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26 Oct, 2022 15:35

Sunak reinstates UK fracking ban

The new prime minister’s move reverses a controversial decision by his predecessor, Liz Truss
Sunak reinstates UK fracking ban

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that he will reinstate a moratorium on fracking, a month after Liz Truss lifted the long-standing ban. While only a minority of Britons support the practice, Truss argued that fracking was critical to the UK’s energy security.

Speaking in Parliament, Sunak said that he “stand[s] by the manifesto,” referring to the Conservative Party’s 2019 pledge to place a moratorium on shale gas extraction. Downing Street confirmed shortly afterwards that the moratorium would indeed be reinstated.

While the government of Boris Johnson honored the 2019 commitment, then-Prime Minister Liz Truss lifted the ban in September, arguing that Britain needed to boost domestic gas production to tame the rise in energy costs brought about by its sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. 

Her policy change was opposed by many Conservative MPs, whose rural constituents overwhelmingly oppose the practice. The Labour Party also opposes fracking, and while Truss managed to marshal enough Tory MPs to oppose a Labour motion to permanently ban onshore extraction last week, she was accused of strong-arming them into taking her side, and resigned a day later.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technology which allows oil and gas to be extracted from shale rock by breaking it up with water and chemicals. The 2019 moratorium was imposed after research revealed that the procedure can cause earthquakes.

Sunak’s reinstatement of the ban marks the latest reversal of one of Truss’ highly controversial policies. The recently-departed PM reversed her own economic plan earlier this month after its announcement sent markets into freefall and crashed the British pound. 

While Sunak’s turn away from Truss’ fracking policy aligns with Labour’s demands, his decision has been highlighted by the party as an example of Conservative inconsistency on the matter. “Whatever their latest position, the truth is that the Tories have shown that they cannot be trusted on the issue of fracking,” Labour’s shadow climate secretary, Ed Miliband, said on Wednesday.