The majority of voters in Lancashire want a moratorium on fracking, new research shows.
The area has been earmarked as one of the epicentres of the UK's nascent shale gas industry, but previous drill attempts led to earthquakes, which scientists subsequently linked back to the controversial method.
Now, a survey of 500 Lancashire residents shows that 63% are in favour of a ban on the technology until more research is conducted into the potential impact it will have. Sixty-nine per cent of those quizzed said they wanted more public debate before licenses were awarded.
The poll was conducted by Redshift Research on behalf of the NGO Greenpeace, which says the results show what a toxic issue fracking is, in the run up to the 2015 General Election.
Forty-five per cent of those polled said they would back an anti-fracking candidate, with just 14% aligning behind a pro-fracking one. Fifty-six per cent said that they are against energy companies fracking in Lancashire, with 63% concerned over the decision to allow it to progress to this current stage.
The UK government has been extremely supportive of the fracking industry, particularly in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine which could reduce access to Russian natural gas.
The majority of the UK's gas still comes from the North Sea and while it's thought that just 1% comes directly from Russia, Russian gas giant Gazprom estimates that this figure could be revised up to 15%, when you factor in peak-time imports from Germany and other European countries, which are indirectly Russian.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said that critics display a "lack of understanding" and that he wanted the first shale gas wells to be up and running this year.
However, a recent report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), a government-funded body, found that the benefits had been "oversold" by the UK government. The report said that fracking in Britain would be unlikely to reduce consumer energy bills and that the level of shale gas reserves are unlikely to ever make the country self-sufficient in energy terms.
The report, entitled The UK's Global Gas Challenge, discouraged the government from investing too heavily in fracking, given the need to wean the world off fossil fuels. By the time the UK's shale industry was reaching its peak (2025), the planet may have reached dangerous levels of warming.
It also disparaged efforts to link the UK's shale industry with that in the US, where the "shale gas revolution" has been much heralded. The authors said the US has not earned a quick buck, but rather the boom is the result of years of investment and research.
"The industry in the US likes to proclaim the rapid development of unconventional oil and gas production as an exemplar of the role of small and medium-sized operators and the benefits of the free market system; but, this is only the recent part of the story and the reality is that the US government played a key role in the 1970s and 1980s by supporting basic scientific research and the development of technologies for hydraulic fracturing, and also by providing tax incentives to promote development," they wrote.
Speaking in response to the survey, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Simon Clydesdale said: "The response to this survey is a vote of no-confidence for the fracking industry. They have tried to drown out people's legitimate concerns in a barrage of propaganda and spin but have comprehensively failed.
"Hardly a week goes by without a new scientific study warning of the damaging impact of fracking on our environment, from groundwater contamination, to air pollution and climate-harming emissions. The people of Lancashire are rightly concerned about their county being used as a testing lab for an inexperienced industry that demands a lot from local people and may deliver little or nothing in return.
"Politicians should listen to local people's concerns and resist the shale industry's attempt to hustle them into taking a reckless gamble with the future of their communities."