The heated debate over fracking was ignited once again today after Chancellor George Osborne confirmed plans for a shale gas “sovereign wealth fund” to boost the north of England.
The Chancellor reiterated that the Government wanted to encourage the development of shale gas – a move yet to be approved by Lancashire planners.
Mr Osborne yesterday used his autumn statement to confirm he was in favour of a new investment fund to be created from shale gas tax revenues that will be reinvested locally.
Friends of the Earth accused Mr Osborne of putting “powerful interests and big polluters ahead of our health, homes and wellbeing.”
Lancashire campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “People in the North West won’t be fooled by yet another attempt from the Government to buy their support for fracking.
“There is no evidence that fracking will reduce energy bills and improve energy security, and the jobs have been vastly over-hyped.
“The North West needs investment in top-class renewable energy resources and in energy efficiency, which would do more for jobs, the climate and a secure energy future.”
Professor Michael Bradshaw of Warwick Business School said: “This is laudable, and one wonders why the UK never did it with North Sea revenues, but it is premature in the extreme, as we do not yet know if we have a commercial opportunity.”
Lancashire County Council will decide early next year whether to aprove gas exploration company Cuadrilla’s applications to drill at sites in Roseacre and Little Plumpton in the Fylde countryside.
Many business leaders are convinced that the shale gas industry could give Lancashire a much-needed jobs boost through direct work as well as in the supply chain.
A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We are delighted with George Osborne’s announcement that a new investment fund will be created from shale tax revenues and will be reinvested locally in Lancashire and elsewhere in the north of England.”