The ASA, the Advertising Standards Authority, ruled in Sept 16 that the Friends of the Earth (FOE) misled the public in a leaflet which claimed fracking can cause cancer. Despite this judgement, it is certainly true that there needs to be a watchdog on everything the shale gas industry does. Fortunately we have one – it is called the Environment Agency (EA). Now, it is clear that in this instance, and I have no doubt in many other of their campaigns, the FOE acted to promote their own interests in a way which was not based on evidence, in short, they actively fell short of honesty. It is also true that while there are some failings in the EA as a watchdog, it is one of the most precautionary regulators in the world.
There is another point to this and that is that the UK is not the USA and the British do have the best and safest technology in the world. Just to demonstrate, one of the British-designed drilling fluids is not toxic and you or I (I have offered) could drink it. I would not advise drinking too much because the clay in it would cause constipation – but it would not poison the drinker.
For those who are concerned about shale, look at the facts and try to make an honest, evidence-based view. Will you conclude that shale gas is without fault or difficulties? You would be foolish. However, you might conclude that UK-produced shale gas is a lot better for the environment and ourselves than any and all of the alternatives currently available. And we really do need more energy and we need it now. Quite often in life, the choice is as with the politicians we vote for – maybe one might not wish to vote for shale gas but actually vote against the alternatives.
Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 14 January 2017