England’s fracking ban has been lifted as Liz Truss’s Government vowed to explore all avenues to improve energy security, setting Downing Street on a collision course with environmental campaigners.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said the impact of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means securing domestic energy supplies is vital as he defended lifting the moratorium on fracking, which has been in place since 2019 after a series of tremors caused by the process.
Mr Rees-Mogg suggested limits on acceptable levels of seismic activity are too restrictive and said the Government is determined to “realise any potential sources of domestic gas”.
“It can be done safely”
Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure liquid to release gas from shale formations.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged not to lift England’s moratorium unless “the science shows categorically it can be done safely”.
A Government-commissioned report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) was inconclusive, saying more data was needed, but despite the lack of scientific progress, Ms Truss’s administration has torn up the manifesto commitment.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, 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.”
Ms Truss insisted she will not authorise “anything that carries a risk” but “I’m clear that energy security is vital”.
Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said: “Fracking is a dangerous fantasy – it would do nothing to cut energy bills, costs more than renewables, and is unsafe.
“The Tories have broken another promise because they are more interested in standing up for the fossil fuel lobby than the British people.”
Sir Greg Knight even criticised Rees-Mogg for the move, asking the Somerset MP and former hedge fund manager whether he was aware that the safety of the public is “not a currency on which some of us choose to speculate”.
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