A new poll by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that 47% of people would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home, compared to just 14% who said they would be happy.
The findings come just days after the Prime Minister announced that councils that back fracking will get to keep more money from the business tax revenues once production at a well is underway.
The biggest concerns for the people polled included, fears of damage to the local environment, the associated noise and disruption, fears over the chemicals used and health risks, as well as fears that drinking water might be contaminated.
Of those in favour of having a local fracking site, the most popular reasons given were energy security, more local jobs and skills development opportunities and the potential for it to cut consumer energy bills.
The poll also found that only 30% of people have a good understanding of what fracking is, compared with 40% who said they had ‘some’ understanding and 30% who said they had little or no understanding.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the results:
“These poll results suggest that simply offering money to local councils and communities is not enough to convince the public about the benefits of fracking for gas and that much more work needs to be done to engage with citizens on this potential activity. Building trust between Government, industry and communities is essential if we wish to make use of this technique in shale rocks under the UK.
“If communities are to make informed decisions on whether to allow fracking to take place in their locality they need to understand the issues and have an opportunity to discuss them sensibly. It is therefore worrying that about two-thirds of those polled in this survey either don’t know what fracking is or indicated that they only have ‘some’ understanding of the activity. Clearly much more work needs to be done by industry and Government to inform the public about the techniques involved and the various controls being put in place to protect the local environment and ensure the safety of the process.
“Concerns remain over the chemicals used, the health risks, the potential for drinking water to be contaminated as well as concerns over the damage it might cause to the local environment. However, one significant result of the survey is that of those unhappy with fracking taking place near their home only 25% cited the continued use of fossil fuels as a concern, which suggests that in the case of shale gas exploitation, local issues are regarded as much more important than the broader impacts on global warming and climate change.”
Of the people who said they were against having a fracking site near their home, 80% said they had concerns over the damage to the local environment; 63% said they had concerns over truck movements and associated noise and disruption; 60% cited concerns over drinking water being contaminated; 59% said concerns about the health risks; 56% said they had concerns over the chemicals used in the process; 30% said the expense of resources for little return on gas and only 25% said they had concerns over the use of fossil fuels.
Of the people who said they would be in favour of having a fracking site near their home, 58% said because it would benefit the country’s energy security; 56% said because it would lead to more local jobs and skills development; 47% because it would benefit the UK’s economy; 43% because it would reduce consumer energy bills; 40% because it would mean more local infrastructure investment; 39% said because of the benefit of the local community receiving £100,000 and 1% of gas sales; and 25% said because it would lead to lower carbon emissions and be better for the environment.
The poll asked over 2,000 members of the public on their views of shale gas or fracking and was carried out by ICM on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.