Tax breaks for fracking firms as UK goes 'all out for shale'



British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday promised tax breaks worth millions of pounds to local councils who encourage shale gas development, declaring the country was going "all out for shale".

Cameron announced that local authorities in England will collect all of the tax collected from shale gas sites -? double the current 50 percent figure.

The government calculates that this could be worth up to £1.7 million ($2.8 million, 2 million euros) a year for a typical site.

"We're going all out for shale," Cameron said in a statement released by his Downing Street office.

"It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country."

The government hopes the move will ensure that local communities benefit more from the exploitation of shale gas resources in their area.

The industry last year announced plans for local communities to receive £100,000 when a test well is "fracked" -? and a further 1 percent of revenues if shale gas is discovered.

Fracking involves the blasting open of deep fissures using high pressure water jets in order to collect previously unreachable sources of gas.

Business minister Michael Fallon earlier said Britain had to "embrace the extraordinary opportunities offered by shale gas", despite protests from environmentalists about the possible contamination of groundwater.

"In the Seventies, North Sea oil helped salvage our economy from crippling stagnation," he wrote in the Sun on Sunday.

"We have a similar chance to create tens of thousands of jobs and energy security.

"A mile and more beneath us lies deposits of gas-bearing shale rock with the potential to guarantee energy supplies in an increasingly uncertain and competitive world," he added.

French energy giant Total (NYSE: TOT - news) is later Monday set to reveal plans for fracking exploration in Britain when it takes a share in a licence in the Midlands, the Financial Times reported.

Friends of the Earth senior campaigner Jane Thomas said it was "ironic that a French-owned company is seeking to drill the UK for shale gas when it's banned from fracking in France due to environmental concerns".