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Public support for fracking in Britain falls for a second time

Protest Against Fracking in U.K.

A protest march near the IGas Barton Moss fracking site near Salford, 26 January 2014. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “Public support for fracking in Britain falls for a second time” was written by Adam Vaughan, for on Tuesday 28th January 2014 12.11 UTC

David Cameron is losing the battle for public opinion over fracking for shale gas because of high-profile public protests against the controversial technique, polling suggests.

The latest results of a long-running survey on British attitudes towards shale gas, undertaken by YouGov and commissioned by the University of Nottingham, show an increase in the number of people opposed to fracking and a decrease in those in favour for the second time since protests at Balcombe in West Sussex last August.

The slide in support comes despite several major speeches by the prime minister in support of shale gas over the same period, including last week’s address to the World Economic Forum in Davos where he said the UK needed to “embrace the opportunities of shale gas” even though he understood “the concerns some people have”.

Shale Gas Extraction Poll in U.K.

Public support for fracking steadily grew from June 2012 to a high of 58% in favour and just 18% against in July 2013, when asked the question: “should shale gas extraction in the UK be allowed?”. But after the protests against an oil-drilling site run by Cuadrilla at Balcombe – which saw several thousand people marching and dozens of arrests including that of Green MP, Caroline Lucas – the number in favour fell in September to 55% and has dropped again this month to 53%. Opposition has also risen, to 24% in September and 27% this month.

Sarah O’Hara, pro vice-chancellor and professor of geography at the University of Nottingham, said: “After a prolonged period when the UK public appeared to be warming to shale gas, that opinion is shifting in the opposite direction, with the apparent turn against fracking for shale gas continuing.”

Lawrence Carter, climate campaigner at Greenpeace, said of the new polling: “David Cameron appears to have lost his knack for PR. After a concerted push from the prime minister to sell shale gas to the public, including financial bungs to local councils, his net return is that fewer people support fracking. It is time he listened to the voices of local communities and abandoned his plans to industrialise our countryside with this dirty, risky and controversial practice and instead backed the home insulation programmes and clean energy sources that can tackle rising bills and protect the environment.”

Anti-fracking protests have taken place across the country, from Lancashire to the East Midlands and Sussex. Campaigners cite concerns over the impact on water supplies, climate change and the flaring and trucks that accompany the process, which uses water, sand and chemicals pumped at high pressure underground to fracture shale rocks and release gas.

Protesters targeting a drilling site run by IGas at Barton Moss in Salford have been camped out for two months now, leading to dozens of arrests, mostly for obstructing a highway. Local MP Barbara Keeley said the “the policing costs are much, much higher than anything that comes back” and Greater Manchester police say policing the protests has cost more than £330,000.

Protest Against Fracking in U.K.

An image depicting the British prime minister, David Cameron, is held by a protester during a rally at the former test drill site operated by Cuadrilla Resources in Balcombe. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images


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