Labour to ban fracking if it wins the next general election

Controversy over fracking has been reignited after a surprise announcement that a future Labour government would ban it.

Shadow minister Barry Gardiner won loud applause at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool when he attacked the Government's policy on promoting shale gas.

His pledge to ban fracking was welcomed by environmental campaigners but was described as "madness" by the GMB union.

Last December the government issued new licences for the controversial onshore gas and oil exploration and in May the first fracking operation for five years was approved by councillors in North Yorkshire.

Mr Gardiner, shadow international trade secretary, said former chancellor George Osborne passed "the most generous tax regime for shale gas anywhere in the world".

Barry Gardiner speaking at the Labour party conference in Liverpool. Credit: PA

He continued: "Well that will change under Labour.

"There are technical problems with fracking, and they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they're not a good enough reason to ban fracking.

"The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

"So today I am announcing that a future Labour government will ban fracking.

"We will consult with our colleagues in industry and the trade unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK's low-carbon future."

Protestors demonstrating against fracking outside County Hall in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Credit: PA

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "It's encouraging to see some politicians have noticed that the energy industry is undergoing some changes.

"With opposition to fracking an all-time high across the country, this ban on an unproven and inexperienced industry will be widely welcomed. But the really forward-looking part of this announcement is the democratisation of energy.

"Support for community energy schemes can empower the people of Britain to take back control from the stranglehold of the Big Six, and choose cleaner and increasingly cheaper energy than the fracked gas and nuclear reactors being pushed by the Government."

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, the onshore oil and gas trade body, said: "We import over 50% of our gas usage today and that is set to rise to 80% while at the same time 84% of our homes use gas for heating, 61% for cooking, up to 50% of our electricity comes from gas and a large number of everyday products use gas as an integral feedstock.

"Imports of gas as LNG (liquefied natural gas) are 15% more carbon intensive than locally produced shale gas.

"If we want to maintain the right of the general public to access heat and power securely, manage climate change, create UK based jobs then we need to develop renewables, nuclear and natural gas from shale.

"To go for a narrow one size fits all approach will lead to more imports and a detrimental impact on the environment and economy."

  • What is fracking?

Fracking is the process that involves drilling into the ground, then pumping in water and chemicals to release gas.

The video below is courtesy of the Department of Energy & Climate Change:

  • Why frack?

The government believes that shale gas - or fracking - has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs.

  • How much shale gas is there in the UK?

It is not possible to estimate exactly how much there is in the UK until there has been greater exploration and testing.

However, scientists from the British Geological Survey have estimated there is 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bowland-Hodder shale in northern England alone.

  • What are the concerns?

There are concerns the process may cause earthquakes, and the chemicals could contaminate local ground water – affecting what comes out of people’s taps.

Opponents also fear an increase in noise and traffic pollution, and the pursuit for a new source of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change.

For more information, The Department of Energy and Climate Change have produced several guides on fracking.