Support for fracking among the British public just hit an all-time low, dropping below 50 percent for the first time ever. That’s according to a recently published poll from the University of Nottingham, and it casts doubt on the United Kingdom’s chances for reaping its considerable reserves of shale gas. The Guardian reports:
Just 49.7% of people now say they think the controversial process should be allowed in the UK, marking the third fall in support since high-profile protests last summer in West Sussex which saw dozens of arrests including that of Green MP, Caroline Lucas and ongoing protests at a site in Salford.Support for shale gas was at a high of 58% in July 2012, which slumped to 54% last September and 53.3% this January, the long-running survey by YouGov for the University of Nottingham shows.
There’s a significant political angle to all of this, as support seems to be falling largely along party lines, with Tory and UKIP voters much more likely to support shale gas operations than their Labor and Liberal Democrat counterparts.But that doesn’t explain everything. In the United States, support for fracking also differs from party to party, but many communities have overlooked biases on the issue and signed on to allow companies to come in and drill for shale when given the chance. That’s because, in the United States, property owners have mineral rights—they own what’s underneath the ground, not just what’s on top of it.At the local level, many Americans find they have enough incentive to deal with the clamor and development that fracking operations bring down on small, rural communities. UK citizens lack similar rights, and therefore lack similar incentives. The British government has tried to sweeten the deal by offering £100,000 to local communities for every well fracked, and 1 percent of all revenue generated. That hasn’t been enough to overcome strident Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) opposition, and while drilling has stalled, public opinion seems to be coalescing against fracking. That’s a shame for Britain, because it’s sitting on roughly 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas.