David Cameron in Kent: Fracking is still on the energy agenda
12:32 08 July 2013
Copyright Mark Turner 2012
Two sites outlined for fracking in Kent
It was the moment for green energy to shine as the biggest offshore wind farm in the world, 12 miles off the Kent coast, opened with a high profile fanfare.
But as renewable energy chiefs raised a glass in celebration, Prime Minster David Cameron – while rejoicing the London Array project – outlined his hopes for a fracking revolution in the UK to “balance” the energy industry.
Speaking to KoS at the official opening of the London Array offshore wind farm, at Margate’s Turner Contemporary on Thursday, Mr Cameron discussed the potential opportunities of using the controversial shale gas extraction technique, stating it should be “encouraged”.
He suggested the UK should follow the lead of the United States, where fracking has taken off – but which critics blame for problems such as earth tremors and contamination of water supplies.
There are two potential fracking sites in Kent.
Opponents also say the contentious method – which involves blasting fluids underground to break apart rocks and release gas – will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and go against the Government’s green energy policy.
Mr Cameron stressed the government was a big supporter of renewable energy.
But when pushed by reporters on whether this should be the main focus for future supplies, he admitted the industry needed more than just wind.
“It’s not the whole answer to the energy needs of the UK, but it’s part of it and Britain has a very clear, very predictable and very understandable set of rules for renewable energy,” he said.
“It means international investors are coming here to build and that means jobs and green energy, which means secure supplies for the future.”
But he stressed the Government was also a big supporter of gas.
“We have to recognise that a fracking revolution has taken place in the US and we ought to be thinking about it here,” he said.
“Recent reports have shown we may have twice as much shale gas as previously thought and so this is an industry we should be encouraging.
“But we want to make sure it’s an industry we encourage for community benefit as well.”
He said the Government had recently set out that for each fracking well there needed to be at least £100,000 for the community as an incentive.
Mr Cameron added there needed to be a “balanced energy picture” which should also include nuclear.
None of this bodes well for those opposed to fracking.
Supporters, however, say fracking will lead to reduced electricity bills, create jobs and make the UK less reliant on other countries for energy supplies.
Two sites are currently the focus of fracking in Kent; land by the A257 and A256, north of Woodnesborough, near Sandwich, and Cowden, near Tunbridge Wells.
Cowden has already seen test drilling taking place in 2010, by energy company Cuadrilla – the firm behind the drilling in Blackpool which is believed to have been responsible for two minor earthquakes.
In east Kent, Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was given the green light by planning chiefs at Kent County Council to carry out exploratory work near Woodnesborough, although a temporary ban – later lifted on the understanding safety procedures were in place – meant so far no such work has taken place.
Mr Cameron’s comments came as Green Party MEP for the south east, Keith Taylor, announced he would be touring the area with a film examining the potential impacts fracking could have if it takes off in Kent.
Drill Baby Drill, by Lech Kowalski, tells the story of the impact on an ecologically pristine agricultural area in Poland and illustrates some of the major concerns surrounding fracking.
Mr Taylor said: “It shows us communities have had their water contaminated and their air polluted.
“It also shows the ruthlessness of fracking companies who are willing to drill at any cost, despite opposition from communities.
“But the film also tells an inspirational story of communities that have, and will continue to, fight against fracking and win.”
Mr Taylor accused the Government of being “hell-bent” on carving up the countryside in the “dash for gas”.
“The fact there is more shale gas in the UK than we thought doesn’t mean we should burn it,” he added.
“Indeed if we’re serious about meeting our climate change obligations than we should be directing more money towards community-owned renewables rather than giving tax breaks to corporations wanting to frack in our countryside.”
Mr Taylor will introduce the screenings and campaign group, East Kent Against Fracking (EKAF), is due to speak.
Screenings of Drill Baby Drill by Lech Kowalski:
Empire Cinema, Delf Street, Sandwich:
Friday, July 12 – 6.30pm.
The Gulbenkian, University of Kent at Canterbury:
Saturday, July 13 – 1.30pm.