The government has lifted a ban on fracking for shale gas, in place since 2019 after a series of tremors, even though a review concluded that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes “remains a scientific challenge”.
Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the prime minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
“To get there, we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”
The new licensing round is expected to lead to over 100 new licences.
Ed Miliband MP, Labour’s shadow climate change and net zero secretary, called fracking a “dangerous fantasy”.
“It would do nothing to cut energy bills, it costs far more than renewables, it is unsafe and it is deeply unpopular with the public,” he said.
He accused the Conservatives of breaking a 2019 manifesto commitment that pledged not to support fracking “unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.
In April the government commissioned the British Geological Survey to assess whether there had been any progress in techniques to “reduce the risk and magnitude of seismic events” from the shale gas extraction method.
The peer-reviewed report, which has been with the business and energy department since July but was published today, admitted that projecting the occurrence and magnitude of large earthquakes “remains a scientific challenge for the geoscience community”.