Councillors from across Lancashire representing both County and district councils were offered a different view about Shale Gas than previously heard in County Hall, with a presentation by John Ashton, CBE last Wednesday.
John Ashton, a climate change envoy who served three successive foreign secretaries in Government, gave a presentation about the potential risks associated with Fracking both in terms of the affect on climate change and on the local environment.
“You can be in favour of fixing the climate," John noted as he opened the discussion. "Or you can be in favour of exploiting shale gas. But you can’t be in favour of both at the same time.”
He challenged the arguments of the pro-frackers including the latest one that shale gas will enhance our energy security, by making us more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. This comes at a time that the Prime Minister says that we need shale gas to protect us from ‘gas blackmail’ by the Russians.
However John argued there are several problems with that argument.
“Firstly, the best way to reduce our dependence on imported gas is to reduce our dependence on gas," he argued, "by wasting less energy than we do, generating more of our electricity from renewable technologies and using electricity not gas to heat our homes.
“In any case we cannot get enough shale gas out of the ground to make a significant dent in the amount of gas we need to import, and as far as Russia is concerned the UK actually imports very little gas indeed from them- maximum four per cent .”
“I worry that too many County Councillors have already made their support for shale gas clear, " commented&
Gina Dowding, who represents Lancaster Central after the talk.
"The leaders of the groups on the council have written to the Government to say they want more of the income from it for local communities. But what amount of income is enough to outweigh both the local risks to health and environment as well as increasing climate change?”.
Labour’s Gail Hodson, who had invited John to come to Lancashire, also voiced her concerns on Fracking.
The information coming from the Shale Gas industry has not been consistent, plausible or credible," she fed, "and John’s research and study gives the true likelihood of the effects of the industry on the environment, health and climate change.
"When it comes to relying on information from the shale gas industry itself, they have shown themselves to be as untrustworthy.
John, whopointed out that he is neither a professional campaigner nor lobbyist, summed up his talk with these comments.
“Lancashire now has the chance to put itself at the centre of the new industrial economy of Britain," he enthused, "and in so doing to pull the centre of gravity back from to the real economy in the heartlands from the speculative hothouse of the south east.
“An effective response to climate change requires a shift, within a generation or so in all the major economies including Britain, to a carbon neutral energy system. We understand how to do that; we have the technology and engineering capacity to do it; we can afford to do it. But we can’t do it while making ourselves more not less dependent for power and heating on any kind of fossil fuel.”