You report (27 June) that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne “signalled changes to the planning regime and tax breaks” to encourage fracking and also report a view that shale gas extraction should be encouraged rather than more sustainable sources of energy. There are many contradictions in these statements.
While savage UK public expenditure cuts damage the most vulnerable in our society, private companies will get tax breaks to develop a sector that is supposedly highly profitable but in the middle – and long term – is unsustainable. Additionally, fracking will never produce an energy supply that will significantly reduce global warming.
The potential public health risks of the fracking process are considerable and we still lack complete public health impact assessments of the process.
Currently the fracking industry uses products that in the US and UK are covered by commercial confidentiality provisions so that those working with and those living nearby exposed to such products remain in ignorance of their formulation and possible effects.
The history of hazardous industries is littered with cases of workers and nearby communities being adversely affected by their processes.
By the time the effects are fully understood and the environmental and landscape damage fully assessed, all too often these industries have closed down or moved elsewhere, leaving damaged communities behind, in some instances literally to pick up the pieces.
It is to be hoped that the Scottish Government will do as it has promised in the past and adopt both a precautionary public health and a long-term sustainability approach to our energy needs.
This will avoid following the UK Chancellor’s gung-ho approach to fracking.
(Prof) Andrew Watterson
Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group
University of Stirling
The Chancellor said that in 2015-2016 up to £5.3 billion, raised through a levy on energy bills, would support low-carbon energy projects. So there you have it: despite the renewables’ propaganda machines and the developers pleading poverty, our energy bills are loaded with renewables subsidies.
Your report also included the statement from Professor Jane Bower, business expert at Edinburgh University, who said that large reserves of shale gas have been discovered in England and it is likely similar large reserves will be found in Scotland.
She suggested that Scotland should turn its attention to shale gas extraction instead of wind power, which is likely to see its costs “rapidly escalate year by year”.
Meanwhile, the greens and our scientifically illiterate politicians continue to chant: “The wind is free.”