Andy Shaw, St John’s Grove, Wakefield
Retired vicar Reverend Michael Roberts has scored a little victory.
He challenged the myths promoted by environmentalist campaigners, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and won.
A fundraising leaflet fell out of his weekly copy of Private Eye stating that hydraulic-fracturing to extract shale gas (fracking) kills people. Rev. Roberts teamed up with retired physics teacher Ken Wilkinson to submit a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Together, they challenged FoE’s claim that fracking poisons water supplies, causes cancer and destroys the countryside.
The ASA found that the FoE claims were contradicted by the wealth of evidence available. They ordered FoE to stop raising funds by promoting scare stories and presenting lies to gain support.
The retired Reverend was once a paid-up supporter of FoE. He thought, as many do, that the group funds schemes that preserve the natural environment. He was spurred into action when FoE falsely claimed that fracking would destroy the area in which he lived and fabricated the potential risks.
Although anti-fracking activists rarely garner local support, they do have allies in high places.
In January last year they convinced Wakefield Council to ban fracking in the heart of the now defunct Yorkshire coalfields.
The council debate was dominated by myths promoted by FoE. Councillors queued up to denounce any ‘claimed’ benefits, like jobs or reduced energy prices.
The leader of Wakefield Council, councillor Peter Box, bizarrely invoked the forthcoming extinction of gorillas resulting from climate change as the final reason to impose a moratorium (search “Wakefield Council kills an industry” on YouTube). The vote against fracking was unanimous.
The case for a prosperous society shaped by human ingenuity and fuelled by cheap, reliable energy has simply not been put. Politicians who understand the benefits are timid and the Labour Party is in thrall to anti-development campaigners.
It has been left to energy companies, like Caudrilla and plucky local people, like Reverend Roberts to challenge the propaganda and put forward the positive case.
It is estimated that the UK has 25 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, one of the richest shale gas deposits in the world.
There is an estimated £70 billion worth of shale gas in South Wales alone . Fracking could provide a boom in cheap energy at a time when the North Sea oil reserves are drying up.
A boom in cheap gas would reduce energy costs for us all and end fuel poverty.
In the US, where shale gas extraction has created a boom, citizens have seen their gas bills fall by 50 per cent.
ONS statistics in the UK estimate that 25,000 pensioners die unnecessarily each winter because they can’t afford adequate heating.
Fracking could fuel a local boom and more broadly generate well paid jobs from new industries attracted by cheap energy.
Well-paid engineering and maintenance jobs would be created for local people in our de-industrialised area which currently sees growth only in low paid, insecure jobs.
The US State of North Dakota has created a two billion dollars fund based on shale gas state taxes in a single year.
Funding for local councils in shale gas areas of the UK would more than offset the current central government cuts.
Come on Wakefield Council, get a grip and stop cow-towing to the scare-mongers.
People in the north want jobs and economic growth. Retired vicars seem to have more guts than you do.