Shale gas is no more than a long-term possibility for the UK and should not be a key plank of energy policy for the next decade, one of the most senior Liberal Democrats in the cabinet has warned.
Vince Cable, the business secretary, told the Guardian shale gas would not be a reality in the UK for at least a decade, and that energy policies should focus on renewable energy.
His views are at odds with the attitude of many senior members of the Tory party, who have spoken out in favour of shale gas exploitation as a form of indigenous energy that could bring down energy bills and an alternative to investment in renewable energy.
David Cameron, the prime minister, recently announced that the government was going “all out” for shale gas. But Cable was notably cooler, telling the Guardian: “Shale gas is a long-term possibility – no more than that.”
He said renewable energy offered more immediate opportunities. “Big renewable energy commitments in offshore wind, and nuclear – these are things that are actually happening, are going ahead.”
He added: “I do realise there are some people who are a bit carried away with shale gas.”
His comments came as a group of landowners in a national park launched a bid to prevent a company from drilling under their properties.
Residents near the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex, in the South Downs national park, are launching a legal blockade against drilling under their land. Solicitors acting on behalf of the group have written to oil and gas company Celtique Energie and the energy secretary, Ed Davey, to say they explicitly deny permission for the firm to drill horizontally under their properties from a proposed well on land leased from a local landowner.