Last week saw an interesting debate in the council about fracking. I think it’s a real teaser.
For frackers, the government is making the running. They’re going to issue licences for shale gas drilling, promising tax breaks for gas companies, councils keeping 100% of business rates (could be £1.7m per site), and compensation for communities for drilling plus 1% of revenue (£5-10m). It could produce three times our current gas production, £1bn for local communities and 32,000 jobs.
Within our council, parties are divided. There were frackers in all parties, although all agreed councils and communities should get a bigger slice of the cake.
I’d say there was still a majority opposed to fracking, some informed, others straight from the Not In My Back Yard brigade. The latter are definitely getting organised and already putting pressure on councillors and local MPs. Mucky local politics will be a big force. Scare stories about earthquakes, water table pollution, local disruption due to lorries etc are all in play. From what I understand these are weak arguments.
More serious doubts are about the effect of fracking on domestic gas prices and global warming. Did you know the gas fracked from our green and pleasant land can – and probably will – be pumped to Belgium? It will not keep UK gas prices down. It is carbon based, releasing greenhouse gasses. The process itself releases methane, the worst greenhouse gas.
How about giving the same community benefits for wind farms? I’d rather have a few wind turbines than the earth beneath our feet fractured by high-pressure liquids. You can always take a turbine down.
The rules will give cash to the local authority that allows fracking. It’s not unusual for local government to be in this position. Take parking enforcement. The rules allow us to make money when applying the rules. Wait a minute, our minister has criticised us for enforcing parking and making money out of it.
So, my dilemma. I’m tending to anti-fracking and don’t like this incentivising councils and communities to accept it. As communities secretary Eric Pickles is a man of deep convictions and would apply the same principles to fracking as parking, should we argue that he should become energy minister and stop the fracking bribery? We would miss him.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…