48% oppose change to fracking earth tremor rules – new poll

190728 Ros Wills

The ‘goose neck’ being reinstalled for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire, 28 July 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

Calls by the shale gas industry to relax the rules on earth tremors induced by fracking are not widely supported by the public, according to a new poll.

A survey of public attitudes to shale gas, conducted by academics at five universities, found that just 8% of people think the regulations are too stringent and more than a third thought they were too loose.

The regulations, known as the traffic light system, currently require companies to pause fracking if their operations cause tremors measuring 0.5 magnitude (ML) or above.

Shale gas companies, including Cuadrilla and Ineos, have said the UK industry could be commercially-viable only if the threshold was raised.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, pointed to limits of 2.5-4ML used in other fracking regions.  His company had to pause pumping operations five times at its site in Lancashire last year.

But according to the new survey, jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and Economic & Social Research Council, almost half participants (48%) opposed changing the threshold from 0.5 to 1.5ML. 22% supported the change and 31% did not know.

The survey found that 37% thought the traffic light system was “far too loosely” or “somewhat loosely” regulated. 24% thought it was “about right” and 31% did not know.

56% oppose fracking

The survey found that overall opposition to shale gas extraction currently stood at 56%, with 32% in support and 12% who said they didn’t know.

These figures are very different from the government’s quarterly Wave tracker survey. Its latest results showed 35% opposed fracking, 15% supported and 47% neither supported nor opposed.

The universities’ survey found that Conservative voters were more likely to support fracking than Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Green voters.

As with the government survey, today’s results show that men were more likely to support fracking than women. They also showed that Brexit leave supporters were more likely to support shale gas extraction than remain supporters.

As a UK energy option, shale gas was supported only slightly more than Russian pipeline imports (24%), the survey found. This compared with 70% support for UK offshore gas fields, 59% for UK onshore drilling without hydraulic fracturing and 50% for European imports.

The researchers found no difference in public support across different regions or across the four UK countries. This contrasted with results in the government Wave Tracker survey which found opposition was highest in shale gas regions.

The academics found that people were no more likely to oppose shale gas if the term fracking was used.

65% of respondents did not change their opinion of shale gas extraction following presentation of information about the Treasury’s sovereign wealth fund, whilst 15% became more supportive. 20% of participants became less supportive of shale gas extraction following the presentation of information, suggesting that the sovereign wealth fund may be perceived to be a bribe by these people, the survey concluded.

Other findings

According to the results, people:

  • Have low trust in shale gas companies – 12% said they trusted shale gas industry groups or firms to provide information about fracking
  • Want decisions taken locally – 41% said they want decisions on fracking to be taken at a local level by councils, compared with 11% who want the UK government to make decisions
  • Got information from environmental organisations – 48% said they used this source sometimes or often
  • Most trusted the British Geological Survey (61%) and university scientists (59%) for information about fracking

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright from the University of Exeter and the principal investigator on the dynamics of public attitudes to shale gas project says:

“It is clear from the public attitudes survey that people lack trust in the shale gas industry. While some people have already made up their minds, many others are unsure about specific details or policies. This indicates a need to provide better quality information and scientific evidence that people can trust.”

“The UK energy industry and government must address these public concerns and lack of trust about shale gas extraction. Community engagement and support is vital to tackle the environment and climate emergency and we will not make progress unless people feel they can trust the information provided or have a voice in decision-making.”

Dr Darrick Evensen, of the University of Edinburgh, the lead researcher on the survey, said:

“This is the most comprehensive and rigorous study of public attitudes on shale gas extraction in the UK to date. Due to this being a longitudinal survey, we will be able to track how public support changes over time at national, regional and local levels, and the relationship between support and key issues, such as trust and perceptions of regulations that govern the fracking industry.

“We will conduct a further survey in 2020 to investigate opinion change over time amongst the same participants. We also intend to investigate how social media affects public attitudes to shale gas and conduct local case study research in communities directly impacted by proposals for exploratory drilling.”


The survey was conducted in April 2019 by YouGov using an online panel with 2,777 people broadly representing the population of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

95 replies »

      • Jeremy Corbyn the man who could only gt two E’s at A-level and then drop out of a degree is now capable of predicting CO2 emissions in 30 years time – his intellectual abilities must have come on leaps and bounds. It’s odd also that he seems to be contradicting the CCC report that was actually written by experts in the field who agree that gas will be a significant part of our energy mix in 2050.

          • John – it’s amazing that Desmog think they know better than the economists of Chevron, ConocoPhilips and BP who are all moving more towards unconventionals. I agree that the smaller producers in the USA are in a bit of trouble after paying far too much for acreage but overall the industry seems profitable at $45/barrel prices.

        • Judith, I’m sure you know that Jeremy Corbyn will not be carrying out the scientific research or calculations himself, just as other politicians don’t, he will have appropriately qualified people to advise him. Indeed, the Conservatives have chosen, when it does not support their agenda, to ignore, withhold from the public or significantly delay the release of evidence such as the report on air quality impacts and the report that stated the benefits of fracking had been over exaggerated.

          • Kat – indeed it would be interesting to know where he gets his advice from. I know most of the key players in the business and don’t know anyone who would touch him with a barge pole. I did come across a couple of people from a sustainability research centre who claim to be advising the labour party but they seemed pretty clueless about the environmental or economic impacts of shale gas production.

        • A person’s abilities should not just be judged by snipets from their distant past. There are numerious people who are late developers and Jeremy has since had a long and active period as an MP (both inside and outside of parliament). My own period as an MP was modest in comparison to his, but over a time I had moved from failing the two main O levels which really mattered (English Language and Maths) to eventually becoming a University Lecturer for a 21 year spell then 18 years as hopefully an active although not a front bench MP. We need a lifelong learning system which provides openings and encouragements for late developers. Given his own development Jeremy is fully aware of these requirements.

          • Which is why Harry, that he needs feeding info. from a neighbour to “show” he is aware of the subject within the Commons and refuses to be involved with any competent questioning but just continues a rehearsed rant which has hardly changed over 30 years!

            Not sure he is a good example of a late developer. He has been doing the same for many decades, but is now getting a bit more public attention, which should see him into retirement in the not too distant future.

              • Ahh, he has no problem with that, Fifi. It is then considering what he has heard and taking appropriate action around it that he fails upon-hence his exam. results, and issues with certain religious groupings.

                I am sure he listened to explanations around triggering Article 50, but still seems to have difficulty with putting that into context. Good job the electorate can listen, calculate and act.

            • But Jeremy has adjusted or reinterpreted numbers of his stances since he became leader. If only the same had happened with Blair. Although Tony did have issues such as the minimum wage and the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement to his credit.

          • Harry – I’ve actually found the opposite. I have many CVs cross my desk mainly from people with PhD’s. I still find their A’ Level performance, particularly the subjects taken, provides a very good guide to their abilities – often more so than the fact that they obtained a degree or PhD (very few people fail the latter). I agree that life long learning is very good but it’s also the case that has one gets older it’s more difficult to produce high quality science – indeed Pascal is one of the few that I can think of who still did amazing work in his 30’s. However, this is bye the bye, there isn’t a single thing that Corbyn has uttered that gives me that impression that he smart and worst of all it’s pretty clear that he’s not well-read.

          • Well Harry – if you listen to what Corbyn said about fracking during his speech at PNR one can easily come to the conclusion that he needs adult education classes – a totally uniformed and embarrassing. [Edited by moderator].

            • Well I spent over two decades teaching adult education classes and nearly as long as an MP alongside Jeremy – critically on some issues and supportive on others. I agree with John Stuart Mill that the person who only knows their own side of the case understands little of that. But al least from my own analysis, I feel that when it comes to fracking Jeremy’s gut reactions are more justifiable than your own claimed expertise.

              • Which is why he had no meeting with Cuadrilla, Harry!?

                Sorry, this was worse than Student Union politics. An adult not interested in any more than virtue signalling. He has been found out in that regard, but it seems someone is still pulling his strings to continue with the same approach. Yes, an easy option until people twig, but ludicrous thereafter.

                What a nonsense to suggest that a person who wants to be PM of UK should be making judgements on gut reaction! It fits with the antis desire to speculate, but not a good look for a politician who wants to be taken seriously.

                • I would not vote for a person who refuses to hear, read, comprehend and understand the other side. Sorry Jeremy.

                • Surely you don’t think UKOOG and industry lobbyists are not speaking to politicians and civil servants all the time in Westminster? I think you must not appreciate how the system works. Most committees are cross party and presentations, evidence and reports are presented, analysed and discussed in great detail. It is utter nonsense to claim that Corbyn, his MPs with energy responsibilities and advisors will not have been fully briefed. All opposition parties support a ban on fracking please don’t claim they are all ignorant and stupid or have not listened to industry or the case for fracking. Remember most parties supported fracking until a few years ago, they have changed their opinion.

                • Since when has Corbyn shown any sign of either being fully briefed or understanding the brief?

                  Remember Salisbury?

      • Misleading David is that who, and what was asked to oppose traffic light rules!
        Someone walking round with a clipboard asking the general population about an industry most haven’t the first clue about, and regards of the energy mix do you know what the UK consumes from an energy mix and are you concerned? Have you changed your ways to accommodate a change to the climate and how we are going to achieve net zero 2050? Well its not from importing huge amounts of GHG tankers bringing fracked gas to the UK from the good old USA. The GHG emission should still be classed as a UK footprint as it destined for our use.

        • Eli-Froth – Given that this is a public attitude survey you really would have to thick as mince to complain about the fact that they asked the general public.

          And if you know anything about market research you’d know that a representative sample of 2,777 from a population of about 52 million adults would give a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval of less than 2 so the methodology looks pretty sound.

    • Eli-Froth – how is the title

      “48% oppose change to fracking earth tremor rules – new poll”

      misleading when the report summary actually says

      “Do people support the UK government regulator changing the threshold of seismic activity at which hydraulic fracturing must cease from 0.5 to 1.5 magnitude? Whilst 22 % were supportive of change, 48 % of participants were opposed to changing the limit and 31% participants responded ‘don’t know’ to this question.”?

      And YOU think other people are thick as mince????? 😂

  1. Nothing misleading about this, just because it doesn’t show what you want Eli , it’s a survey and explained rather well.

    • journo: if you going to hurl replies, a survey needs to explain the percentage, and people involved in the survey understand the full extent of what is being ask and the implications of such!
      Brexit remain and leave it a typical example of this!

    • Sorry but I cannot comprehend your first sentence. My apologies.
      Anyway, yes I do know what the UK consumes from an energy mix – I study DUKES every year (as you will know the most recent – DUKES 2019 was published last week). Yes I am concerned that we use too much fossil fuel and we need to reduce it, in line with the CCC report, the IPCC and almost every report I’ve seen recently.
      As for the GHG tankers bringing fracked gas from the USA, this is ethane for plastic production, not the methane we are discussing here. But if we get ourselves off single-use plastic and recycle more of the plastic we do use then we will need significantly less of it.
      Have I changed my ways to accommodate a change to the climate? No. But have I changed my ways to help PREVENT a change to the climate? Yes I have,thanks.

  2. The general public haven’t a clue about seismicity – their opinion isn’t work listening to.

    • For an industry that said it wanted a social licence, public opinion is everything. For a public that has woken up to the climate emergency, its opinion is everything.
      Quite simply, the public doesn’t want fracking – it wants more house insulation to bring down emissions and energy bills, renewable energy and storage to bring down emissions.

      • David: are you involved in house building? Let me ask you, i know of over 5,000 house which our being built a stones throw from my house. They gave been built to the exact minimum standards of materials, by 5 of some of the UK’s biggest house builders, non of these planned house builds have alternatives to cooking, heating water and heat warmth. Other than the primary source of GAS, solar voltaic panels and um GAS!! No chimneys have been built in to the design, but i suppose the regulations on log burners will stiffle that too… the local councils and the government is destined for gas to be a feed source for decades to come!
        Funny that Cuadrilla all the way!

        • No I am not involved in house building. I disagree that houses do not have alternatives to cooking, heating water and heat warmth other than gas and solar. My house also has electricity from the mains supply which I buy it from a green supplier.
          I think it was the last Labour government that brought in rules that all new houses from 2016 would be low carbon. Despite the housing industry gearing up for it the coalition government threw the rules out. Sadly the 5,000 houses that are being built near to you would have been low carbon.
          But at least the current government has committed to new houses from 2025 not having gas boilers.
          The energy company SSE has just officially opened its Beatrice wind farm off the vista of SCotland. It will feed electricity to 450,000 houses. All good.
          I am encouraged that ONshore wind is now recognised to be the cheapest source of energy. It’s a shame that there is an effective ban on them.

          • Yes, David, stopping payments of £150k per turbine per year to landowners, whether the electricity is needed, or not, is a pretty effective ban. Shame for the landowners.

            Interesting though how you show the typical blinkers on certain subjects. I think you will find that particular site off Scotland has the CAPACITY to feed electricity to 450k houses. However, when it is operating well below that capacity, something else has to feed electricity to the 450k houses. I wonder what will be doing that when high pressure establishes itself in that region in mid winter?

            In terms of houses not having gas boilers, then they had better march on with hydrogen, as the report recommended. Wonder where that will be coming from? Equally, you can not just have new houses on hydrogen, you need the local supply system to be hydrogen and existing houses converted so there will be slippage on that one. Logically, the first step should be to get a test area up and running as quickly as possible, but I can not recall any Government who has ever used logic and common sense within an energy policy.

          • My house is entirely electric, I have an air source heat pump, solar panels and an induction hob. My home is well insulated and my energy bills are comparable with gas. The air source, contrary to what some have written on this forum, has kept me toasty during winters, including the Beast From the East. I also buy my electricity from a green supplier. There are alternatives to heating homes with gas. And given gas appliances will no longer be permitted in new build within a few years that is obvious. And as soon as the government catches up with the fact that green hydrogen will be produced at scale and competitively within a decade, that is another excuse to frack that will melt away, just like the bridging fuel argument did.

            • Kat – producing hydrogen economically using a process that doesn’t involve steam reforming methane seems a long way off. Even the CCC report doesn’t highlight that as being realistic in the short to medium term.

            • I have an air sourced heat pump also, KatT, which is great.

              However, ever thought about how they would work within a modern housing estate with close proximity to neighbours? I have my doubts on that one, as heat being extracted by me would leave less for my neighbour. Not a problem for me as I have no neighbours with such systems, and they are some distance away, but I suspect the reality of new builds may make this a bit of a problem.

              I would not get your cart before the horse. Until there are tried, tested and accepted systems to replace gas appliances no Government will be able to impose them, as builders would stop building as buyers would refuse to buy.

              I just hope your “green supplier” is not one of those who have been found to be like our friend Jack, who is green when he wants to be, and different colours when it suits.

            • KatT: i commend you, but to be honest you are the minority at addressing your energy habits. Governments need to act now, and unfortunately ageing infrastructure and houses make it difficult for most to adapt to your home mode con arrangements, but well done you!

    • Public opinion is everything. The public are the king makers as they are the ones that elect politicians and government. And all opposition parties oppose fracking and to add to that there is growing concern within Conservative MPs about fracking, as witnessed in recent debates in Parliament. A change in government would end fracking and that is entirely down to the public.

      • Kat – thankfully while Corbyn is in charge of Labour then there doesnt seem much of a possibility of a change in government

        • Oh I’m fine Judith. Don’t tell me you are silly enough to believe a no deal Brexit is a good idea. I genuinely thought you were more intelligent than that!

          • Harry – the fool talked about fracking causing explosions – how on earth can anyone take him seriously when talking such rubbish. Gut feelings are fine if they are based on years of experience but when his instincts seem solely based on the political views of those supporting a particular cause then they don’t seem worth having.

          • Refracktion – I find it difficult to see how that will happen giving BoJo’s current majority unless, of course, he’s actually helped along by Corbyn, which wouldn’t surprise me.

          • Brexit has already been decided, delayed reaction, and then put into Law. Two options remain, leaving with a deal, or leaving without. The Brexit Party now guarantees that.

            Bit beyond ideas, good, bad or indifferent. If Parliament can’t find an acceptable deal, and I suspect not, then leaving without a comprehensive deal remains-although parts of a deal will come into force anyway.

            Strange, but I have yet to find anyone who voted for Brexit who did not realise no deal was an option. Parliament can waffle away as much as they like but unless they can change the Law before 31st October, that is the reality. Changing that Law seems to be increasingly remote. Vote of no confidence? Even if it succeeded then an election would likely take place after Brexit, and Boris would have another big bounce and gain a large majority, and then apply the agreed boundary changes. Not a risk that will be taken lightly.

            But, Boris has a lot in common with the German lady who will take over from Junker, so perhaps something will be cobbled together.

            If not,ever considered a Jeep?

  3. I think the general public are reading enough reports about damage to homes and pipelines from the US to sensibly make their minds up. Also climate change, it’s the people who work or invest in the fossil fuel industry that want to continue polluting, the rest of the world don’t want you.

    • Are they reading the reports from USA about the large numbers of people who are quite happy with fracking in their locality PaulaV?

      The general public are not reading either, some groups within the general public will read one or the other. One group will be happy and get on with their lives, the other group will be unhappy and excited and decide to try and make others feel the same.

      That’s life, PaulaV. Ever thus.

  4. So, the MAJORITY are not against changing the rules! Sounds familiar.

    However, thankfully, the rules will be changed-if they are-based upon scientific evidence and then scientific appraisal. It would be a little odd if data being gathered at great expense was ignored in favour of the most shrill voice from individuals who have no sight of that data or understanding of it.

    Quite simply David-you are incorrect. You focus upon the wrong thing. The public will not WANT anything until they see the benefits. (Electric vehicles are showing that in UK currently.) However, the public are presently showing they are quite happy to enable that to happen with respect to fracking.

    Always was the case with attitude surveys. The results are put out there, and those who have their own agendas mess about with them to paint their own picture. It is why survey companies do so well, as they usually manage to persuade the gullible that further surveys would clarify the picture, although they would not.

    Cheer up. 1:2 for INEOS. Seems they know how to win.

  5. 1. In the same way the MAJORITY of the electorate did not vote to leave the EU.
    2. I can see only one title at the beginning of this Drill Or Drop title. Forgive me for using the wrong one!
    3. The problem with electric vehicles is the price, the sparsity of charging points and the withdrawal of subsidies for hybrids (quite rightly – people were enjoying the discounts on buying hybrids and then only using petrol). The costs will come down as production increases, as government brings in more pertinent financial aids and as a second hand market establishes.
    4. Surveys. If it is so easy to “persuade the gullible” then how come neither the energy industry or government are able to carry out a survey that shows the public WANTS shale gas or fracking or raising of the TLS limits? Maybe they should put it on the sides of buses.
    5. Yes Ineos knows how to win. But that was for cycling not recycling. 🙂

  6. No, not in the same way, David. A survey takes in the views of all surveyed, a Referendum only looks as those who were interested enough to vote.

    The problem with electric vehicles is that people in the UK will only buy them if other people pay for them! Just ask delayed reaction.

    Perhaps you had better have a word with Mr. Musk as well, David. He seems to be having a problem with the economics of Wonderland.

    Just await the benefit side of the equation, if it comes, and you will quickly see what people want, David. I have stated that quite clearly, but you always decide to ignore it. I wonder why? Of course, you are entitled to do that, but do not expect many others to do so.

    By the way, David, the UK public are currently enjoying the benefits of shale gas, and shale oil. The MAJORITY have no idea they are, but could be easily persuaded that those same benefits could be enjoyed, environment improved, and the NHS get more than £350m plus extra per week, if it was produced in UK rather than USA. They may be quite pleased if an offshoot of that was even more wins, donations to recuperation of servicemen and encouragement for cycling.

    Now for the sub 2 hour marathon. And the Americas Cup (that should please Greta, who I am sure whilst crossing the Atlantic will have time to consider how materials are manufactured, even though it seemed a little difficult for her regarding trains.)

  7. Quite simply put, why would any regular citizen of the UK believe opening up another source of fossil fuel was a sensible step to take?
    Surely the present Climate Emergency, much decried by Trump, Johnson, Cameron and Co., is sufficient reason to keep fossil fuels in the ground?
    Never mind the local community and environmental damages events from North America and elsewhere have exposed in recent years.
    [Edited by moderator]

  8. What is a “regular” citizen?
    I am a bit larger than regular, but have provided my views and why it is sensible, Peter.
    It is your tribe who decide that means I am less intelligent, have investments at stake, that I am a climate change denier, or have an income from proposing my views-none of which are true.
    [Edited by moderator]But, if you want to cheer yourself up, take a look at Cuadrilla latest around Corbyns visit, and see if you can answer the basic question posed to JC-or, is that just a part of the zero target and the £1 trillion tax bill that is a bit inconvenient?

  9. Peter: Because the UK is addicted to energy, we require energy. We have pledged to reduce our GHG emissions and a net zero 2050 offering. We need an energy mix to be able to achieve this, the energy mix in the UK you cannot eliminate one with out affecting the other. Energy has to come from somewhere, and the anti’s believe that this energy can be easily obtained from new sources?, it is not a Trump, Johnson and Cameron and Co agenda, it is a human need and right to have access to clean, homegrown and produced energy for security and control. I would really like to know your experience in the energy mix and production as I am sure you could educate us Profrackers in your expertise in what ever proven subject. Mine just so happens to be over 30 years experince in environmental and oil and gas sciences along with credibility in a Phd also, so believe me I know my subject well. So exactly what are you true worries regarding UK fracking [edited by moderator]

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