ONE OF Yorkshire’s newest MPs has told of his forthcoming trip to find out first-hand how fracking is affecting people in America, as a UK government study revealed public faith in the controversial practice is at a new low.
Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake, jets off on a self-funded, five-day trip to Philadelphia - a US fracking hotspot - in late September where he will ask community groups and local authority members how fracking has affected them.
Only a fifth of people in the UK (21 per cent) back extracting shale gas here; the lowest level of support recorded by official government surveys to date. Some 28 per cent opposed fracking and 46 per cent expressed no opinion either way, the survey of 2,118 UK households found.
Mr Hollinrake, who was elected as an Member of Parliament in May, said he was open-minded about fracking.
“If there’s a safe way to produce energy that doesn’t industrialise the countryside, that is domestic, it is wrong to dismiss it out of hand. We are far too reliant on energy from trouble zones in the East and Russia and we would much rather be self-sufficient, and ideally that would be through renewable energy sources but that is something that is a long way off, so if we can produce our own natural gas it would be the right thing to do to explore this opportunity.”
Mr Hollinrake, whose constituency is the subject of a shale gas exploration application at Kirby Misperton, said: “The whole debate is quite polarised and I want to see what is going on first-hand.
“I will be speaking to community groups in that area to get to the heart of the matter and how it is affecting local people.
“I don’t think we can use the US as a direct comparable as to how we explore shale gas in the UK. Some countries where fracking takes place have made mistakes and we need to learn from them, so where they have gone right and what’s gone wrong.”
He said his findings will be reported to the community in Kirby Misperton, Ryedale, council planning officers and government ministers.
An application by Third Energy to frack in the North Yorkshire village was withdrawn earlier this year after North Yorkshire County Council raised concerns over the proposal, but a new application has since been submitted.
Mr Hollinrake added: “I see shale gas exploration as an opportunity but if it compromises safety and the countryside it would be the wrong thing.”