The conundrum is this. What comes first? The national economy – and the need for Britain to have sufficient supplies of gas to power homes and businesses – or “England’s green and pleasant land” immortalised by poet William Blake’s Jerusalem?
There are no easy compromises. Just as coal mining’s legacy continues to blight landscapes, it’s the same with modern sources of energy. Yet the residual scepticism over nuclear power, and hostility towards onshore wind turbines, is nothing compared to the very heated views that are engendered by fracking.
Even though Brexit is the defining national challenge, fracking is Yorkshire’s totemic issue, hence this newspaper’s special week-long investigation, beginning today, into its pros and cons. Yet, like so many issues facing the country, the Government’s mixed messages only blur the policy debate with Michael Gove’s environmentalism at odds with Business Secretary Greg Clark’s acceptance of Third Energy’s plans for Kirby Misperton subject to financial assurances.
And, in addition to legitimate environmental concerns, there’s another issue. Though the Government merged the business and energy departments for understandable reasons, well-intended policies like the Industrial Strategy will stall unless the country’s energy policy is fit for purpose. For, unless the necessary infrastructure is in place, the lights will go out. The question therefore, if the Government ever gets around to addressing the key issue of energy security, is whether fracking, if safe, is part of the solution or not.