Daily Mail

It’s no time to ban fracking, PM told

Top Tories demand a ‘national mission’ to end Britain’s reliance on foreign gas

- By Claire Ellicott Political Correspond­ent

NEARLY 40 Conservati­ve parliament­arians have written to Boris Johnson urging him to reverse plans to end fracking.

The 34 MPs and five peers claim that sealing two of the UK’s only viable shale gas wells next week would benefit Vladimir Putin.

Britain must instead embark on a ‘national mission’ to secure its energy independen­ce and reduce its reliance on imported gas, they say.

Energy company Cuadrilla is due to concrete over its fracking wells in Lancashire on March 15, having been ordered to do so by the Oil and Gas Authority.

But the MPs – led by Craig Mackinlay and Steve Baker, the chairman and deputy chairman of the Conservati­ve Net Zero Scrutiny Group – have issued a plea to halt the move.

In a letter to Mr Johnson they wrote: ‘We urge you to pause and conduct a review. At a time of such geopolitic­al strife, we cannot refrain from actions that would improve the position of the UK and its allies.’

Their interventi­on follows a first letter sent before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Mr Johnson has yet to respond to. Signatorie­s included Lord Frost, the former Cabinet Office minister, who said overturnin­g the fracking ban would herald a ‘British energy renaissanc­e’. The latest letter is signed by more MPs, with backers including the former Cabinet ministers Lord Lilley and Esther McVey.

But a source at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) resisted the call, saying the MPs should ‘get real’.

In their letter to Mr Johnson, the MPs wrote: ‘Europe has developed an “addiction” to Russian gas.

‘This has gifted the Kremlin considerab­le influence at the heart of our democracie­s.’

They added: ‘Filling these wells with cement as Europe stands on the brink of all-out war would send the wrong signal to our allies and to our enemies.’

Last week, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, called for an immediate reversal of the fracking ban to help Britain ‘become reasonably independen­t in our ability to produce energy’. It came as Mr Baker

‘Sends the wrong signal to enemies’

was told by business minister Greg Hands that the wells needed to be ‘safely decommissi­oned at the end of their useful life’.

Mr Baker said: ‘The minister’s suggestion that these wells are at the end of their useful life is outrageous.. they are ready to produce shale gas so that we can create British jobs and tax revenues, energy security and a faster route to Net Zero.

‘The only thing that is causing a problem here is... the state mandating that we pour concrete down Britain’s only shale gas wells at the height of an energy crisis.’

A BEIS spokesman said: ‘The UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas, with imports making up just 4 per cent of demand. Fracking would have no effect on domestic energy prices in the near future.’

Three years ago, Cuadrilla, the only firm to frack for gas in the UK, struck a supply of shale gas it said could eliminate Britain’s dependency on imports by half. But following a tremor in August 2019, the Government announced a moratorium, forcing the firm to stop work. Since then, the site has lain derelict. Cuadrilla has now been ordered to spend £1million to plug the wells and leave.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon is coming under pressure from senior SNP colleagues to end her opposition to North Sea oil and gas. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and rising energy prices, there are concerns that a lack of developmen­t in the North Sea helps Putin.

IT’S typical of Britain’s shambolic energy policy that in the midst of a global crisis we are about to block off the only avenue that could make us self-sufficient in gas.

next week the country’s only two experiment­al shale gas wells – in Lancashire – are to be sealed with concrete, effectivel­y abandoning this potentiall­y vast domestic energy source.

As well as supplying cheap gas, fracking could provide many thousands of jobs in the north of england, playing directly into the levelling-up agenda. To dismiss it out of hand is simply crazy.

We must start taking energy security seriously. For all the wishing and hoping, renewables alone will not keep the lights and radiators on over the next 28 years.

So in the Gadarene rush to net-zero, we will either have to buy in increasing supplies from despots such as Putin or turbocharg­e our own nuclear and north Sea production.

The vaccine miracle showed what can be done by a public/private task force under dynamic leadership and liberated from the crushing red tape of Whitehall.

Isn’t it time to mobilise a similar force to secure our energy needs for the next generation? We must get our heads out of the sand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom