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Net zero adviser in clash with Truss over fracking

Fracking ban lifted Liz Truss energy
Fracking ban lifted Liz Truss energy

Liz Truss's net zero adviser has risked a clash with Liz Truss after he warned fracking will be a "non-starter".

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said he thought the practice was “not an opportunity for Britain” compared to emerging renewable technologies.

His comments appear at odds with the Prime Minister and her Government, who have talked up the prospects of fracking as it lifts the ban on the practice as part of a rush to shore up domestic supplies of energy.

Fracking, which involves blasting sand and water underground to release gas trapped between rocks, was in its infancy in the UK when it was banned in 2019 due to concerns about earthquake risk.

Lifting the ban last week, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, said the UK needed to “explore all avenues available” to boost energy security.

“It’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas,” he added.

Mr Skidmore has been appointed by Ms Truss to lead a review into how to meet the UK’s legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

He said he did not plan to look at fracking in the review as it was “not an opportunity for Britain”.

He added: “I want to be looking at how we can focus on all these technologies that are going to deliver enormous growth.

“That's not been the case with fracking, in the past. It's had 12 years of support from BEIS [the business department].

“I just don't think fracking is a priority. It won't provide the economic opportunities in the same way that renewables does.

“I mean, wind is now nine times cheaper than gas; there's a massive opportunity to expand. And politics is about priorities. And fracking, as has just been published a couple of days ago, can only provide 5pc of the UK gas supply in five years. So I see it as a non-starter.”

Mr Skidmore's position contrasts sharply with that of the Prime Minister. Liz Truss told parliament on September 8 it was “vital that we take steps to increase our domestic energy supply”.

“We will end the moratorium on extracting our huge reserves of shale which could get gas flowing as soon as six months where there is local support for it,” she added.

The Government says the economic context has changed since the target was put in place in 2019, with gas prices soaring amid gas shortages worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Skidmore's net zero review was officially launched on Monday and will look at how the goal can be reached while delivering economic growth, energy security, and minimising costs.

Mr Skidmore, a former energy minister who supports the next zero target, said: “I don't want net zero to be seen as something that's done to people, that's been sort of forced on people.

“I want people to be able to embrace it and see the benefits that that will bring them just in the same way that people embrace the internet and embraced mobile phones, as technologies that make their lives easier.”

The founder of fracking company Cuadrilla, Dr Chris Cornelius, told The Guardian last week the UK’s geology was “very challenging” and he did not think there was “any chance of fracking in the UK in the near term”.