Govt poll reveals support for clean energy rises to 80%, while just 29% say they want to see more shale gas extraction
By Gerard Wynn
British people are far more supportive of wind and solar power than nuclear power and shale gas, found a government survey which showed the public at odds with the Coalition government’s energy priorities.
The government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) publishes each April an annual survey of public attitudes.
The latest survey results contradicted the direction in government energy policy, in favour of shale gas and nuclear power over onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable power.
The survey found that 80% of the public support renewable power, compared with 42% in support of nuclear power and 29% supporting shale gas extraction.
Also of possible concern for policymakers, some low carbon technologies were clearly failing to grab the public’s imagination.
For example, three fifths of the population had never heard of carbon capture and storage (CCS), considered by experts a vital, although unproven, technology to avoid carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Of particular concern, the proportion of the population claiming not to have heard of CCS had actually increased, to 60% from 59% in March 2013.
The findings suggest that the government is failing to convince the British public of its present flagship energy policy, to create a shale gas economy.
The government last Thursday reported a “huge prize” for the UK from investment in shale gas, including a full supply chain worth up to £33 billion by 2032, and over 64,000 jobs.
That was the same day that the energy minister, Michael Fallon, announced that the Conservative Party, the senior partner in the present Coalition government, would scrap support for onshore wind if it won the general election next year. The government recently gave the green light to support for a major new nuclear power plant.
Latest annual survey results on public attitudes to energy and climate change are out http://t.co/FmmsHeriWD
— DECC (@DECCgovuk) April 29, 2014
The latest survey was conducted using face-to-face in-home interviews in March with a representative sample of 2,040 UK households.
The survey showed that most Britons were undecided whether or not to support shale gas, suggesting that a campaign raising awareness of its benefits could be helpful, in one glimmer of encouragement for supporters.
Already far more people were now aware of hydraulic fracturing, the shale gas extraction technology where liquids and sand are pumped into wells under pressure, to fracture shale rock and so release trapped natural gas.
“Three quarters of the public (75%) were to some degree aware of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (fracking) in March 2014, a significant increase since March 2013 (52%) and June 2012 (42%), when the question was first asked,” the survey report said.
But most people were undecided whether or not to support it.
Some 29% of people supported shale gas, compared with 22% opposed, while 44% of people were undecided.
By contrast, 80% of people supported renewables, while some 4% were opposed, and 14% were undecided.
Concern about climate change was growing slowly, up to 68% of the population (very or fairly concerned) from 66% last year.
However, the proportion of people who thought that climate change was mostly caused by human activity, as was all but confirmed by a recent UN climate panel report, had fallen to 35% of people from 38%.