MP’s backing for fracking

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ENERGY minister Greg Barker has re-iterated his public backing of the controversial practice of fracking following weeks of demonstrations in Sussex.

The Battle MP, who is the Government’s head of Energy and Climate Change, first moved to reassure fellow MPs back in 2010, after being quizzed by Labour as to his department’s approach to the technique.

At the time he was quoted as saying the department had “no objection to the use of this technique,” as long as stringent environment and planning procedures had been adhered to.

Since then the issue has become front page news, with a mass protest still taking place in the West Sussex village of Balcombe.

Fracking involves drilling down into the earth and firing a high pressure water mixture at rock to release the gas inside.

Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock to allow the gas to flow to the head of a well.

The controversy surrounding the process is based on environment fears, with some suggesting chemicals used could find their way into the local water supply.

The vast amount of water needed for fracking and how it is transported to individual sites is also an area of concern and it has been claimed fracking could create small earth tremors.

Much of this is disputed by energy companies looking to exploit shale gas and when asked if his position had changed as a result of the high profile opposition, Mr Barker reaffirmed his belief that fracking is safe.

He told the Observer: “If undertaken to the highest environmental standards fracking could be of huge value to the UK.”

He was then asked whether he would be as supportive of any scheme earmarked for his own constituency – with reports circulating that Sussex as a county could be sitting on a wealth of shale gas.

The Tory MP added: “Any specific, individual project would have to be appropriate to the site and subject to stringent local planning approval.

“However there are no applications whatsoever currently in the pipeline or even pending for our area.”

But it may turn out not to be Mr Barker’s problem for much longer.

A report in the Daily Telegraph last week looking at the winners and losers of a mooted cabinet shake-up by David Cameron name-checked Mr Barker as someone who is likely to make way for new talent.

Amber Rudd, the MP for Hastings and Rye, was highlighted as one of the Conservative MP’s who can be confident of promotion.

Earlier this year Mr Barker gave a number of interviews in which he suggested the Government would be introducing incentives to try and encourage businesses to make wider use of renewable energies.