Government paves the way for fracking in Oxfordshire

Banbury Cake: South East MEP Keith Taylor South East MEP Keith Taylor

LICENCES to drill for shale gas using the controversial fracking technique will be made available in Oxfordshire.

Fracking, in which water is blasted underground to re-lease gas, could lead to an energy boom for those who use it.

And its supporters say it is making countries such as America self-sufficient in energy supply.

But opponents say it causes pollution, could scar the countryside and can trigger earthquakes – and attempts to introduce it in the UK so far have seen large-scale pro-tests.

Now, though, the county has been included on a Government map of areas under consideration for the next licensing round for fracking which will take place in mid-2014.

A 347 sq mile area in the north of Oxfordshire has been identified as a possible source of shale gas.

Environmentalists fear what will happen next – although officials and developers say nothing is yet planned.

  • How it works:
  • Water, sand and chemicals are pumped at high pressure into underground rock.
  • The aim is to fracture it and release trapped gas.
  • The technique is being used increasingly across the world to tap into previously untouched gas reserves.
  • With energy prices high for countries that have to import gas to keep us warm, fracking has obvious attractions.
  • And as energy stocks diminish – gas and oil will not last forever – developers are looking for ways to access all reserves that still remain.

Green MEP for the South East Keith Taylor has been a vocal opponent of fracking.

He said: “Of course the Government is keen to impress upon people the potential financial benefits of allowing shale gas extraction near their homes.

“But in reality, many people will be unwilling to accept air pollution, noisy trucks, gas flaring and potential water contamination in exchange for the Government’s bribe.

“The Government is ramping up its pro-fracking rhetoric ahead of issuing the next round of drilling licenses but campaigners and concerned residents won’t be tricked into believing the hype.”

Oxfordshire is part of more than 40 per cent of Britain that will now be open to fracking by developers, far more than the seven per cent now available.

In its strategic environmental assessment, the Government says fracking could create thousands of jobs and plough almost £1bn back to local communities.

A road map issued by the Government sets out the series of permits and permissions developers need to get before drilling for onshore oil and gas.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won’t know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place.

“It is an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security.”

Shale gas company Cuadrilla, which has carried out fracking in Lancashire and West Sussex, said it had no plans to frack in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire County Council, the local authority which deals with the extraction of minerals, said it has held no discussions with any companies about fracking.

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