Backing fracking branded 'political suicide'

Nearly a third of people would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports fracking in their constituency, polling for an environmental group has shown.

Greenpeace UK said the poll showed that supporting shale gas exploration could be “political suicide” for candidates in key marginal seats.

The ComRes poll of 2,035 people found that 31 per cent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who backed fracking in their local area, compared with 13 per cent who said they would be more likely to vote for them.

Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas – or fracking – typically involves drilling down more than a mile and then horizontally to release the gas trapped in layers of shale by pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground.

However, almost half of respondents (44 per cent) said it would have no impact on the way they voted.

Almost 20 per cent of Labour voters said they were “much less likely” to vote for a candidate who backed fracking in their constituency, as did one in 10 Conservative voters, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Lib Dem supporters and 16 per cent UKIP backers.

According to Greenpeace the issue could be key for marginal constituencies as at least 35 of the seats being targeted in the Tories’ election strategy are in areas licensed for fracking, as are 11 Labour and eight Lib Dem seats held with a swing of 2 per cent or less.

Sam Pearse, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Candidates from across the political spectrum have started feeling the heat over fracking, and our survey shows why.

“They can ditch a fracking industry that will deliver too little too late, if anything at all, whilst leaving us more dependent on dangerous fossil fuels, and back instead the clean energy sources that hold the promise of cheaper energy bills and safe energy.”

An online platform, Frack Free Promise that candidates can sign up to to pledge their opposition to fracking has also been launched.

Up to now, a total of 403 Green Party candidates, 100 Labour, 105 Lib Dems, 23 Plaid Cymru, seven SNP and seven UKIP candidates have signed the pledged, along with 137 other candidates, but no Conservatives.

Earlier this week the Task Force on Shale Gas has called for a new UK regulator for the fracking industry to give the public more confidence in the fledgling sector, as E&T reported.

Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the task force and former head of the Environment Agency, said that following their conversation with local communities, the regulatory framework for fracking appears too complex for most people, and it leads to a lack of confidence in the system.

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