Shropshire should welcome fracking says MP Owen Paterson
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today said he would welcome any bid to start the controversial process of 'fracking' to mine gas reserves under Shropshire – despite there being no plans to do so at present.
The North Shropshire MP said Britain should not depend solely on other alternative energy sources.
And he said he would rather use gas from the former coal mining area in the north of the county than an unreliable supply of energy from Russia or the Middle East.
Fracking, the extraction of gas from shale deposits deep underground, is popular in former coal seam areas from Pennsylvania in the USA to Poland.
Geologists say the biggest underground reserves in Britain are in the Bowland Basin, which covers 11 counties in the Midlands and the north of England, including Shropshire.
Although there are no plans to exploit gas deposits in the county at present, Mr Paterson said there were huge incentives from the government for communities to embrace fracking.
"A percentage of the revenue from fracking will go into the local communities in which fracking takes place," he said. "That money could be used on all kinds of projects to benefit the local area.
"There is no denying that initially there is disruption as the infrastructure to extract the gas is built but once it is up and running the only thing visible above ground will be an oversized shed and a rig that is not overly high. Shropshire is at the bottom end of the shale area and I can see no reason why the county cannot benefit from fracking."
Opposition to energy companies wanting to get at oil and gas reserves beneath a large swathe of the south of England has been fierce. Mr Paterson said recent protests against fracking, such as those in West Sussex, had been extraordinary.
"Shropshire is the birthplace of the industrial revolution and over the years people did not complain about the effect of coalmining on Britain," he said. "This opposition over something that is so unobtrusive is ludicrous.
"I would far rather see us extract gas from under Shropshire that have to depend on what could be unreliable energy supplies from Russia or the Middle East."