A Conservative group has defied party policy by proposing a ban on fracking.
The Conservative Environment Network Parliamentary Caucus launched a manifesto today saying a ban was “overwhelming sensible”.
The group said fracking was “woefully unpopular” and shale gas would not bring economic or environmental benefits. It said:
“It is time to move away from oil and gas”
The group describes itself as a forum for Conservatives who support conservation and decarbonisation.
The parliamentary caucus lists 41 members including: Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland); Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton), Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), James Heappey (Wells), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park); Vicky Ford (Chelmsford); Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury); Richard Benyon (Newbury); David Warburton (Somerset and Frome); Robert Courts (Witney); Richard Graham (Gloucester) and Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth).
Mr Hollinrake has said on his website that. while he signed the manifesto, he does not support a fracking ban.
Polling for the group found that 37% of conservative voters supported fracking, compared 74% who supported onshore wind.
A ban, the manifesto said, would “prevent stranded assets in an unpopular, out of date industry”
“gas from fracking offers little in the way of economic opportunity, and much more in the way of stranded assets.”
It argued that the UK was unlikely to be able exploit shale reserves in the way the US had.
It also said even if there were successful shale gas exploitation it would not lead to significantly lower gas prices.
“Consuming UK gas at the cost of production would require significant subsidies”, it added.
The manifesto added that fracked would help to reduce emissions only if it replaced coal, which was almost eliminated from power generation.
“[Fracked gas] could lead to unpredictable ‘fugitive emissions’ that leak out of pressurised equipment.”
For energy transition, the group said, we should be turning away from gas in about 10 years’ time.
Last month, the local government secretary, James Brokenshire, restated the government’s commitment to “safe and sustainable exploration and development of our onshore shale gas resources”.
Steve Mason of Frack Free United said:
“This is fantastic news and echoes the growing movement against fracking within the conservative party.
“Fracking is not compatible with the UK’s ambition to go carbon free. Opening a new fossil fuel frontier with no social licence will be uneconomic, damaging to the environment and will leave the conservatives fighting for electoral survival.
“Look at the polling that came out on Sunday, there are seats that are just too close to call. The fracking vote will affect marginal constituencies across the country.
“It’s time to choose between a dirty fossil fuel future or a clean vision for Britain, Votefrackfree in the next election.”
The industry organisation, UKOOG, said this evening:
“It should be noted this manifesto is heavily caveated, stressing that the beliefs expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of each MP, who have merely signed a declaration. Whoever wrote the chapter on hydraulic fracturing, arguing that hydrogen would be a useful alternative to natural gas, quite simply needs to explain how this hydrogen can be created, as natural gas is used as the feedstock in steam methane reformation – the cheapest and most efficient method of producing hydrogen. Indeed, as recommended only recently by the independent Committee on Climate Change. Quite simply, our question to the Conservative Environment Network is such: where do we get the gas from?”
“Shale at heart of hydrogen economy”
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, described gas as an important part of the solution to net zero emissions by 2050.
In an article today for the company’s website, he said:
“if we are to maximise our chances of meeting the net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, we will, in 2050, still be using approximately 70 per cent of the natural gas that we are using in the UK today.”
Mr Egan said gas would be used in conjunction with carbon capture and storage for electricity and as a feedstock for the manufacture of hydrogen, which would replace gas in heating.
“We recognise that carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production are critical if the UK is to meet its net-zero emissions target. To that end we are engaging with a number of existing initiatives so that that UK shale gas rather than imported gas can and will be a vital source of emission free UK energy by 2050.”
Mr Egan said:
“We’re in touch with key groups to develop the hydrogen economy including the North West Hydrogen Alliance, infrastructure engineering specialists and academic institutions.
“We’re engaging with energy policy groups, Local Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships to support development of policy and industrial and energy strategy that is consistent with net-zero whilst maximising economic benefit, particularly for Lancashire.”