Boris Johnson reported to be considering ban on new fracking amid fears issue will damage Tories at General Election

Fracking has become an election issue, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he will address the "very considerable anxieties" about shale gas extraction.

With the Oil and Gas Authority expected to report this week on the links between fracking and earthquakes, the Government is reportedly considering using what are expected to be critical findings to call a pause to use of the technology.

Opposition from protesters and public concern over environmental impacts at sites in Yorkshire and elsewhere have long thwarted the ambitions of energy companies and the Government to develop fracking in the UK.

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Protests have erupted at fracking sites in Lancashire.

More properly known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.

The National Audit Office estimates that at least £32.7m has been spent by public bodies since 2011 on dealing with policing, environmental monitoring and planning applications linked to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

North Yorkshire Police spent £740,000 managing protests at Kirby Misperton, with the Home Office reimbursing £614,000, while Nottinghamshire Police spent £900,000 on protests at a proposed site at Misson, near the South Yorkshire border.

Despite this, the watchdog says progress in establishing a shale gas industry in England has been slower than expected, with only three wells fracked to date compared with the Government's target of 20 by the middle of the next decade.

Labour MP Alan Whitehead has questioned the involvement of Rachel Wolf, whose lobbying firm has represented the fracking company Cuadrilla, in writing the Conservative Party manifesto.

In August, fracking by Cuadrilla led to an earthquake in Lancashire, measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale, which rattled doors and windows.

Mr Johnson said: "We will shortly be making an announcement about fracking in view of the very considerable anxieties that are legitimately being raised about the earthquakes that have followed various fracking attempts."

He hinted that a ban could be imminent: "We will certainly be following up on those findings because they are very important and will be of concern."

Daniel Carey-Dawes, Head of Rural Economy & Communities at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “We welcome warmly the Government’s mooted ban on new fracking, which would be a victory for communities, climate and common sense.

"Clearly CPRE’s calls to halt the industrialisation of our life-affirming and precious countryside have been heard at the very highest levels.

"A ban on all new fracking is a step in the right direction but the next government must do much more to tackle the climate emergency with Ministers making it their number one priority for the next Parliament. From transport to agriculture, energy to the economy, the countryside is not just at risk of the climate catastrophe, it also holds many of the solutions.”

Opposition to fracking has almost doubled, with government research showing that 40 per cent of people are against it, up from 21 per cent in 2013. Support for fracking has fallen from 27 per cent to 12 per cent.

Labour has promised to ban fracking "immediately" if it wins the general election. It is also Liberal Democrat policy to ban the technology.