The UK public has warmed slightly to fracking, according to a new poll, though approval rates for shale gas exploration remain low when compared to renewable energy.
The survey, conducted by researchers from the University of Nottingham, reveals that approval for shale gas has risen from a low of 18.4%, after high profile anti-fracking protests last year, up to 21% as of September 2014.
However, the poll also asked respondents how important issues relating to the potential environmental and economic impacts of shale gas extraction are to them.
Fracking works by blasting rocks with water and chemicals, which then fracture the rocks and release the shale gas or oil contained within them.
While supporters, like the UK government, say fracking could lower household bills, the process has been linked to water contamination, an increased risk of earthquakes, and leakage of methane at drill sites.
Some 56% of respondents said water contamination would be the single most important issue to them, above falling energy costs, which stood at 40%.
Significantly, the poll found that fewer respondents believe shale gas should be a part of the UK’s future energy mix than they did in July 2013, falling from 62% to 49%. On the other hand, support for renewable energy sources is overwhelming.
Commenting on the findings, the UKOOG, the representative body for the UK Onshore Oil and Gas industry, said it was optimistic that public perception of shale gas would improve “as people become more informed about the benefits”.
“The onshore oil and gas industry continues to work hard to provide opportunities for the public to ask legitimate questions about natural gas from shale development and to see that their questions are answered,” said Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG.
However, environmentalists around the world continue to call for national bans on fracking, like the moratorium imposed in France, as not enough research has been conducted into its impact.