Public backing for fracking reaches lowest level

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Public support for fracking has fallen to new lows, a Government survey has revealed.

Just 17% of people backed the process of extracting shale gas, compared with a third who opposed it, and just under half (48%) who had no opinion, the latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show.

It is the lowest level of support for fracking since the public attitudes tracker started asking about shale gas, and comes amid increased awareness of the process, with about four-fifths (79%) of those quizzed claiming to know something about it.

The Government has continued its push to develop a shale industry in the UK, which it claims could boost jobs, the economy and energy security.

Earlier this month ministers allowed a fracking site in Lancashire to go ahead, overturning a decision by the county council.

Opponents of fracking most commonly cited damage to the natural environment, while those in favour thought it was important to use energy sources, it was good for local jobs and investment and reduced dependency on fossil fuels.

Support for renewables remained high, with almost eight in 10 (79%) backing the clean technologies, and just one in 25 (4%) opposed. Only 1% strongly opposed renewables.

The survey of 2,080 UK households found that 71% of people backed onshore wind - the highest level since the tracker began - while 75% were in favour of offshore wind, and 82% backed solar.

The poll, conducted shortly after the Government finally gave the go-ahead to a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, also saw support for nuclear energy fall to 33%, from 36% three months earlier and 38% in the spring.

Juliet Davenport, chief executive of Good Energy, said: "Renewable energy still remains the UK's favourite form of energy - it's local, it's sustainable and it's pioneering.

"Government should listen to public opinion, champion renewable energy and throw its weight behind tackling climate change."

Industry body RenewableUK's chief executive Hugh McNeal said: "It's great to see public support for onshore wind has reached its highest ever level, at an overwhelming 71%.

"Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power generation available in Britain, so it makes sense to use it to keep people's electricity bills as low as possible."