Survey shows drop in public support for shale gas

Workers at an onshore shale gas site
Workers at an onshore shale gas site

A new survey shows that public support for the extraction and use of shale gas has dropped over the last year with concerns about the potential impact on the environment beginning to outweigh the economic benefits.

The University of Nottingham Shale Gas Survey has been tracking the public perception of shale gas extraction in the UK since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the public believe to be the environmental impact of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source.

The 11th survey, with over 6,700 respondents, was conducted between the 23 and 28 September 2015.

This latest survey found that there had been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last year. The difference between those who support extraction and those who don’t now stands at just +10.4 per cent, compared with +21 per cent in September 2014 and +39.5 per cent in July 2013.

However, it is still clear, 11 surveys on, that the UK public believes that shale gas will bring economic benefits to the country, and that a large number of people see shale gas as a ‘cheap’ form of energy.

These trends would suggest that the sense of unease with the environmental implications of fracking is a very live issue for members of the public.

Professor Sarah O’Hara, co-director of the Shale Gas Survey, said: “The drop in support for shale gas over the last 12 months suggests that concerns about the perceived environmental impacts of shale gas are beginning to outweigh the possible economic benefits.

A spokesman for UKOOG – the UK onshore oil operators association – said: “The Nottingham University study shows that many people in the UK recognise the need to explore for shale gas for economic and environmental reasons.

“The report indicates we have been successful in banishing the myths around earthquakes. However the industry is aware we have a great deal of work to do to reassure the public about fears generated by other misinformation and to demonstrate the UK’s excellent regulation that protects water supplies in particular, and local communities in general.

“With 84% of homes heated by gas, it is becoming more and more apparent that UK needs an energy balance that includes gas from this country to provide secure and affordable energy that helps create and protect jobs.”

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