Redistributive policy

Little public support for policy change on fracking – study – DRILL OR DROP?

As the government considers the future of hydraulic fracturing in England, a new study revealed little support for policy change.

Activists outside the Cuadrilla shale gas site in Preston New Road near Blackpool, August 26, 2019. Photo: used with permission of owner

The shale gas industry and its supporters have called for the lifting of the two-and-a-half-year moratorium on fracking in England imposed due to concerns over earthquakes. They also want a relaxation of regulations on seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing.

The study, published this week in Scientific Reports, tested for the first time whether giving people information about earthquake events would influence their support for policy changes. She also sought to determine whether the cause or description of an earthquake event affected public attitudes.

Its publication comes as the UK government considers a review of the science on fracking by the British Geological Survey (BGS). This was submitted to the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, yesterday.


The industry has long argued that if people knew more about hydraulic fracturing, they would be more positive. He also claimed that the rules on seismicity for hydraulic fracturing were unfair and should be adapted to construction, geothermal energy or quarrying.

But the study, conducted by researchers from five UK universities and the BGS, challenged those arguments. He found that people objected:

  • Hydraulic fracturing moratorium lifted in England
  • relax regulations, known as the traffic light system, that force fracking to stop if it leads to seismic events of 0.5 or more on the local magnitude scale

The study found that giving people information or changing the way information was presented had little or no effect on their support for policy change or their attitude to induced seismicity. .

People who were told seismicity limits were higher in other countries remained opposed to relaxing the traffic light system.

The study concluded that people were significantly more averse to seismic events induced by shale gas extraction than those caused by geothermal energy, quarrying or natural tectonic movements.

He also found that people were opposed to the existence of seismic events, rather than their effects. People reacted negatively to seismic events from shale gas operations which could be felt but did not cause damage.

People were also not more likely to oppose shale gas operations if induced seismic events were described as micro-seismicity than earthquakes, the study found.

People in northern England, where the potential for shale gas is greater, were more likely to support policy change than people in the south. But opinion was more divided in areas that were generally more supportive of policy change, the study found.

He also revealed that only 12% of respondents said they trust the shale gas industry somewhat or a lot.

“No role for shale gas”

The researchers said:

“we do not foresee a role for shale gas in the UK’s energy future”.

They said the time needed for commercial production was too long to solve short-term supply problems. In the long term, they said, shale gas would conflict with the UK’s net zero targets.

MPs from shale gas regions were not in favor of a resumption of exploration, the researchers said, despite concerns about supply problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They added:

“Any attempt to change the political landscape to make fracking viable by increasing the seismicity limit would likely be met with strong resistance.”

  • The study conducted three rounds of public attitude surveys with YouGov online panels from 2019 to 2021, before and after the 2.9ML earthquake at the Cuadrilla shale gas site in Preston New Road. The authors came from the universities of Stirling, Bath, Exeter, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh and the British Geological Survey.

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