Thursday, 30 January 2014

Fracking would “bring wealth and prosperity and jobs”... but “we have failed so far to win the public argument.”

There has been very little public consultation on how to go about fracking:

Pro-fracking planning reforms rushed through despite strong opposition, Lords warn

Homeowners will no longer be individually notified of plans to drill under their homes, as part of changes that Lords suggest received inadequate public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny

Ministers rushed through pro-fracking planning reforms without proper scrutiny and despite overwhelming opposition, a Lords committee has found. Under the reforms, which came into force as secondary legislation earlier this month, homeowners will no longer be individually notified of a planning application by an energy company seeking to drill or frack beneath their home.

Opponents fear the change, which still requires final parliamentary approval, could lead to fracking taking place without homeowners’ knowledge.

Nick Boles, the planning minister, said in December that having to notify every homeowner was “unnecessarily excessive” and instead, companies would only be “required to publish a notice in a local newspaper and put up site displays in local parishes”.

A Lords committee has now urged the Lords to look again at the reforms, raising a series of “shortcomings” with how they were rushed through and suggesting the policy had not been “adequately thought through” and may be “imperfectly achieve their policy objectives”.

Public consultation on the changes went on for just six weeks - half the time that the government’s own guidelines suggest would have been appropriate for a “new and contentious” policy such as procedures related to fracking, the Lords secondary legislation scrutiny committee said.

Planning ministers then laid the ‘order’ to introduce the changes before Parliament on December 20, while MPs were away on Christmas holiday, and brought it into force on January 13, a week after they came back, giving “scant opportunity” for scrutiny.

Pro-fracking planning reforms rushed through despite strong opposition, Lords warn - Telegraph

The public seem to be getting even less enamoured with fracking:

Public support for fracking in Britain falls for a second time

Poll shows a further increase in shale gas opposition since protests last summer – despite prime minister's support

David Cameron is losing the battle for public opinion over fracking for shale gas because of high-profile public protests against the controversial technique, polling suggests.
The latest results of a long-running survey on British attitudes towards shale gas, undertaken by YouGov and commissioned by the University of Nottingham, show an increase in the number of people opposed to fracking and a decrease in those in favour for the second time since protests at Balcombe in West Sussex last August.
The slide in support comes despite several major speeches by the prime minister in support of shale gas over the same period, including last week's address to the World Economic Forum in Davos where he said the UK needed to "embrace the opportunities of shale gas" even though he understood "the concerns some people have".
Shale gas chart
Public support for fracking steadily grew from June 2012 to a high of 58% in favour and just 18% against in July 2013, when asked the question: "should shale gas extraction in the UK be allowed?". But after the protests against an oil-drilling site run by Cuadrilla at Balcombe – which saw several thousand people marching and dozens of arrests including that of Green MP, Caroline Lucas – the number in favour fell in September to 55% and has dropped again this month to 53%. Opposition has also risen, to 24% in September and 27% this month.
Public support for fracking in Britain falls for a second time | Environment | theguardian.com
Public Pressure Puts U.K. Fracking On The Defensive | ThinkProgress

And the Environment Secretary recognises this:

Ministers have 'failed to convince the public' over fracking, Owen Paterson admits

Environment secretary says he wants to see shale gas exploited "all over rural parts of the UK" but admits "there is a large problem with public opinion"

Ministers have “failed to convince the public” over the merits of fracking and have lost ground to campaigners with “exciting” clothes and banners, Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has admitted.

Mr Paterson said on Tuesday that he would like to see “shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK” on the grounds it would “bring wealth and prosperity and jobs”.

But, appearing before a Lords committee on the economic impact of shale gas, he said: “There is a large problem with public opinion, where those who are opposed have made all the running…. frankly, we are behind the curve.

“We have failed so far to win the public argument.”

Mr Paterson was speaking as new research from the University of Nottingham showed that levels of opposition to fracking had increased in recent months, despite the Prime Minister’s pledge of benefits for local communities.

Ministers have 'failed to convince the public' over fracking, Owen Paterson admits - Telegraph

In other words, despite public disquiet, the Minister would still like to go full steam ahead with fracking:
Fracking 'will bring prosperity' (From Mid Devon Star)
Environment Secretary says fracking technique would boost jobs and growth | Western Morning News

And big government in the shape of the EU is also pushing for fracking - as long as it replaces other carbon fuels:

Meanwhile, big energy feels that the biggest type of energy in terms of investments needed - nuclear - should be given precedence over fracking:
Britain needs more nuclear not fracking, says IEA - Telegraph

See also:
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy.. at a local level?
Futures Forum: Lobbying: big business and big government in East Devon

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