Decision is due on whether Cuadrilla can continue exploration in Lancashire after two earthquakes
Campaigners have raised fears that the government is poised to give the green light to shale gas exploration in the UK in a decision due on Thursday.
Moves by the gas company Cuadrilla to exploit the unconventional gas in Lancashire were put on hold 18 months ago after the process of “fracking”, which uses high-pressure liquid to split rock and extract gas, caused two small earthquakes.
The company believes it could supply a quarter of the UK’s gas needs from the resource in Lancashire, leaving the country less reliant on foreign imports from Qatar or Russia.
The Treasury has already signalled its support for the budding industry, proposing tax relief for shale gas, and unveiling a gas generation strategy that potentially paves the way for a new “dash for gas”.
But environmentalists warn that a continued reliance on gas would prevent the UK meeting targets to cut emissions and tackle climate change, and that shale has no place in the move to a low-carbon economy.
Concerns have also been raised, following widespread exploitation of shale resources in the US, that it can cause local environmental problems including polluting water supplies and damaging development.
The Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “A green light to fracking would spell bad news for local communities and their environment, jeopardise UK climate change targets and help keep the nation hooked on dirty gas for decades.
“Gambling on shale gas is a risk we don’t need to take – developing our huge clean power potential and cutting energy waste will create jobs, reduce our fossil fuel dependency and keep the lights on.”
Both the industry and activists are waiting for a decision on Thursday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change on shale gas operations.
A decision on whether Cuadrilla can resume fracking and testing flows of gas, which will allow it to produce data on the extent of the resource in Lancashire, will have consequences for other companies keen to potentially exploit the resource elsewhere in the UK.