Potential environmental benefits increase support for shale gas among opponents
Primary research conducted by the Onshore Energy Services Group has found that support for shale gas extraction strengthens among opponents when confronted with the potential environmental benefits it may bring.
Like others before it, the online pilot survey of 240 respondents disqualified participants with limited or no knowledge of shale gas. Around 70% of survey participants were able to correctly identify shale gas by its association with the words ‘hydraulic fracturing’ and ‘fracking’.
Of the respondents that continued to take the survey, 26% said they were in favour of shale gas extraction in Britain, 28% neither in favour nor against, and 46% against – a finding which is broadly consistent with other recent surveys.
Respondents that said they were opposed or strongly opposed to shale gas extraction were then presented with a series of questions about their views on shale gas.
Notably, support increased when these respondents were presented with facts concerning the potential environmental advantages of shale gas extraction in Britain.
Lee Petts, chief executive at the OESG, said: “The results of this pilot survey appear to suggest that, even among opponents of shale gas, there is a recognition that it could deliver important environmental improvements.
“Unfortunately, we don’t hear enough about these potential benefits. It’s clear from this survey that more needs to be done to articulate and underscore the significance of the environmental advantages that domestically produced onshore shale gas offers.”
Outgoing Conservative MP, Tim Yeo, has previously said that the ‘green’ case for shale gas not been made effectively enough.
Ranked in order of significance, water pollution, climate change worries, and a fear about inadequate regulation emerged as the top three concerns of respondents opposed to shale gas.
Asked specifically about regulation, 13% thought it would be better here, 29% worse, and 57% about the same as other countries where shale gas extraction is already taking place.
39% of these respondents said they would be more likely to support shale gas extraction if were to help displace imported LNG and therefore cut emissions.
35% said they would be more likely to support shale gas if it were used as a full or partial replacement for coal in electricity generation, cutting air pollution and climate change emissions, and 32% said they were more likely to support it as a companion fuel to help overcome the problems of intermittency associated with renewables.
In addition, the survey found that 22% of those opposed to shale gas extraction were more likely to support it if it helped to secure Britain’s energy supplies, with 32% of these respondents also saying they would be more likely to support shale gas extraction if it boosted energy security specifically by substituting for imported LNG.
The reported results are from a larger pilot survey that examined other aspects of public opinion to shale gas extraction that will be reported soon.