A little over two weeks ago, I made a video reporting that fracking for shale gas could be coming to the Cotswolds, as Liz Truss decided to roll back on a 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge to keep the drilling process banned.
This pledge came after an earthquake caused by local fracking drills sparked mass protests in 2014. Since then, the ban had remained in place.
Until, that is, the shortest-serving prime minister decided, against local people’s and scientists’ wishes, to unban it and start to give out licenses to companies to begin fracking across the UK, including in the Cotswolds, the third largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the country.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only did the economy tank, but so too did Truss’s poll numbers, as she refused to back down from this policy. To make matters worse, her MPs voted against a bill introduced by Labour to put the issue of fracking in their hands, which would’ve banned the practise again.
The policy was publicly ridiculed. It even got to a point where the first ministers of Scotland and Wales said that fracking wouldn’t happen in their respective countries. Which put a nail in the coffin of the ‘public consent’ claim.
Shortly after this vote, Truss was gone, beating the previous record of shortest-term of a serving PM by 69 days.
Rishi Sunak has only served as prime minister for a day (at the time of writing), but he seems determined not to follow her down that particular path.
In his first PMQs on the 26 October 2022, when asked by Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Sunak announced he’d be reinstating the fracking ban. His reply was simply, “I stand by the manifesto on that”.
This is a victory, make no mistake about that. Fracking is bad for the environment and costs nine times more than offshore wind and four times more renewables in general to develop.
Can they be trusted?
However, many politicians are now asking if the Tories can still be trusted on this issue. Ed Miliband, former Labour leader and current shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, certainly doesn’t think so. He points out that Sunak did not vote for Labour’s ban and he simply cannot be trusted on this issue.
Gloucestershire County Council Councillor, Paul Hodgkinson, whom I interviewed for my original article on fracking, told me:
“I don’t feel that the Conservatives can be trusted on the issue of fracking at all. Just last week, their MPs were voting against a fracking ban but now the latest Prime Minister has shifted position again.
“The Cotswolds MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said recently that he supported the lifting of the ban and that communities could be compensated financially if fracking were to take place near them. Has he suddenly had a change of view?
What we need is enthusiastic and energetic promotion of renewable energy rather than mixed messages on fracking.”
Sunak himself was even quoted supporting it, saying “yes, if local communities support it” during the first Tory Leadership campaign trail.
Not helping this fact is Sunak continues to speak his opposition to onshore windfarms, wanting more “offshore, not onshore wind” when he became PM.
The rules as they stand make it extremely difficult to build new windfarms on land. Truss wanted to relax the rules to allow more of it, so long as they were “in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England”, but it’s doubtful Sunak will continue this.
Still, reinstating the ban on fracking is good news for the UK as a whole but it’s by no means the end of the fight for greener energy.
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