Govt Accused Of 'Hyping Up' Fracking Hopes
The Government has been accused of "hyping up expectations" over the extraction of shale gas.
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint told Sky's Murnaghan programme gas was an "important part of our energy mix" but "more stringent benchmark testing" a year before drilling starts was needed.
Obtaining gas from our own shores and on land was "not a bad idea" because the UK had become a net importer of gas over the last decade, she said.
But before fracking could begin, "we first and foremost have to be assured that it is being done in a safe and sustainable way", Ms Flint added.
She told Sky News the coalition has "taken a tack to really hype up expectations about shale gas".
"I think only last week some geologists just said well actually it may be more difficult than we think even if it's there to get it out the ground," she said.
"I don't think the Government have helped the debate.
"They've also posed shale gas against renewables and even against looking at biogas, gas from waste and that hasn't helped this debate.
"I think the public want a common sense approach to this, one that is reasonable, that understands that we need gas, but if we're going to discover it through shale, we do it in a way that's safe and sound."
This week's Queen's Speech is expected to include a bill which would change trespass laws to allow shale gas exploration firms to drill below private property without requiring the owners' permission.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also told Sky's Dermot Murnaghan the Government was "focusing on the fantasy of fracking".
Ms Bennett said: "We're obviously opposed to that because we're opposed to the whole idea of fracking.
"I think it's really a demonstration of how this Government - which we might recall once claimed to be the greenest Government ever, which is now a very sad, sick joke.
"This Government is focusing on the fantasy of fracking, when what it should be doing is catching up with the rest of the developed world on renewables where we are being left further and further behind on and also getting serious about energy conservation."
Francis Egan, chief executive of fracking company Cuadrilla, has previously told The Times the industry would stop completely unless the Government allows it to drill under people's property without consent.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have hailed the potential benefits of fracking.
Last week the coalition launched a consultation on whether or not to change the trespass law.
There is strong resistance to this from environmental groups and residents in areas where there are large shale gas reserves.