Fracking Stirs Protests in the U.K.

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Recent geological studies have indicated that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas may lie in tight shale formations in the U.K. The government has issued some exploration permits to drillers that are trying actively to determine whether the gas is really where the studies say it is and it can be economically extracted by using the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques developed in the United States.

Not everyone is delighted at the prospect. Protests are planned for this weekend at a drilling site operated by Cuadrilla Resources near the town of Balcombe in West Sussex. A group called “No Dash for Gas” is planning to add hundreds of people to local residents and other activists already demonstrating at the site. Cuadrilla has announced that it will halt its operations and will not resume drilling until the company believes it is safe to do so, according to a report in the Guardian.

While protests are aimed at stopping fracking before it really starts in Britain, the government has proposed offering generous tax incentives to drillers. The proposal would cut production taxes from an existing rate of 62% to 30%. The government also is hoping that an offer of £100,000 to towns near exploratory wells and a promise of 1% of revenues from production will stop the protests.

According to the Guardian, public opinion in Britain is divided. Some 44% of Britons say they support fracking in the country while 30% oppose it and the rest are undecided. When asked if they would support fracking in their local area, opponents rise to 40%, equal to the number of supporters.