Little public support for policy change on fracking – study

As the government considers the future of fracking in England, a new study has revealed little support for a change of policy.

Campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 26 August 2019. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

The shale gas industry and its supporters have called for a lifting of the two-and-a-half year old moratorium on fracking in England imposed because of concerns about earthquakes. They also want a relaxation of the regulations on fracking-induced seismicity.

The study, published this week in Scientific Reports, tested for the first time whether giving people information about seismic events would influence their support for policy changes. It also investigated whether the cause or description of a seismic event affected public attitudes.

Its publication comes as the UK government is considering a review of the science on fracking by the British Geological Survey (BGS). This was submitted to the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, yesterday.


The industry has long argued that if people knew more about fracking they would be more positive. It has also claimed that the rules on seismicity for fracking were unfair and should be brought into line with construction, geothermal energy or quarrying.

But the study, by researchers at five UK universities and the BGS, challenged these arguments. It found that people opposed:

  • lifting the moratorium on fracking in England
  • relaxing the regulations, known as the traffic light system, which requires fracking to stop if it led to seismic events of 0.5 or more on the local magnitude scale

The study found that giving people information or changing the way information was framed had little or no effect on their support for policy change or attitude to induced seismicity.

People who were told that the seismicity limits were higher in other countries remained opposed to relaxing the traffic light system.

The study concluded that people were significantly more opposed to seismic events induced by shale gas extraction than those caused by geothermal energy, quarrying or natural tectonic movements.

It also found that people were opposed to the existence of seismic events, rather than their effects. People responded negatively to seismic events from shale gas operations that could be felt but did not cause damage.

People were also no more likely to oppose shale gas operations if induced seismic events were described as micro-seismicity than earthquakes, the study found.

People in the north of England, where there is more potential for shale gas, were more likely to support policy change than people living in the south. But opinion was more divided in areas that were generally more supportive of policy change, the study found.

It also found that just 12% of people reported trusting the shale gas industry a fair amount or a great deal.

“No role for shale gas”

The researchers said:

“we do not foresee a role for shale gas in the UK’s energy future”.

They said the length of time needed for commercial production was too long to help with short-term supply issues. In the long term, they said, shale gas would conflict with the UK’s net zero targets.

MPs in shale gas areas were not in favour of renewed exploration, the researchers said, despite concerns about supply problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They added:

“Any attempts to change the policy landscape to make hydraulic fracturing hydraulic fracturing viable by increasing the seismicity limit would likely be met with stark resistance.”

  • The study carried out three rounds of public attitude surveys with YouGov online panels from 2019-2021, before and after the 2.9ML earthquake at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road. The authors were from universities of Stirling, Bath, Exeter, Heriot-Watt, and Edinburgh and the British Geological Survey.

16 replies »

  1. Except, the study was carried out before the recent dramatic increase in energy costs, and predicted to get a lot worse within a few short months

    A little point that was left to the reader to discern within the footnote.

    • Why do you continue to suggest that fracking would have any effect on energy prices? This despite the fact that successive government ministers and the fracking companies themselves have always admitted that UK fracking would have no effect on energy bills. Is this too difficult a preposition for you to comprehend or do you find the truth to be an inconvenience to be ignored?

    • The footnote you refer to may indicate that surveys may have been carried out before the recent increase in energy costs and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, the researchers’ comments do appear to have taken this and the situation in Ukraine into account in their final conclusions on this research.
      The researchers said ‘We do not foresee a role for shale gas in the UK’s energy future.’
      ‘They said, ‘The length of time needed for commercial production was too long to help with short term supply issues. In the long term they said shale gas would conflict with the UK Net Zero targets.’
      ‘MPs in shale gas areas were not in favour of renewed exploration,’ the researchers said, despite concerns about supply problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.’
      ‘Any attempt to change the policy landscape to make hydraulic fracturing viable would likely be met with stark resistance.’
      All clear up to date evidence that the researchers don’t believe hydraulic fracturing is supported by the public and it has no future in the U.K despite current concerns.

      • Well, Pauline, the researchers were supposed to be commenting about public opinion PRIOR to the hike in energy prices. That they did.

        To then start playing Mystic Meg about what may then happen, takes away from their “research” rather than reinforces it, IMHO. I thought it was supposed to be research, not opinion or speculation. I am sorry, but whenever I commissioned research into opinions the key factor was to determine what the findings actually were and not to then speculate going forward. If that was ignored, why spend the money on the research in the first place?

        Hunt was not in favour of exploration in his constituency. Did that change anything? Are the Net Zero targets going to be moved? Who knows whether supply issues are short term? (The supply issues have not yet been tested by economies moving back to previous activity, with current problems at UK airports showing that pretty clearly, and world oil prices bouncing up and down as soon as a country reports an upsurge in Covid cases!) Why would shale gas produced in UK conflict with Net Zero? That depends on what happens to it. Convert it into hydrogen and it would support Net Zero. In Australia a coal fired power station is testing CCS. If that is successful, then coal suddenly becomes a nice, green option. Not as green as some would like, who may have a nest box in their garden, but much greener than current

        And, that is transition.

  2. Well, Jules, you seem to have missed the “news” that it has been suggested that fracking companies would DISCOUNT the price of energy AND might offer 6% of revenues to the community.

    So, comprehension and truth are assisted if one keeps up to date. Otherwise, one looks a little silly claiming a “truth” which is not a truth.

    Successive government ministers and financial institutions also “admitted” there would be no significant inflation! How is that going? Then, I noted a PM who could not answer how fuel duty would be replaced, yet there is government policy to get rid of over £20B tax revenue from that source. It will be replaced, just that they haven’t a clue how. The suggestion was cost was not currently being applied to EVs to encourage uptake! Now, that sounds like a con to me, but also a truth. Along the same lines of getting a supplementary bill of £160B, for new nuclear, to try and make unreliable renewables a bit more reliable, but blowing the “cheap” story out of the water.

    So, you ignore such truths if you like, but they can not be ignored by everyone.

  3. MARTINS right ,

    You DO receive a discount , 25% off your Gas bill if you live within , 5km-10lm of the toxic Fracking fall out zone .

    On the other hand , to receive that paultry payment , you will have to accept a drop in the value of your home , an increased risk of Cancer , asthma and other deadly diseases , noise , pollution and in increase in truck/heavy vehicle movement.


  4. Nope, Jack you have misquoted me-which is typical activist activity.

    Nothing is received as there is a moratorium here in the UK currently, which precludes fracking for gas.

    Suggestions of discounts and funding have though been made for if that was lifted.

    And, no you then state as fact what is speculation. I would suggest in the current climate of whopping great energy bills there might be a rush to estate agents selling properties with a built in energy cost rebate! Especially from first time buyers who come across the “scientific”(?) paper that mentioned sexual activity is increased around fracking sites! DYOR, but I suspect that relates to increased disposable income being spent on alcohol, but increased disposable income for house buyers may be also required for other things.

    Oh, by the way, just announced in UK that £54 B will be spent on upgrading the National Grid to accommodate more electricity from off shore wind, that will significantly increase the pylons and cables across the UK landscape. I think it is called industrialization. Guess what living close to a line of pylons is SCIENTIFICALLY known for-apart from killing birds, especially swans? The UK estate agents should have fun with that. So that is £160B now plus £54B and still counting to be funded by the tax payer. So, there you have it. Live near a nuclear power station and/or an extended series of pylons and cables, and also plonk out £214B for that, or have a fracking company producing energy at their cost and offering to supply said energy at a significant discount.

    That is the problem with being away from the coalface Jack. So often comments then made which are just inappropriate to what is actually happening here in UK.

    • NO MARTIN ,

      My comments were on target an correct.

      Jules Burton had made a CORRECT comment, that energy bills would not be reduced……. For people living outside the toxic 10km epicenter Fracking zone , their Gas bills will not be reduced by a single penny .

      For the UNLUCKY residents who live within the 5km-10km Fracking zone , they will receive a paultry 25% off their Gas bills , as long as they accept a drop in the value of their homes , increased home insurance premiums , that’s if they’re lucky enough to find a company willing to take them on without restrictions . An increased risk of Cancer , Asthma and other deadly diseases , noise , pollution and in increase in truck/heavy vehicle movement within their communities.

      MARTIN , You said , QUOTE , ” Well, Jules, you seem to have missed the “news” that it has been suggested that fracking companies would DISCOUNT the price of energy AND might offer 6% of revenues to the community.”

      My above comment , CORRECTLY responded to what you said ……….. That’s the problem with some of YOU pro-frackers , you turn a blind eye to uncomfortable, honest facts on this forum and instead resort to making lwild “off-the-cuff ” Mary Poppins style comments in a quest to try and bolster support for this toxic industry.

  5. Totally wrong, Jack.

    YOU actually started off shouting “MARTIN’s right”. I noted it as a signal you are converting from the dark-side where high energy prices are dictating that situation.

    Now you state Jules made a correct comment!

    Come on Jack, that is really even below your standards.

    But, here’s a suggestion. Why not lift the moratorium and then it will be clarified exactly what is on offer to REDUCE the cost of energy locally and nationally? You have admitted that the cost of energy will be reduced at least for some, Jules stated it would “have no effect on energy bills”.

    At current gas prices, frackers would also face a windfall tax pretty quickly, which would ALSO reduce energy prices. No windfall tax to be imposed on imported oil and gas and then divided up amongst the UK population to reduce their energy bills.

    That’s the problem with you anti frackers, you are forever contradicting yourselves and each other. Argue amongst yourselves by all means. I will simply point out the reality. Like, how the recent investors in Chesapeake Energy have made a lot of money! (Beware of your standard retort Jack, that would just support that profits would be made in UK and then there is Corporation Tax! More Corporation Tax allows less personal taxation, so energy bills can be more easily afforded.)

    • MARTIN ,

      DO you really need Jack to join up the dots for you ?????

      You are right , there will be a paultry 25% Gas Bill discount for residents living within the 5km-10km Fracking epicenter zone , as long as they are willing to sacrifice their health , quality of life and the value of their homes .

      If a 25% Gas discount is the angle Fracking companies are going to use to try and SELL this toxic industry to local residents ……….I’d say you’d have a better chance of SELLING Snow to Eskimos.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

      • Really, Jack?

        Well, the on shore wind turbine lot suggested 6% of revenues and that did the trick!

        Cuadrilla I believe have offered to match that.

        Then, any windfall tax WOULD bring down the price nationally, any Corporation Tax would provide an opportunity to increase personal kept pay, so energy bills could be more easily afforded. So, Jack, as per usual you try and argue something which is just incorrect. But, please keep doing it, it just goes to prove that there is a scarcity of real arguments to be made.

        Jack-just to help you out, here in the UK the windfall tax levied on N.Sea oil and gas is being divvied up and given to the consumer to help discount energy bills. Like Jules, you only seem to be aware of part of the information, and not for the first time either. Lots of dots missing!

        • MARTIN ,

          This so called windfall tax is a ONE OFF …..

          Even the most simplest lifeforms on the planet Earth , understand that these plump cash giveaways to the British public , will NOT continue.

          A two year old child can work out the mathematics on this one.

          OR are you MARTIN , suggesting that UK Oil and Gas companies , continually have eye watering tax burdens levied against them , to financially support the British public ???????

          • Nope, again Jack. There have been windfall taxes previously so you are factually incorrect. You are posting fake news. It is not a one off if there have been several.

            So, YOU get your arithmetic correct, and maybe also note that in UK it has recently been suggested that the debt burden is so high, further tax rises will be required. Although the PM applicants will all offer tax cuts I suspect, if they happen, they will be for the individual and corporations will pay the bills. Which ones? Oh, those making unexpected levels of profit! Redistribution of wealth, it is termed.

            Once more your distance from the coal face is an issue. If you can’t be bothered to DYOR and/or have limited access to the wider UK picture, at least do not burden the readers with the outcome. It is a continuing trend and one you could adjust with a little bit of effort.

            And, in your post of 1.39am (!!!) you now admit that fortunes are being made in the oil and gas industry! Oh dear. So when money is made (fortunes of it) taxation is levied in the country it is made, Jack. How is it that discounts can be supplied to UK energy customers, like the recent £150? Oh yes, taxation is taken from one area and plonked into the pockets of the individual tax payer. Recently, from the N.Sea windfall TAX. Much better then to make those “fortunes” in UK and gain taxation here than support those over the horizon who lobby poorly for that alternative situation. Then £150’s can be done out of taxation levied here. Don’t believe Mr. Putin is going to be handing out £150s to the UK energy consumer, Jack.

            So, apart from arguing with Jules you are now arguing with yourself. Certainly making a point, but I fear a different one to what you may expect, Jack. So, Chesapeake Energy that was put forward as a fake example of failure (2020!) was actually making a “fortune” when you posted the link (2022!)? Hmm. I would politely suggest that was just misrepresentation, Jack, and it is YOUR subsequent posts that have shown that. Not interpretation, just misrepresentation. Arguing against yourself is perhaps not such a good idea.

    • Come on MARTIN , ,

      You know the truth on this one .

      Apart from the 25% Gas discount for residents living within 10km of the highly toxic Fracking zone .

      NATIONALLY , Fracking won’t bring down Gas prices by a single penny ………… This is simply because , ANY Gas produced will be sold on the open market to the highest bidder .

    • MARTIN , like I’ve said on many occasions.

      I could squeeze Oil from discarded toe nail clippings and make my fortune in the Oil business.

      The fact that the huge white elephant , debt ridden Fracking company , Chesapeake Energy can hold its head above the waterline during the current spike in Energy costs , as a result of volatile and uncertain times in the world , is nothing to write home about old chap.

      If you can’t make money in the Oil and Gas industry today , your beyond stupid .

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