Opponents of 'fracking' — high-pressure fracturing of bedrock to extract trapped oil and gas — fear it will release potentially harmful substances or even cause earth tremors. The government of former PM Boris Johnson imposed a moratorium on the practice in November 2019.
The British government has lifted a moratorium on 'fracking' for shale gas — as a solution to the self-inflicted energy crisis.Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the long-expected move on Thursday morning.
He claimed the cancellation of the ban — imposed in November 2019 by Prime Minister Liz Truss predecessor and Conservative party-mate Boris Johnson — was made necessary by soaring gas and oil prices in the wake of Russia's military operation in the Ukraine in February.
"In light of Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority," Rees-Mogg said. "And — as the prime minister said — we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040."
"To get there, we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production — so it's right that we've lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas," he added.
Fracking involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into boreholes at high pressure to open up fracks and release small pocket of gas or oil underground.
Opponents of the method claim it can cause potentially-harmful gases to seep up to the surface, or even provoke seismic earth tremors.
Shadow environment secretary Ed Miliband claimed the government had hoped a recent British Geological Survey report to show that fracking was safe, "but it didn't. Because fracking isn't."
"Now the government admits they are willing to tolerate 'a higher degree of risk and disturbance,'" Miliband said. "Jacob Rees-Mogg rips up the Tory manifesto in favour of a charter for earthquakes."
He said the opposition would "hang the broken promise" of the Tory manifesto around the government's neck — like the dead albatross in Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Wera Hobhouse branded Rees-Mogg and Truss "climate change deniers."
"From Surrey to Somerset, the government are treating people in rural areas like guinea pigs," Hobhouse said. "The Conservatives' obsession with fracking lays bare that they don't actually think that climate change is happening and are not willing to take the urgent action needed."
The announcement prompted angry urgent questions to the business secretary in the House of Commons.
Rees-Mogg said he had had "preliminary discussions" with Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng about providing "direct" financial rewards to people in areas where fracking wells are sunk.
Proponents of renewable energy — the unreliability of which prompted the last energy crisis in 2021 — seized on soaring market prices to bolster their case.
"When you hear Jacob Rees-Mogg today claiming that fracking is the way to solve our energy crisis remember this: renewable power is now NINE times cheaper than gas," tweeted left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon.
"You cannot drill you way out of fuel poverty," tweeted Howard Beckett, an official in the Unite trade union which organises many workers in the fossil fuel industry.
"Wind & solar are 9-11 times cheaper. The road out of fuel poverty is paved with green energy."
Western sanctions on Russia over its military intervention in the eight-year Ukraine conflict, including the UK's embargo on energy imports from the Eurasian giant, have sent market prices soaring just as European countries are closing coal-fired and even nuclear power stations as part of their green agenda.
That has had a knock-on effect on the prices of other goods and services, pushing inflation to a five-decade high of 10 per cent.
You can read this article as it originally appears at Sputnik here.
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