Shale gas, the ‘unconventional’ form of natural gas that is accessed through the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’), received a boost in the Chancellor’s recent budget. The production of shale gas will be granted a ‘field allowance’, which is expected to reduce the effective tax rate on shale gas production from 62% to about 30%. The government also intends to work on the planning regime around shale gas, and to find ways to ensure that the local communities most affected environmentally by shale extraction will also benefit from it economically. In the light of these developments, it is worth asking what the UK public thinks of the prospect of shale gas production. A team at the University of Nottingham has, with Pollsters YouGov, been tracking public attitudes to shale gas for over a year now, and they have recently produced a paper on the shape of public opinion in this area. Their report shows that:
- On the back of increasing media coverage, a growing proportion of the UK public are aware of shale gas as a potential energy source. In March 2012 38% of respondents could identify shale gas from a question about fracking, and in March 2013 that figure was 52%.
- Over 60% of those who can identify shale associate its extraction with ‘earthquakes’
- A plurality of respondents associate shale gas with contamination of drinking water, and a plurality do not think it is a ‘clean’ fuel. However, the proportion of survey respondents associating shale gas with contamination of drinking water is declining, and an increasing proportion do associate it with ‘clean’ energy.
- An increasing number of respondents think shale gas will bring ‘cheap’ energy. This figure rises from just over 40% in March 2012 to 53% in March 2013
- In March 2013 55% of respondents believed that shale gas extraction should be allowed in the UK. 24% responded that it should not.
The trends in the data over one year appear clear. There is now a higher level of public awareness around shale gas. Despite ‘earthquakes’ in Blackpool, the release of Gasland, and concerns about drinking water contamination and other pollution, the UK public seems to be warming to the idea of shale gas, seeing it increasingly as a relatively cheap alternative to other energy sources, with a majority in favour of allowing its extraction in the UK.
You can see the full report here: Public Perceptions of Shale Gas Extraction In The UK: How People’s Views Are Changing