A RETIRED vicar is celebrating the withdrawal of an
anti-fracking leaflet, after he complained about it to the
Advertising Standards Authority.
The priest, the Revd Michael Roberts, who holds a geology degree
from Oxford (Letters,
12 December), was "horrified" by what he deemed to be "sheer
inaccuracies" in a leaflet distributed last year by Residents
Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF): "Shale Gas: The Facts". In his
complaint, filed in August, he warned that many of the points were
"either irrelevant, incorrect, or bad science", and he accused the
group of "scaremongering".
The leaflet failed, he said, to take into account developments
in fracking technology, the existence of an inspection regime and
regulation, or the judgement of scientists at the Health Protection
Agency. It used images, and described practices, in the United
States that are not permitted in the UK.
The ASA confirmed on Wednesday that it had looked into the
complaint, but that the leaflet had been withdrawn before it came
to rule. On Wednesday, Mr Roberts said that "most" of the 13 points
of his complaint had been accepted "immediately" by the
A RAFF spokesperson said on Wednesday that the newsletter had
been replaced by a new edition "in light of significant emerging
evidence to reinforce that shale gas poses dangers to communities",
and not as a result of the complaint. The statement also said that
the ASA had admitted that the copy in the newsletter "came down to
a matter of semantics and interpretation and not because the points
raised were untrue". Mr Roberts disputes this.
Although the ASA no longer includes materials such as the
leaflet in its remit, Mr Roberts has pledged to continue to
challenge inaccurate information about fracking.
"People don't understand the issues; so they are fearful of what
could happen," he said. "People who scaremonger about it . . . are
building on those fears."
Having always been "pretty green", he was initially wary of
fracking. He has previously criticised in a book the "Browns" who
do not accept climate change. But he now believes that fracking is
"technically as safe as anything else", and that "shale gas is the
best transition fuel from our present situation to the future".
Disinvestment from fossil fuels by the Church of England would be,
he argues, "the silliest thing it could do".
New fracking centre. The University of Chester,
an Anglican foundation, is to be home to a college for fracking.
The National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, which will train
onshore oil and gas specialists, will be headquartered in Blackpool
and linked to colleges in Chester, Redcar, Cleveland, Glasgow, and
Portsmouth. The Government is providing £750,000 of development
funding, to be matched by industry bodies and education
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman from Operation Noah said that
diverting research and funding towards fracking was "a dangerous
step in the wrong direction. As an Anglican foundation, the
University of Chester should seek to ensure the protection of God's
creation by using its resources to support the development of
renewable energies and other clean technologies."
Announcing the move in November, the Business and Enterprise
Minister, Matthew Hancock, said: "I am not prepared to pass up a
once-in-a-generation economic opportunity. . . Imagine if we had
passed up a similar opportunity to go into the North Sea some 50
years ago. What if we'd let that oil and gas stay in the ground?
What if we'd said it was too difficult or too controversial?"