A Civilised Shale Debate In West Sussex
Communities affected by fracking will have to weigh the pros and cons to any scheme – according to the director of a leading global warming think tank speaking in Horsham.
Horsham Skeptics in the Pub (HSiP) held a public meeting on Monday August 12 where hydraulic fracturing, a controversial energy extraction technique, was discussed with several expert guest speakers at the Tanners Arms in Brighton Road.
National media attention has focused heavily on Balcombe in Mid Sussex, where energy firm Cuadrilla are carrying out exploratory drilling, but residents fear it is the first stage towards fracking in the county and have held protests over recent weeks.
Guest speakers were Jane Thomas, a senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth in England, and Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which he launched in 2009 with Conservative peer Nigel Lawson.
Dr Peiser listed the pros and cons of fracking, and talked about the case of America, where widespread fracking had led to a reduction in their carbon dioxide emissions to levels seen in the 1990s.
“We are in the midst of an energy revolution that started in the United States a few years ago,” he said.
“Every community [in the UK] will have a view on whether they like it or not. There is no form of energy generation that is cost free for those who are affected.”
He continued: “Everyone should know the pros and cons so a rational decision can be made.”
Ms Thomas argued that much more focus should be made on renewable sources of energy, including wind, tidal, and solar.
She said: “This [fracking] is another fossil fuel that will do untold damage. We are talking about the legacy we are leaving to our kids.”
She continued: “I do not think this is NIMBYism. There are some really considered responses by these people in the directly affected communities.”
However, Dr Peiser questioned the scale of renewable energy jobs being subsidised by the taxpayer, and said he could not see future politicians supporting any policy that would see energy bills soar.
“We are sitting on cheap energy but we are going to the most expensive form of energy,” he explained.
“Something else has to happen to back up the renewables.”
Deposits of shale are thought to be sizeable in the Weald Basin, but campaigners have expressed fears over water contamination, given the amount of drinking water supplied by underground chalk aquifers in West Sussex.
Simon Clare, organiser, said: “I was impressed at how both speakers acquitted themselves, with each of them respecting the other’s views yet still responding strongly to them.
“The audience, which was mostly from Sussex, did us proud by listening intently and then asking some tough questions.”