Less than one in four people support fracking in Britain, research finds
Since the Balcombe protests the public has started turning its back on the new industry with support dropping from 40 per cent last summer to under 25 per cent now
By News agencies
7:19AM GMT 29 Jan 2014
Less than one in four people support fracking in Britain despite attempts by energy companies to offer compensation and other benefits to communities affected.
Since the Balcombe protests the public has started turning its back on the new industry with support dropping from 40 per cent last summer to under 25 per cent now.
Concern about contamination of ground and drinking water and the environmental impact of the latest dash for gas has seen public support for the industry continue to decline.
A third of Britons saw shale gas as an alternative source of cheap fuel last summer but now only just over a fifth saw it as so.
The Nottingham University survey is the eighth since March 2012 and the latest since the September 2013 survey after the Balcombe protests.
The survey has so far tracked changes in the awareness of shale gas, and what they believe to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use as well as its acceptability as an energy source.
The prospect of the contamination of drinking water has been a key concern of the protestors, and the negative rating for shale gas on water contamination has increased from -10.5 per cent to -16.4 per cent in the January survey, reversing a declining trend seen between March 2012 and July 2013.
The same is true of whether respondents see shale gas as a “clean” form of energy overall, with the negative score for shale gas on this measure increasing from -9.9 per cent to -12.7 per cent between September 2013 and January 2014.
Professor Sarah O’Hara, from the School of Geography said: “Although respondents do see shale gas as a ‘cheap’ form of fuel, the trends have also moved away from shale on this indicator which in July 2013 stood at +33.4 per cent, but had fallen to +26.3 per cent in September and is now +22.7 per cent.
“This suggests that the ‘turn against fracking’ indicated in September was not a ‘blip’ and may represent an increasing sense of unease with the environmental implications of fracking techniques amongst the UK public.”
Last July there was a 39.5 per cent differential in favour of shale gas extraction but this has been pared back to +26.7 per cent in January 2014.
For the first time, the survey asked the public what they thought of the proposal that energy companies pay a ‘community benefits’ charge to local communities where fracking takes place.
The majority of people thought that the payments would be to ‘get the community’s support for fracking in their area’ rather than to bring ‘benefits’ to the community, which may indicate that such payments are seen above all as a means of ‘buying off’ potential local opposition.
Professor O’Hara adds: “The January survey confirms that after a prolonged period where the UK public appeared to be warming to shale gas, that opinion is now shifting in the opposite direction.
“It is also interesting to see that the public are not convinced that the payment of compensation to communities in areas where fracking will take place represents a community benefit, but more an attempt to ‘get the community’s support for fracking in their area’, which may signal that payments such as these could be seen as a means of ‘buying off’ potential opposition.
“In which case, this is a strategy in need of review.”
Professor Matthew Humphrey added: “These figures may reflect the increasing politicisation of fracking and shale gas as a contentious issue in UK public policy.
“The public is getting strong messages from protest groups about the dangers of fracking and an equally strong message from the government about the benefits it will bring in terms of secure and affordable energy.
“The trends seem to show that neither side has won the argument yet.”