Tory peer suggests the South East should be protected from fracking
Populated areas in the South East of England should be protected and fracking should be carried out in the North East instead, a Tory peer and former energy secretary has suggested.
Lord Howell of Guildford, speaking during question time in the House of Lords yesterday, proposed that fracking projects should be carried out in large areas of “uninhabited and desolate land in the North” rather than “beautiful rural areas in the South of England.”
His comments are being disputed by many in the House of Lords and the peer was forced to apologise after Downing Street said that Lord Howell did not speak for the government.
Following his comments, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Reverend Justin Welby, tweeted: “North east England very beautiful, rugged, welcoming, inspiring, historic, advancing, not ‘desolate’ as was said in House of Lords today.”
The peer, who is father-in-law of chancellor George Osborne and was the energy secretary from 1979 to 1981, insisted that he “did not intend to suggest that the North East is desolate.”
He elaborated on his initial comments, asserting that “a distinction should be made between one area and another rather than lumping them all together.”
He went on: “There are large, uninhabited and desolate areas certainly in parts of the North East, where there is plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody’s residence, and where it could be conducted without any threat to the rural environment.”
The term fracking refers to the process of hydraulic fracturing, which involves drilling deep under ground and releasing a high pressure mix of water, sand and hundreds of chemicals to crack rocks and release shale gas or oil stored inside them.
The process was pioneered in the US where it has transformed the energy market. However, it has been widely opposed by the green groups and many water companies believe that fracking risks contaminating groundwater and causes environmental damage.
The UK is believed to have large resources of shale gas but the process of fracking is not much widespread in the country. In 2011, oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla began an exploratory project in Lancashire which was not well-received by locals.