The celebratory article by Dr Keith Baker, a research associate in sustainable urban environments (Scottish Energy News, 10 Oct 2017) sadly typifies the reaction of many people ignorant of energy reality.
The ‘experts’ to whose hearts Dr. Baker believes the Holyrood SNP administration’s proposal to ban onshore gas extraction will bring ‘jubilation’ must be the PR and spin experts of the renewables lobby and their supporters in organisations such as WWF.
The facts about the supposed risks of shale gas extraction should need no repetition.
Two groups of actual experts in relevant areas have unequivocally pronounced the procedures safe under UK rules.
If these findings are to be set aside because many people have been persuaded to believe otherwise as a result of a concerted campaign by unelected pressure groups, we see no point in restating them here.
The consequences of allowing this sort of campaign to decide policy have been admirably set out by Jim Sillars, one time leader of the SNP, in a letter to the Daily Mail. If this is a ‘win’ it is not a win for ‘the evidence’ as Dr Baker claims, but a win for spin.
Natural gas is the cheapest and most efficient means of heating homes and, wherever it is available by pipeline, which is now nearly every urban area in Britain, is almost universally used for this purpose.
The main alternative, electricity, is three times as expensive and where it has to be used, mostly in rural areas without gas supplies, its cost is probably the major contributor to rural fuel poverty.
Indeed it is quite astonishing that Dr Baker, who has done research on fuel poverty, should insult people struggling to pay their fuel bills by referring to the benefits of shale gas as ‘only economic’: 80% of Scottish houses use natural gas for heating and some 900,000 are in fuel poverty. A home-based gas supply at least provided the option of cheaper supplies and in the longer term better health for them and their children.
There has been the inevitable pious posturing about Scotland’s ‘moral responsibility’ as a ‘world leader in the fight against climate change’. Natural gas will be burnt in homes here regardless of its origin so there are no justifications on emissions reduction. Jim Sillars thinks that the failure to recognise how fracking would have helped provoke economic growth as madness.
The classic piece of misinformation used by activists was that water supplies would be contaminated. Dr Baker clearly fell for it.
Edinburgh’s water supplies come from 40 miles south in the Southern Uplands and 30 miles south from the area potentially that could be fracked. City sources are far removed from fracking areas.
Finally how quickly it is forgotten that Putin turned the screw on Ukraine by shutting off gas supplies and the fearful shudder that went through Europe at that time. That was the ultimate reason for using fracking here; to protect ourselves against external blackmail.
This government has thrown what should have been protective caution to the winds.
Professor Jack Ponton
Professor Tony Trewavas
Scientific Alliance Scotland
13 Oct 2017