Revive fracking to tackle rising energy bills, net zero sceptic Tory MPs tell Boris Johnson

Fracking must be supported in the UK to tackle rapidly rising energy bills, a group of Tory MPs including Yorkshire’s Philip Davies have suggested.

In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph organised by Craig Mackinlay MP, the chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs, the group call for the removal of VAT and environmental levies on domestic energy and to end the Climate Change Levy on business energy use.

It comes among rising fears that average household energy bills could double by April following record gas prices and the collapse of multiple smaller energy suppliers.

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The 20 signatories, who include Shipley MP Philip Davies and his wife former Cabinet minister Esther McVey, along with influential Brexiteer Steve Baker, argue there should also be “a new approach to our energy security” including a return to shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking.

Shipley MP Philip Davies is among those to have signed the letterShipley MP Philip Davies is among those to have signed the letter
Shipley MP Philip Davies is among those to have signed the letter

The letter states that fracking in America has helped keep energy bills for US consumers at a lower level.

It says: “On the net-zero strategy, gas and oil will continue to play a big part in our energy needs for a generation. We are seeing the effects of high gas demand and limited supply in the international markets, pushing wholesale energy prices to historic highs. We hardly need to point out the risks of relying on other countries for our energy needs, especially those hostile to us.

"This is an appeal for a new approach to our energy security. This leads to the inescapable conclusion of the need to expand North Sea exploration and for shale gas extraction to be supported.

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“It is no accident that American consumers pay a mere tenth of what we do for gas.

“There seems little sense, on any environmental assessment, in importing gas and thereby reducing energy security, increasing risks of price volatility, adversely affecting our balance of payments and exporting jobs.”

Fracking was supported by previous Prime Minister Theresa May who insisted such work would be both safe and financially beneficial to residents living close to planned sites in Yorkshire which had been the subject of mass opposition.

Seven companies had Government licences to explore large parts of Yorkshire to see if fracking was feasible. The technique has not been used in the UK since 2011 after it was deemed to have been the cause of earth tremors in Lancashire.

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In November 2019 ahead of the General Election that took place the following month, Boris Johnson placed a moratorium on fracking going ahead in England following a report by the Oil and Gas Authority which found it was not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

The Government's announcement of the pause came with the caveat that it would remain in place "unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here".In November 2021, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng highlighted those findings when asked about the possibility of fracking as a way of tackling rising energy bills.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said there is “enough gas under the ground in the UK to have us totally supplied for the whole country for 150 years”.

He asked: “Why is the Government not prepared to exploit the resources which we have to deal with fuel poverty, to deal with fuel security and to help the levelling-up agenda in poorer parts of England?”

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Mr Kwarteng replied: “We looked at fracking, there were issues with respect to effects on the Richter Scale, earthquakes, that sort of thing, people objected to that and we imposed a moratorium on it.”

Fuel poverty warning for Prime Minister

Many people will soon be pushed into ‘fuel poverty’ by rising energy bills when the energy price cap changes, the MPs’ letter has suggested.

It states: “We have almost uniquely caused our energy prices, through taxation and environmental levies, to increase faster than those of any other competitive country.

“High energy prices are felt most painfully by the lowest paid.

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“Once the current domestic energy price cap is reassessed for implementation in April 2022, the likelihood is that domestic tariffs will increase hugely, feeding directly into a cost-of-living crisis for many and pushing them into what is bluntly called ‘fuel poverty’.”

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