5 questions answered on the fracking comments

According to Cameron,"fracking is safe."

Five questions answered on PM David Cameron’s recent fracking comments

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has outlined why he thinks people must accept fracking in the UK countryside. We answer five questions on his comments.

What are the key points made by David Cameron in his article?

The Prime Minister wrote the article to speak out in favour of fracking. He said: "fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down", adding that it will create jobs, bring money to local neighbourhoods and that "local people will not be cut out and ignored."

What about the potential damage to the environment, did he address this issue? 

Yes. According to Cameron,"fracking is safe." He says: "International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated." He added that: "I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery."

What about the North/South issue, where will fracking take place?

Cameron, who is no doubt keen to repair damage done by his father-in-law and former government advisor, Lord Howell of Guildford, who said a few weeks ago that gas fracking should be confined to the North East because it was full of "large and uninhabited and desolate areas," confirmed that fracking should take place in both the South and North of England and not just in certain parts of Britain as has been suggested.

He said: "This is wrong. I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together."

What did he say are the benefits of fracking to local communities?

Cameron laid out the benefits fracking could bring to local communities.

"Fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods," he said

"Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10m – will go straight back to residents who live nearby."

He added that this money could be used for reduction in council tax bills or invested in neighbourhood schools.

What have those against fracking said?

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrat party in coalition government with Cameron’s Conservatives, has said fracking may damage rural areas.

He told The Sunday Telegraph earlier in the month: I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside.

"I think this is a very short-sighted policy, and we will all be left to live with the consequences."

He added: "This technology can lead to earth tremors and I’m particularly worried that buried nuclear waste in my part of the country could be affected. We should be investing more in renewable fuels."

A Greenpeace sign outside Conservative HQ. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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