Fracking support hits all-time low as industry urged to end 'unwinnable battle'

Updated: 

Public support for fracking has reached a record low, according to Government research.

A survey by the Business and Energy Department showed just 16% supported the controversial process of shale gas extraction, down from 21% last year and the lowest since the study was launched five years ago.

Just 13% of the 2,000 people questioned said they knew a lot about fracking, with just under half knowing "a little."

Groups opposed to fracking said the findings showed that the industry was pulling energy policy in the wrong direction.

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said public opinion on fracking continued to "free fall", adding: "Communities don't want the unnecessary industrialisation of our countryside for shale gas we don't need.

"More than three-quarters of people support renewables, so the Government should listen to their own opinion polls, stay true to their manifesto promise and support offshore wind and solar instead of a new fossil fuel industry.

"Concern about climate change is at its highest since 2012, and to meet our climate targets, we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. The fracking industry is pulling UK energy policy in entirely the wrong direction and the public is right to be concerned."

Rose Dickinson, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: "This makes bad reading for the industry because they know they are desperately fighting an unwinnable battle for support.

"The extent to which this industry has failed to win over the public is undeniable. Opposition is increasing not only where fracking is proposed, but across the whole country."

A Business and Energy Department spokesman said: "There are a lot of myths about the alleged risks of fracking that are not backed up by evidence, and this survey shows that the vast majority of people asked said that they do not know a lot about it.

"We have more than 50 years of drilling experience in the UK and we'd encourage people to look beyond the scaremongering to the benefits that this industry could bring, which include greater energy security, thousands of jobs and economic growth."

The survey showed that the most common reason for supporting fracking was the need to use all available energy sources, reducing dependency on other fossil fuels and on other countries for the UK's energy supply as well as being good for local jobs and investment.

The most common reason for opposing fracking was the loss or destruction of natural environment, the risk of contamination to water supply, safety concerns and a risk of earthquakes.

The quarterly "public attitude tracker" also found that levels of concern about the UK's future energy security had fallen, while one in five people were worried about paying for energy bills, the lowest since the survey began in March 2012.

Support for renewable energy has been "consistently high" since survey started, with 77% expressing support for the use of renewables.

Views on nuclear have remained fairly stable, with 35% supporting and 21% opposing the use of nuclear energy.

RenewableUK executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: "This latest survey shows that a majority of people support home-grown, renewable energy and a further 70% believe that it provides economic benefits to the country.

"It's clear people want the Government to prioritise clean and modern energy, while support for fossil fuel infrastructure is at an all-time low."