PM puts faith in fracking

David Cameron has thrown his weight behind fracking, in a move which risks alienating the Conservative leader from many of his grassroots constituents.

The prime minister used an article for the Telegraph newspaper to set out the case for the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract shale gas.

"If we don't back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills and make our country more competitive," Cameron wrote.

"Without it, we could lose ground in the tough global race."

Britain has significant potential to develop its estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas resources, but the process – which triggered minor earthquakes in the Blackpool area when first attempted – is proving deeply worrying to a growing number of Tories.

Two weeks ago Lord Howell, George Osborne's father-in-law, told peers that fracking should be confined to "uninhabited and desolate areas" of the country – as in "the north-east where there's plenty of room".

He suggested the "trucks, and the delivery, and the roads, and the disturbance" were all of concern in Britain's "beautiful natural areas".

"I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery," the prime minister added.

"Shale gas pads are relatively small – about the size of a cricket pitch. But more than that, similar types of drilling have been taking place for decades in this country without any real protest."

Cameron argued the potential the development of Britain's shale gas resources to bring energy consumers' bills down meant the opportunity is too good to miss.

He promised a transparent planning process and said communities would accept proposals if they felt they had a say in the decision.

Earlier this week Cameron said communities would receive a lump sum of £1 million for allowing fracking in their area to go ahead, before his advisers clarified the payment was actually £100,000.

"We cannot afford to miss out on fracking," his article concluded.

"For centuries, Britain has led the way in technological endeavour: an industrial revolution ahead of its time, many of the most vital scientific discoveries known to mankind, and a spirit of enterprise and innovation that has served us well down the decades.

"Fracking is part of this tradition, so let's seize it."