The politician who wanted to frack in London now bans it in the UK


The Preston New Road fracking site. Photo credit: Cuadrilla.

By Anders Lorenzen

When the current British Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson was mayor of London (2008 – 2016), he did not hide his love for fracking, the technology to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. He famously declared that he wanted to frack in London and did not want to leave any stone unturned or unfracked.

Election strategy?

Now as a PM and facing an uphill election campaign towards December’s general election, he has banned fracking throughout the UK. He has made the move arguably to win over voters that see climate change and environmentalism as a growing crucial issue. This is a group of voters that has been growing rapidly in recent years according to polls. But he was also under pressure to do so, following a series of earthquakes at Britain’s only active fracking site at Preston North Road in Lancashire. These earthquakes have halted operations since this summer.

The official government line is that fracking has become too much of a burden on communities, due to the ongoing risks of earth tremors and heavy industrial activity. Following the announcement, the Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “after reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity … it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.”

Wasted taxpayer money

This is a significant change from the Cameron and Osbourne years which praised fracking as a gold rush and gave away millions of £ in tax breaks. Those millions are now to be seen as wasted taxpayer`s money. And the money was spent gambling on a risky and controversial technology which was never popular with the public and has now proved to be a serious failure. Other countries who are also looking to the possibilities of a fracking industry will look at the UK and wonder if it is worth it. 

Across Europe, there are no prospects of it taking place. Where it has not been banned, it simply has not worked such as in Poland.

Campaigners declare victory

Campaigners and green groups celebrated this victory but urged caution. The UK government has only placed a moratorium on fracking and has left open the possibility that if conditions improve it could be permitted again. Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire said: “Today’s announcement of the end of gratuitous government support for fracking is not a moment too soon. Residents are delighted that the fracking industry will no longer receive unlimited favours and free passes from a previously pro-fracking government. Our communities deserve to be put first before big business, and we have battled against this dirty industry for far too long”. 

Friends of the Earth have been actively campaigning against fracking, and their CEO Craig Bennett stated: “The government is right to call a halt to this damaging and deeply unpopular industry. This moratorium is a tremendous victory for communities and the climate. For nearly a decade local people across the country have fought a David and Goliath battle against this powerful industry. We are proud to have been part of that fight”.

Commentators are arguing that the action by the government was more about the forthcoming election than about new information surfacing. Nothing has really happened since the shale gas company Cuadrilla suspended fracking operations in August due to tremors. A December election was predicted to be all about Brexit, but it is getting increasingly likely that climate change will be a major topic of debate, and will influence the way people will cast their vote.


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