U-turn as ministers order new survey on fracking

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the study will examine the latest scientific evidence on the drilling for onshore shale gas. It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the Government’s energy security strategy tomorrow in response to soaring gas and oil prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The British Geological Survey probe, due to report back in June, could lead to a ban on fracking being scrapped if it is shown to be safe.

Mr Kwarteng said: “We have always been, and always will be, guided by the science on shale gas.

Banned “In light of Putin’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, it is absolutely right that we explore all possible domestic energy sources.”

Ministers effectively banned fracking in England in 2019 over fears of earthquakes linked to operations.

Francis Egan, CEO of fracking firm Cuadrilla, welcomed the potential U-turn.

He said: “The Government clearly recognises the huge potential shale gas offers. This review may be a tentative first step towards exploiting the potential.”

Mr Egan claimed fracking could create tens of thousands of jobs and bolster energy security.

But Tom Fyans, of countryside charity CPRE, called the decision “absurd”.

He added: “Fracking would make no difference whatsoever to the energy crisis. It would take years for any gas to be pumped from the ground –

and, far from lowering bills, that gas would simply be sold for sky high rates on the global market.”

Meanwhile, an opinion poll suggests 44 per cent of voters back lifting the ban. Just 36 per cent opposed it.

Benny Peiser, director of Net Zero Watch, which commissioned the Savanta ComRes survey, said: “The public can see Net Zero is harming our energy security and support an end to the pointless ban on shale gas”.

And Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Tory MPs, said: “I hope this decision means the Government are moving closer to realising it makes no sense to place a ban on an industry that has so much potential, in terms of jobs, investment, rebalancing the economy and improving our energy security.

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