The business secretary has rejected local referendums as a measure of public consent for fracking.
Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that shale gas companies could instead canvass door-to-door for support.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative conference, he said:
“I don’t think local referendums are necessarily the right idea. Turn out in local referendums can be very low so how much real validity would that give you as to the consent.”
He told the Chopper’s Politics Live podcast:
“What I think you need to get community consent is for the companies to go around door-to-door, as politicians do at elections, and ask people if they will consent in the community that would be affected.
“if they get 50% plus one in favour then they should be able to go ahead.”
People in shale areas who agreed to fracking should be paid compensation for disturbance and a royalty for any gas extracted, Mr Rees-Mogg said.
He asked the audience:
“So who doesn’t like it [fracking]? The socialists and Caroline Lucas. Well, that makes my heart bleed.”
Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner, Jamie Peters, said this evening:
“It’s astonishing just how out of touch Jacob Rees-Mogg is on fracking.
“Communities across the country overwhelmingly oppose fracking because it causes earthquakes, industrialises the countryside and contributes to the growing climate emergency, while doing almost nothing to reduce soaring energy bills.
“Any attempt to bypass local democracy and force fracking on local people will simply make it even more unpopular, including in Conservative constituencies.
“Fossil fuels are outdated, dirty and costly. Ministers should focus on real solutions to the energy challenges we face by prioritising insulation and home-grown renewables – which are also cheap, clean and supported by the public.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also said the earthquake rules on fracking should be relaxed. He described the 0.5ML limit when fracking must be paused as “ridiculously low”.
“.5 was set to stop fracking so we need to get to a more realistic figure but I can’t prejudge.
“I get expert advice, very clever people, boffins.”
Asked if he would agree to fracking in the back garden of his home in Somerset, he said:
“Of course I would, I’d be delighted, particularly if I get these royalties.”
“If we do what I am suggesting on shale gas, you will be doing a public service by having it in your back garden. But you also get paid for it. So, both the country wins and you win, Oh, even better, the environment wins because it’s lower carbon emissions than LNG. Bingo.”
[There are currently no exploration and production licences in Mr Rees-Mogg’s constituency, North East Somerset.]
In his speech to the conference, Mr Rees-Mogg referred to what he called “the challenge of intelligent net zero”. He said:
“It’s about making decisions that reduce carbon but also make us more prosperous.”
Quoting domestic shale gas as a good example, he said:
“It’s about a programme that makes sure we don’t harm our industry so that we go green in ways that create, rather than destroying prosperity.”
Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said:
“If the business secretary is so keen on intelligent net zero, why didn’t he mention insulation and energy efficiency?
“Jacob Rees-Mogg fell flat on one of the most basic lessons of energy policy – the cheapest energy of all is the energy we don’t use.
“A nationwide, street by street insulation programme would reduce energy bills now and in the future, boost the economy with green jobs and cut planet-warming emissions from our homes.”