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Untapped Potential
Fracking Support Withers in the UK

The UK is sitting on an estimated 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas, but it’s not commercially producing any of it at the moment. The rest of the world has been remarkably slow to catch up to America’s shale success, stymied by more complicated geology, water scarcity, scarce capital, or a lack of technological know-how, but in the UK the biggest obstacle has been public opposition. The British public remains highly skeptical of the drilling practice, and the Guardian reports that support for fracking is falling:

Just 19% of people back exploration for shale gas in the latest edition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s long-running public attitudes tracker, down from a high of 29% two years ago. The percentage against has risen to a new high of 31%, while the proportion neither for or against has remained largely stable, at 46%. […]

A Decc spokesman said: “These findings show that half of the people asked still don’t have a view on fracking, but more importantly that the vast majority (88%) said that they do not know a lot about it. This is exactly why we want people to have access to all the facts so they can see past the myths and understand the benefits which include greater energy security, more jobs and growth.”

According to this survey, a plurality of people haven’t yet made up their mind on fracking the UK, but so far opposition has been strong enough to delay exploration permitting at the council level. Crucially, landowners in the UK don’t own mineral rights, and as a result don’t have a financial incentive to vote to allow fracking in their communities. Contrast that with the United States, where landowners do own more than just the surface of their property, and are therefore compensated for allowing shale firms to plumb their land.

The UK’s shale fate is by no means sealed, and the country could still stand to benefit immensely from its prodigious natural gas reserves in the coming years, but shaky public support will make that task a lot more difficult than it’s been here in the United States. Once again, another country’s struggles to replicate the American shale experience reminds us just how spectacular—and how unique—this energy revolution has been.

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  • Andrew Allison

    ““These findings show that half of the people asked still don’t have a view on fracking, but more importantly that the vast majority (88%) said that they do not know a lot about it.” So about half the people who do have a view on fracking don’t know anything about it? FWIW, I’d say the number is even higher in the US.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Citizens of the UK don’t own the mineral rights to the land they own. This means the wealth under their feet isn’t theirs, but the noise and pollution of drilling, fracking, and pumping out the oil would directly impact them without any compensation. As things now stand they are paying much less for their energy needs and don’t see the need for developing the resource.

    • CaliforniaStark

      Agree, if compensation was provided the landowners and local municipality, then fracking would begin to happen in many locations. For some reason, the Cameron government cannot comprehend there needs to be a financial benefit to the locals.

  • PKCasimir

    First of all, shale gas is totally worthless if it can’t be extracted and perhaps less than 5% of that estimated 1.5 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas is recoverable. That hardly makes the UK a potential shale gas superpower. Secondly, anybody who follows the UK press on a daily basis knows that the shale gas that the UK has will never be exploited. Period. Americans just don’t realize what a blue hell-hole the UK really is.

    • Bucky Barkingham

      Let them burn coal and peat and live with the pollution.

  • Pait

    At current prices, that seems a sensible decision.

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