A sovereign wealth fund could be created in the United Kingdom to help protect revenues generated by shale gas extraction, Chancellor George Osborne said on Monday.
The government has suggested that the fund would mainly benefit communities in the north of England — an area where several sites have been identified for shale gas development, and where economic performance lags behind the south.
It would be a way of "making sure this money is not squandered on day-to-day spending," the chancellor told BBC Radio 4's Today program.
Plans for U.K. shale gas development are still on the drawing board. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey explained that the proposed fund would be set up once commercial production of shale gas gets under way.
"It's about storing the financial benefits of shale production and putting it towards a low-carbon energy future," he added.
Hydraulic fracturing projects to access shale gas in the U.K. face strong opposition, with anti-fracking groups staging protests at a number of sites over fears that the process is linked to earthquakes and water pollution.
Helen Rimmer, a spokeswoman for environmental group Friends of the Earth, described the sovereign wealth fund proposal as "a desperate attempt to win over communities."
"A far better solution for the northern economy is to invest in renewables and energy efficiency, which could create thousands of new jobs for the region and tackle climate change at the same time," she told the BBC.
Estimates by the British Geological Survey suggest that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas trapped in rocks beneath the north of England. Test drilling licenses have been granted in Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.