Fracking 'is a God-given chance' for Kent, UKIP leader Nigel Farage declares on visit to Dover and Deal
Nigel Farage enjoys a pint on a visit to Deal
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said Kent should accept the need for fracking plants because shale gas represents a "God-given" opportunity to bring down energy bills and boost manufacturing.
He also said the risks associated with exploring for shale gas and drilling were no worse than those linked to east Kent's coal mining industry 30 years ago.
His comments come as Kent County Council moves to quell concerns about planning applications for three exploratory drilling licences planning officials are weighing up in east Kent, saying they were not for gas.
However, if the licences are for oil, those behind them may also believe that the test sites could contain shale gas.
Mr Farage, speaking on a visit to Dover and Deal, said fracking was a gift horse the country could not afford to turn away from.
He said: "We have a gift horse and it is called shale gas and the potential it has is massive in two ways: there are 5m households living in fuel poverty which means they struggle to pay their bills. Second, manufacturing industry needs electricity but because of renewable obligations, their fuel price is 10 to 15% higher than it should be; on top of that they have to purchase carbon credits for their emissions.
"Shale gas in America has drastically reduced the price of domestic energy by up to and exceeding 50%. So here is our opportunity to get out of fuel poverty and to get our manufacturing companies a shot in the arm. I believe we must go for it."
UKIP leader Nigel Farage at Deal seafront
He downplayed the risks, saying they were arguably no worse than those connected with coal mining.
"Every extractive industry brings risk; whether it is quarrying or, as we had in east Kent, coal mines," said Mr Farage. "With coal mining, there were risks of methane leaks and subsidence and threats of water pollution.
"I am not being cavalier about this, but if you look at the scale of shale gas production in America and the environmental risk downside, you realise it is very, very small.
"You can never say it is zero; nothing in life has a zero risk. But the size of the fracking plants and what is left after the wells have been capped is something that compared to the blights of our modern life is very small and very inconsequential.
"People in Kent should ask themselves a question: would they be prepared to put up with a couple of fracking sites, which cover about an acre - is that the future or is it wind turbines all over our county?
"I am absolutely clear on this: it is a God-given opportunity to help poor people and British industry."
Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals into wells under high pressure to force the gas from the rock.
- Click here for more Deal news
- Click here for more news from across the county