Half the UK now open up for fracking
Britain has begun accepting bids for licences to explore for shale gas in more than half the country, only three years after banning hydraulic fracturing because of the feared links to increased seismic activity.
Prime Minister David Cameron said his government was ready to go “all out for shale” in an effort to boost Britain's energy self-sufficiency, The Guardian reported. He also added the licences were the first step in the exploration process but would not give outright permission to drill.
The opening of the first tender process in six years will open up swaths of the countryside to the controversial method of gas extraction, from Scotland and the northeast to parts of England's south coast.
In an effort to calm environmentalists who worried about the contamination of water supplies, special protection will be given to national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites, The Telegraph reported. Licence applications in these areas should be refused unless there are “exceptional” reasons why fracking should go ahead, or if it is deemed to be in the public interest, officials said.
The UK has 27 World Heritage sites, including Canterbury Cathedral, the cities of Bath and Edinburgh, Stonehenge and the Houses of Parliament.
“Ultimately, done right, speeding up shale will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for our country,” Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock was quoted as saying.
Studies by the British Geological Survey suggest that the small island nation has abundant shale deposits and is home to the world's larges shale gas field, the Bowland Shale located underneath Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The UK has been a net importer of gas since 2004 and the current government is looking to mirror the US's success in reducing net imports with domestic hydraulic fracturing.
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