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Fracking under pressure as Johnson considers UK ban

Boris Johnson has hinted that a fracking ban in the UK could be imminent, with research showing that the British public are increasingly opposed to the practice.

Yesterday, Johnson said the government was going to make an announcement “shortly” about the sector, despite the previous enthusiasm shown for fracking by the Conservative Party based on the belief that it could be used to cut imports of natural gas. Around 80 per cent of Britain’s homes use gas-powered central heating.

“We will shortly be making an announcement about fracking in this country in view of the very considerable anxieties that are legitimately being raised about the earthquakes that have followed various fracking attempts in the UK,” Johnson told parliament.

Fracking involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure. The practice has the potential to cause earthquakes and damage the water table. Fracking is fiercely opposed by environmentalists, who say it is at odds with Britain’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland has already banned the practice and in April this year the Scottish National Party urged the UK Government to follow its lead.

The Oil and Gas Authority is expected to report this week on the links between fracking and earthquakes, with the Government reportedly considering using what are expected to be critical findings to call a halt to further use of the extraction technique.

Hinting that a ban could be imminent, Johnson said: “We will certainly be following up on those findings because they are very important and will be of concern.”

Opposition from protesters and public concern over environmental impacts have long thwarted the ambitions of energy companies and the government to develop fracking in the UK.

Nevertheless, Cuadrilla was finally given the go-ahead to start extraction at a site in Lancashire in 2018 after years of protests and legal wrangling.

With campaigning for the next general election hotting up, the Conservative’s rhetoric around fracking could be designed to combat Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have both said they will ban the technology if they get into power.

Opposition to fracking has almost doubled in recent years, with government research showing that 40 per cent of people are now against it, up from 21 per cent in 2013. Support for fracking has also fallen from 27 per cent to 12 per cent.

Yesterday, after it emerged that the Conservative Party manifesto is being written by a corporate lobbyist for Facebook, Amazon and Cuadrilla, Labour MP Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the cabinet office, said: “If ever we needed another reminder that the Tory Party represents the privileged few, this is it.

“It’s an outrage to democracy that the frackers, the tax dodgers and the zero-hour exploiters will have the biggest say when it comes to Tory policy.”

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