Fracking for shale gas has the potential to help this country in so many ways that it is hard to comprehend why people are protesting against its extraction and not celebrating a golden opportunity for energy users
In the Sixties, we brought natural gas ashore, converted millions of gas appliances, caused a great deal of inconvenience to people and gave consumers just one old penny a therm reduction on their bills. They were delighted.
So what has gone wrong? The Government did not give any serious thought to how the PR for shale gas should be handled until it was too late and the undercurrent of fear had developed. There should have been adverts on the TV reminding viewers what our engineers have achieved by bringing natural gas safely to our homes, how the countryside was dug up and then reinstated. They should have reminded the public how reliant we are on imported gas, and that shale would give us security of supply for the first time in a decade. With so many struggling to pay their energy bills, the Government should have brought home the fact that in time bills will fall.
This must not be a party political issue, and at the conferences in September all parties should explain the value to the country of fracking, and reassure their audiences that our engineers will bring it safely to the surface and into our homes and factories as they did with natural gas. There must then follow a prolonged period of TV adverts.
In the meantime, I have spoken to the head of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil asking him to consider a conference to educate the protesters, journalists, MPs and other interested parties.
If nothing is done and the protest gathers pace, there is a serious danger that one of the most important natural assets we have will not be exploited.
Ray Cope, (Former director, Gas Consumer Council), Langford, Bedfordshire
There seems to be a lot of unnecessary antagonism over gas vs renewables.
The problem with renewable energy is that we cannot control the supply. As we intend to build a lot of renewable generators, we are going to need a lot of gas-powered generators to balance them.
Unfortunately, as the North Sea’s gas runs out, we are having to rely on very tenuous gas supplies from abroad. I believe our reserves amount only to something like 14 days’ use. If, therefore, it turns out that we are sitting on top of an adequate gas supply, it would be foolish not to exploit it. And if this means fracking, then we had better make sure that the companies which we hope will do the fracking are assisted in doing their exploration and are then properly supervised.
If we want to use renewables to the maximum (and most of us do), then we have to back this up with gas generation. Those who think that fracking is all about bringing the price of gas down are missing the point entirely. It may do, but it probably won’t. Either way, we need the gas.
Bill Smith, Nottingham
Anti-fracking activists should be applauded for reminding everyone of the high risk to the environment and our drinking water from the chemicals used in this process.
Rather than referring to them as stupid and totalitarian, Sir Bernard Ingham should thank them for caring about this planet, for which we have responsibility to see that it is safe for our children. There are safer ways to generate power.
J Longstaff, Woodford Green, Essex
Scandal of expats’ lost voting rights
It is encouraging to read (report, 23 August) that the Electoral Commission wishes to encourage expat voting. However, Denis MacShane (Letters. 24 August) rightly identifies the far more important issue of expat disenfranchisement, which is a blatant injustice and a disregard of what should be a right of citizenship.
The somewhat arbitrary removal of the right to vote after 15 years as an overseas elector originates from the time when living abroad really did sever, or at least weaken, a person’s links with the UK. Now people are much more mobile, and there is nothing unusual about expats who live in another country, while maintaining active social and cultural links with the UK.
In my own case, having lived in Poland for 15 years, I have lost, or am about to lose, my right to vote in the UK. At the same time, I cannot vote in general elections in Poland because I am not a Polish citizen. Polish citizens have the right to vote for life wherever they live in the world, and arrangements are made so that they can do so.
I have taught British life and culture. I have a UK pension, UK bank accounts. I visit the UK regularly for sport, recreation, and family. I spend in the UK, and I have represented the UK in veterans’ athletics. I live in Poland because I am an economic migrant – I couldn’t find a suitable job in the UK and I couldn’t afford to live there.
There must be thousands with similar stories, and disenfranchisement is a scandal that needs revoking urgently.
Lyn Atterbury, Pila, Poland
The three million or so British citizens living abroad who are eligible to vote in the UK are much more affected by the laws and taxes of their country of residence than of the UK. It would seem much more logical if, by international agreement, everyone voted in the country where they live rather than that from which they emigrated up to 15 years earlier.
Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent
No racism at St James’ Park
Your recent profile of Mike Ashley (“The best boss in the world?”, 20 July) included a claim that Mr Ashley had heard anti-Semitic chants directed at him from the terraces at St James’ Park. As a fan of Newcastle United, I find this claim deeply offensive and I know other fans agree. The allegation was made without reference to any specific incidents, and I am unaware of any incident having been recorded by the police or other authority.
As a regular attendee of games at Newcastle (I and my 10-year-old son are season-ticket holders), I know I speak for many when I say I have not once heard an anti-Semitic chant in our ground, whether directed at Mike Ashley or not. I don’t believe our fans are racist – indeed, we are known to have just about the most inclusive and welcoming fanbase in the country.
Chris Lane, Liverpool
Editor’s Note: The Independent regrets any offence caused by the inclusion of a quote given to us – and published – in good faith.
Ways out of the care system
Your leading article “Happy Families” (21 August) suggests that adoption is “far preferable to care”. While this is undoubtedly true, it is also true that being within your own family is far preferable to care.
The 1989 Children Act developed the care system, quite rightly, as a way to help families care, not just remove their children. In one of the studies that underpinned the Act, we described a model of care, which we saw in the best cases, as being “assisted parenting”, with the assistance leading to children returning to their own family.
In other research, there is clear evidence that extended families – grandparents, for example – can often provide excellent loving care for children, with the care system acting as one route to enable that.
Put simply, adoption is not the only, nor necessarily always the best, exit from care, and if it comes to be seen as such, it will do a major disservice to many children and their families.
Peter Marsh, Professor of Child and Family Welfare (Emeritus), University of Sheffield
Styles for the mature man?
I am an enthusiastic explorer of “designer discount outlets” and charity shops, so Richard Skellington’s letter (23 August) about the costly fashion items featured in your newspaper rang a loud bell with me.
However, there is another issue here. Your occasional male fashion pages display flimsy young men who have not yet been moulded and blurred by age. They can carry off the current taste for toothpick trousers and miniature jackets.
For those of us over 45, our sturdier physiques render such modes absurd. Yet some of us would still like to be helped to look beyond the wasteland of leisure wear and elasticated waists. Whether such vanity, at such age, is fitting, I will leave for others to judge.
It would be pleasant to see the occasional piece which featured clothes that the older man could wear with a sense of self-respect – and even pride. I’m sure John Walsh could help.
Philip Timms, London W4,
The picture caption accompanying the article “How many cows does it take to build an airship?” states that the Graf Zeppelin was a military airship (24 August). Such was not the case. It was a civilian airship; one could suppose to be the Boeing 747 of its day.
Faceless in court
I wonder if the 21-year-old woman who refuses to remove her burqa before entering a plea in court (report, 24 August) would also refuse to take off the veil at passport control to reveal her face.
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
Could Kelvin Newman (letter, 24 August) please tell the uninitiated the nature of “search marketing”? Is it searching for markets or marketing the results of searches? Is the clue in the name of his company, SiteVisability, presumably a combination of archaeology with aerial photography?
Anthony North, Leeds
While being sympathetic to the demise of a swan (“Police investigate ‘barbecued’ swan”, 22 August), I’m told that they are indeed delicious when barbecued. However, since the swans belong to the Crown, this one was also poached.
Doug Scorgie, London SW19