Illusory fears

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Carolyn Taylor (Letters, 31 January) states rightly that people from all walks of life protest when they see their way of life threatened.

But in the case of fracking are these threats real or illusory? The Environment America document she quotes consists of exaggerations, selected material lacking any balance and too frequently hearsay, and is contradicted by the published scientific and engineering evidence.

Fracking costs and benefits were scientifically assessed in 2011 by my own institution, The Royal Society, with the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Two additional assessments on fracking effects on water quality were solicited in 2013 by the US National Academy of Sciences from university environmental engineers in Pennsylvania, the land area containing the large Marcellus shale and source of much material for environmental America.

The conclusion of these documents is that since the advent of hydraulic fracturing, more than one million hydraulic fracturing treatments have been conducted with perhaps only one documented case of direct ground-water pollution. No technology is ever perfect but the current benefits of shale gas far outweigh the costs.

UK environmental regulations are much more stringent and have profited greatly from the US experience. No safe or secure generating policy is currently possible without fossil fuels but replacing coal with gas is considered advantageous. Much of UK agitation unfortunately supposes that natural gas, like all fossil fuels, is evil!

(Prof) Tony Trewavas

Scientific Alliance Scotland

North St David Street

Edinburgh