Former Brexit minister David Frost joined Tory MPs in writing an open letter to Boris Johnson calling for a resumption of fracking in the UK, in another indication of the ongoing battle within the party on environmental issues.
Lord Frost argued that extracting domestic shale gas would give the UK a “competitive and reliable source of energy”. But Zac Goldsmith, a key green voice in government, said he would not cut energy prices and put ministers at ‘war with angry communities’.
The letter to the Prime Minister was organized by the Net Zero Scrutiny (NZSG) group of Tory MPs, who oppose many green levies and targets, saying the government should prioritize cutting energy costs and more secure supplies.
Leading climate scientists told the Guardian last week that the group appeared to be trying to delay the shift to lower emissions by embedding climate policies in a culture war and spreading misinformation, a charge the NZSG denies.
The MPs’ letter, shared with the Sunday Telegraph, said shale deposits around Lancashire and surrounding counties offer “at least 50 years of cheap, sustainable gas”.
He said, “If leveling up means anything, it must be centered on empowering communities, rather than telling them what they can and cannot do… In the absence of public debate about our strategy to reach net zero, we have abandoned this fundamentally conservative principle… It is time to cancel this moratorium.
The Sunday Telegraph said 29 MPs signed the letter but only named five – Craig Mackinlay, Steve Baker, John Whittingdale, Bob Blackman and Julian Knight. The letter’s organizers declined to reveal any other names.
Frost, who has become a leading dissenting voice on the Tory right since stepping down as minister in December, told the Telegraph that fracking would provide “a competitive and reliable source of energy” and reduce dependence on imports.
But Goldsmith, a foreign secretary and peer, said even to replace half the gas the UK imports would require 6,000 frac wells “with all the associated industrial equipment and the endless movements of lorries transporting toxic chemicals and sewage to and from sites. It’s hard to imagine communities across the UK agreeing with that.
In one series of tweetsGoldsmith said fracking was deeply unpopular with the public, and since any shale gas extracted would be sold at international market prices, it would have no impact on UK bills.
Gas was still needed, he said, but added: “To have any impact, the government would have to rig the market and go to war with angry communities. At all levels, the cost would be enormous.
The government’s position remains that fracking is “unproven” as a resource in the UK, and that the inability to accurately predict earthquakes associated with it meant it could not be taken into account. charged.
The NZSG is campaigning alongside Cuadrilla, the company that operated two shale wells in Lancashire. Work in these was halted at the end of 2019 when the government stopped fracking in England after warnings about possible earthquakes.
On Thursday, Cuadrilla announced it was plugging and abandoning its two shale wells at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire, on instructions from the government’s Oil and Gas Authority.
News of this was announced in a joint press release between Cuadrilla and the NZSG, including quotes from the group’s chairman and vice-chairman, Tory MPs Craig Mackinlay and Steve Baker, calling the decision “utter madness”. .
Similarly, the Telegraph’s article on the NZSG letter was published alongside a comment from Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan calling domestic fracking a “no-brainer”.