Fracking versus wind energy: what the public think

Paul Boughton

As the temperature of the fracking debate rises UK Prime Minister David Cameron has given his clearest indications yet that Government policy will switch away from making onshore wind power generation attractive and towards encouraging investment for hundreds of fracking wells to spring up in the UK.

New research from the Attitudes to UK Industry poll suggests that the public, particularly the young, remain to be convinced. The survey of more than 2000 adults showed 53 per cent leaning in favour of wind farms despite the cosmetic effect on the landscape, while just 15 per cent preferred fracking with the remainder undecided or without an opinion. Young people, aged 18-24 were most resolute in support of wind energy with 60 per cent stating that preference.

In bullish tones while speaking at the Crown Paints factory in Liverpool Mr Cameron set out the new position on onshore wind: “We’ve just changed the rules, we’ve cut the subsidies and we’ve said that any schemes that go ahead have to give more benefit to local communities. So I wouldn’t expect to see a lot more wind power onshore in the UK.”

Mr Cameron also referenced fracking directly saying he wanted to “dispel myths” and that there is “no question of having earthquakes and fire coming out of taps”.

However, the new research suggests that many people remain to be convinced of the benefits of fracking compared to the reported risks.

Dan Doherty, of the report’s sponsors CadenceFisher industrial communications explains: “Knowing that this is a divisive issue, we asked more than 2000 UK adults which of the controversial methods of power generation – wind farms or fracking - people would prefer in their own area …

"Our findings suggest that the fracking debate is not yet over. In fact, it’s just beginning, and with potential fractures within the coalition Government on this divisive issue, Mr Cameron will have a lot of people to convince about the safety and economic value of fracking in the UK.”

The prime minister clearly indicated his determination to swing public opinion in favour of fracking and is reported by the BBC website as saying that Government "must make the case that fracking is safe", continuing, "International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated”.

According to Mr Cameron, a study of 11 counties alone found that about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas is beneath Britain and that “even if we just extract a tenth of that figure, that's still the equivalent of 51 years' gas supply”. He estimated that its retrieval by fracking could create more than 70,000 jobs.

Research conducted among 2056 UK adults online by Populus between 26th-28th June 2013. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Attitudes to UK Industry (report 4) can be at

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