August 8, 2013

There’s no room for wind farms but plenty for fracking, says PM

By Peter Dominiczak, Political Correspondent | The Telegraph | 08 Aug 2013 |

In comments that will delight rural communities opposed to wind farms, the Prime Minister said that “there is a limited potential for onshore wind” in the UK.

Mr Cameron instead said that he wants the UK to focus on shale gas exploration, nuclear power and offshore wind.

With anti-fracking protests continuing in parts of the countryside, the Prime Minister said he wanted to “dispel myths” about the controversial technique and said that there is “no question of having earthquakes and fire coming out of taps”.

He warned that Britain is “missing out big time” and that energy bills could come down if the UK embraces shale gas exploration.

Mr Cameron’s robust comments on the future of onshore wind farms appear to signal a shift in Government policy that could prompt a major dispute with the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy Secretary last year clashed with former energy minister John Hayes after the Conservative warned that “enough is enough”over wind farms.

Mr Hayes was rebuked by Mr Davey and the Prime Minister was forced to distance himself from the comments, telling the Commons that there had been no change in Government policy.

However, speaking to workers at the Crown Paints factory in Lancashire, Mr Cameron suggested that he does not want to see large numbers of wind farms built in the British countryside.

“There’s a limited potential for onshore wind,” Mr Cameron said. “Frankly, we’ve got some in the UK – I don’t think we’re going to have a huge amount more.

“We’ve just changed the rules, we’ve cut the subsidies and we’ve said that any schemes that go ahead have to give more benefit to local communities. So I wouldn’t expect to see a lot more wind power onshore in the UK. “

Energy campaigners immediately hit out at his comments, pointing out that the Government has committed to erecting thousands of new onshore turbines by 2020.

Mr Cameron said that Britain needs a “balanced” energy portfolio to ensure that we are not reliant on oil and gas from “dodgy” parts of the world.

The Prime Minister gave his strongest backing yet to fracking, saying that the UK would be making a “mistake” if it does not encourage shale gas exploration.

Fracking involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas.

It has cut energy bills dramatically in America but there are fears it carries environmental risks, including earthquakes and water contamination.

There have been angry clashes between campaigners and riot police in Balcombe, West Sussex, where exploratory drilling started last week.

“In the whole of the European Union last year there were 100 shale gas wells dug,” Mr Cameron said. “At the same time in the United States there were 10,000. Now the EU has about three-quarters as much shale gas as the US so we are missing out big time at the moment and I want to make sure Britain doesn’t miss out.”

He added: “There will be very clear environmental procedures and certificates you’ll have to get before you can frack.”

Downing Street was also forced to correct the Prime Minister after he mistakenly suggested that communities that allow fracking will be given £1million.

In fact, ministers in June backed a proposal from the shale gas industry to offer local communities £100,000 in an upfront payment for each well site where fracking takes place.

It came as polling by the University of Nottingham found that fracking has become more popular despite the ongoing controversy.

The survey found that 58 per cent of people think fracking should be allowed, up from 53 per cent last year.

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