Before the general election nearly all major parties supported, to some extent, shale exploration in the UK, with the exception of the Green party and national parties like SNP and Plaid Cymru. Now politicians from both the Labour Party and the Liberals seem to have changed their minds and spoke out against shale, calling for a moratorium on fracking.
Tim Farron, favoured to win the Liberal leadership, wrote in a column for the Huffington Post that although their election campaign was fought “on a platform of cautious support for fracking” he now believes it should be banned. Mr Farron was one of the 52 MPs who called for a moratorium on shale gas exploration earlier this year.
The proposal was defeated after Labour abstained from voting on the matter after securing an agreement to implement their 13-point programme to close environmental loopholes in the shale gas regulations. The Shadow Energy minister at the time, Labour’s Tom Greatrex, said “While eight out of 10 homes still rely on gas for heating, shale gas may have a role to play in displacing some of the gas we currently import and improving our energy security”.
Now however the party takes a different stance with Andy Burnham, who is widely tipped to win the contest to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader, calling for a moratorium on fracking earlier this month. Further labour resistance came out during recent Prime Minister’s Questions, in which Chancellor George Osborne stood in for David Cameron. Labour MP Geraint Davies pressed the Chancellor on environmental concerns, asking “Will he confirm that the waste-water from fracking will be properly treated so it’s safe to drink again”.
Mr Osborne responded “We will have the proper environmental standards around the exploration of shale gas. But I think for this country to turn its back on one of these great natural resources which other countries are using would be to basically condemn our country to higher energy bills and not as many jobs.”
He then went on to say “And, frankly, I don’t want to be part of a generation that says all the economic activity was happening somewhere else in the world; it wasn’t happening in our country; it wasn’t happening on our country. So we should get on with the safe, environmentally protected exploration of our shale gas resources.”
The Conservative government however is not alone in it’s support of shale, earlier this month the GMB broke rank with the rest of the UK’s trade unions by signing an agreement with UKOOG to support the exploration and development of shale gas in the UK.
During its 98th Congress in Dublin, National officer Gary Smith said “Jumping on bandwagons is easy, but doing the easy thing does not mean you are doing the right thing. It would be easy to come out against fracking, but it would be wrong for the union, and for the country.” Going on to say “The debate about fracking must be based upon complete honesty about the economic realities of gas”.
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