address how useless fracking is in this energy crisis, because it won’t lower our bills or impact global prices. Nor will this survey address the blight of fracking on British countryside and communities,” Parr said.
“So the government should go ahead and publish this survey but they should be transparent and justify, on a proper evidence base, on all aspects of their decision-making, including that we’re in a climate emergency and so weighing up fracking against cheap , clean energy solutions that would lower our bills and carbon emissions. If they did that, we’re confident it would be rejected.”