The Tory media have been quick to jump on claims that fracking could return to Britain as Johnson blocks imports of Russian oil.
In a move to punish Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine, the UK government has announced that Britain will phase out imports of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022, and consider banning its natural gas.
The announcement immediately sparked rumours – peddled by the right-wing press – that fracking could return to Britain.
A report in the Sun contends that ministers are reportedly deliberating proposals that would see fracking in the UK get a new lease of life.
UK fracking sites are, according to the report, ‘to be used for further research’ rather than being shut down permanently. The tabloid’s ‘fracking review’ claims two sites in Lancashire have been granted a stay of execution as ministers consider utilising them for further research rather than closing them forever.
Fracking sites closed due to earthquake concerns
The Lancashire sites have not been in operation since 2019 when test drilling was suspended due to concerns about earthquakes.
The Sun’s story continues that the sites had been ordered to be concreted within weeks but has now been extended to June, and that because of escalating fuel costs and the West cutting of Russia’s oil supplies, the PM – in the Sun’s words – “is under fresh pressure to look again at whether fracking could help drive up UK energy reserves.”
Government ‘insiders’ quoted in the report allegedly said the sites would not be closed completely while evidence is reviewed. With one Whitehall source, saying “talks are ongoing” ahead of a new energy strategy to be released next week.
Though the Sun’s report acknowledges that No. 10 insists “our position on fracking hasn’t changed” and quotes a spokesperson for the PM saying: “It would take years of exploration and development before any quantities of shale gas could be extracted and wouldn’t have an impact on prices affecting Europe in the near future.”
Telegraph claims fracking is ‘back on the agenda’
A story in the Telegraph claims that fracking is ‘back on the agenda’ in response to the PM seeing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a ‘moment of great clarity’ about the dangers of Europe relying on Russian oil and gas.
The Telegraph says it understands that Johnson has ‘opened the door to the return of fracking’, as he stops importing Russian oil over the Ukraine war. According to the newspaper, a senior government source said: “We need alternative sources of energy that are cheaper and more reliable and less vulnerable to the whims of a dictator.”
Like the Sun, the Telegraph says it understands ministers now back England’s only two viable shale gas wells being handed to the British Geological Survey, rather than being permanently sealed with concrete. This is, according to the newspaper, “a sign of the softening position.”
Right-wing commentators excitedly respond
The story has been lapped up some right-wing commentators. Actor and right-wing political activist Laurence Fox tweeted ‘fracking back on the agenda as Boris Johnson block imports of Russian oil’ alongside a link to the Telegraph’s article.
While Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party, referred to the story as “shale gas treasure.”
Not everyone however is jubilant at the prospect of fracking returning to Britain, and the story has sparked outcry among those in opposition of the right-wing, pro-fracking agenda.
Deborah Meaden voiced her contempt, tweeting:
“Fracking is not a short-term fix for the fuel cost crisis but it is a long term disaster for the planet.”
Nigel Pocklington, chief executive of renewable energy providers, Good Energy, said: “Energy independence is the right goal. So is tackling climate change. Fracking achieves neither. It does not exempt the UK from volatile global gas markets, and it does not reduce emissions.
“And what’s more is people do not want it.”
Another tweeted: “So apparently the UK may be revisiting the moratorium on fracking. Take it those pledges at COP26 didn’t happen, just like the parties at No. 10.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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