At a Telegraph hosted Chopper’s Politics event at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Rees-Mogg described the current 0.5 magnitude earthquake limit for fracking “ridiculously low” and suggested that to see if there was public support for fracking, companies could go “door to door, as politicians do” to ask people for consent. Rees-Mogg said that if the companies get “50% plus one in favour” then they “should be able to go ahead.”
This comes after the government formally ended a three year moratorium on fracking last month, which was originally put in place after earth tremors in Lancashire caused concern for public safety and strong local opposition to the practise. In the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto, the party said it would not support fracking "unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely".
A British Geological Society (BGS) peer-reviewed report, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to advise on the latest scientific evidence on seismic activity associated with fracking found that predicting earthquakes remains a “scientific challenge”, and added that there are “significant gaps in our knowledge” in regard to whether there are sites which might be at a substantially lower risk of seismic activity than Lancashire.
Rees-Mogg also made headlines for his comment at the same event that he’d be “delighted” to have fracking in his back garden. He added: “If we do what I am suggesting on shale gas, you will be doing a public service by having it in your back garden. But you will also get paid for it. So both the country wins, and you win.”
Rees-Mogg also suggested that the “environment wins” as fracking is “lower carbon emissions”, sarcastically adding that the only people who are anti-fracking are “socialists and Caroline Lucas” and “that makes my heart bleed”.
Caroline Lucas responded on Twitter: “No, Jacob Rees-Mogg. It's not just ‘socialists’ and me who don't want fracking. Tory MPs don't want it. Tory Ministers don't want it. Local communities don't want it. The general public don't want it. The planet doesn't want it.”
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Jamie Peters, described Rees-Mogg’s comments at the fringe event as “out of touch”.
He said: “Communities across the country overwhelmingly oppose fracking because it causes earthquakes, industrialises the countryside and contributes to the growing climate emergency, while doing almost nothing to reduce soaring energy bills.
“Any attempt to bypass local democracy and force fracking on local people will simply make it even more unpopular, including in Conservative constituencies.
“Fossil fuels are outdated, dirty and costly. Ministers should focus on real solutions to the energy challenges we face by prioritising insulation and home-grown renewables - which are also cheap, clean and supported by the public."