Letters: Fracking – wonder fuel or toxic disaster?


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The Independent Online

The Chancellor has given a clear signal that he intends to thumb his nose at Britain's promise to reduce carbon emissions, undermining investment in renewable energy (“Osborne hints at watering down of commitment to cutting carbon emissions”, 7 December).

Fracking, the hydraulic fracturing technology that releases underground shale gas, if it gets the go-ahead as part of a strategy for maximising the use of gas, will expose the Government's commitment to the environment as a sham and prove that it is ideologically driven to handcuffing this country to a dangerous and costly fossil-fuel culture that will store problems for the future – a toxic gift to the unborn.

We can only avoid catastrophic climate change if we keep most of the world's fossil fuels in the ground. We don't need shale gas. We can meet our energy needs from renewable, geothermal and energy efficiency measures. We know very well how to do it. It's time to expose the myth that shale gas in Britain and Europe can be produced cheaply; competition in response to growing demand will force prices up. The dash to shale gas makes no economic sense and is bad for the environment.

Nick Reeves OBE

Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, London WC1

Modern gas-fired power stations emit approximately half the carbon dioxide of coal-fired power stations. Nuclear power stations are extremely expensive, environmentally damaging on a significant scale and potentially very dangerous – I won't quote the Japanese nuclear disaster as that is just too easy.

Therefore why is the Government pursuing the double folly of ineffective wind and nuclear technology – all at the consumer's great expense – when the UK is sitting on one of the biggest shale gas fields in the world?

Indeed, in the US, where there are something like 35,000 fracturing sites, the price of shale gas has collapsed from $12 per thousand cubic feet in 2007 to around $3 today.

Make no mistake: gas is the future energy source, as globally the planet can provide us with about 250 years of gas supplies, possibly a lot more if energy conservation is pursued. Shale gas will not only alter global economies, but also the geopolitical map of the world, since we will not be dependent on countries such as Russia and the Middle East for our gas supplies in the future.

Dave Haskell

Boncath, Pembrokeshire

In your quest for expert opinion, why not consult the British Geological Survey on fracking? Early this year, in New Scientist, BGS recommended that fracking continue, because in the UK shale gas is about two kilometres underground whereas the water-table is just a few metres down, hence pollution is very unlikely. The minor tremors are akin to those from coal-mining.

S Lawton

Kirtlington, Oxfordshire

Will insurance premiums rise for properties in fracking areas? Who will monitor drinking-water quality from aquifers fed from fracking areas? If fracking boreholes penetrate aquifers and encounter problems, who will sue whom – frackers or water companies?

D Waddington

Ringwood, Hampshire

Google smirks in the face of taxpayers

We should all be truly thankful to Eric Schmidt of Google for painting such an unalloyed picture of capitalism, that secular religion of Western leaders of our time (report, 13 December). Private companies exist solely for the benefit of their shareholders, whatever the consequences for wider society. The richer the company, the more scope it has to regard the societies it preys on with the contempt Mr Schmidt demonstrates.

In the case of the multinational corporation its flexibility and room for manoeuvre is far greater than that of the nation state, and such companies are often aided and abetted by the complicity of governments such as our own in their dealings.

Transnational companies operating within national borders benefit from infrastructure and services provided by the public purse, yet hire expensive expertise to avoid contributing to those services that make their operations possible.

With proper regulation there should be a simple mechanism of tax deduction on the sum of profit made in each country, regardless of the corporation's worldwide picture. But this requires a highly trained regulatory force to monitor the operations of multinationals.

Yet our government has a dogma-driven agenda to phase out the public sector from all essential services, leaving consumers to the mercies of such as cartels of energy suppliers who maximise profits for shareholders at the expense of the vulnerable.

And as small businesses go to the wall and pensioners freeze, Mr Schmidt and his like in their billionaire bubbles offer a triumphant smirk. And David Cameron and George Osborne offer a smokescreen of indignation while providing no effective action to counter such activities.

Gwynne Power


Today I deleted Google as default home page on my computer and installed a competitor in Google's place. I have been an enthusiastic and committed supporter of Google over its rivals for many years, resisting their attempts to switch my loyalties. Google has succeeded where they had failed.

I object to Google's brazen pride in prospering as a result of our support while refusing to make a fair and proportionate contribution to the tax take of our economy. They may claim that their schemes to avoid sharing the rewards that they get as a result of our support are strictly legal, but they should not imagine that they can depend on us to keep boosting their business while they find ever more ingenious ways to avoid keeping their side of the bargain. Amazon, please note.

Maybe a boycott to Avoid the Tax Avoiders will influence their taxation policy.

Michael Heppner

London N21

Just one more form of marriage

That the Government, without apparent consultation, should decree it illegal for priests of the Church of England and Church in Wales to conduct same-sex marriages is outrageous and must be vigorously resisted. But the Church should already have been ahead of the game, having devised its own liturgy for such unions.

Even between a man and a woman, marriage takes many forms – those who want children, those who do not and those who are past childbearing. Same-sex marriage is one more variant of those who want to commit themselves to a lifelong loving relationship, all of which the Church should unhesitatingly affirm liturgically though not necessarily identically.

Anthony Phillips

Flushing, Cornwall

Your correspondent David Negus (12 December) points out the inconvenient fact that "no churches have or have ever had any rite or ceremony for such circumstances". In a matter of urgency, I'm sure he could draw inspiration from churches in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Iceland, Belgium and the Netherlands. All of these countries, and possibly others, have churches performing same-sex marriages.

David French


Dr Matthew Offord ("How dissenters justify their position", 12 December) is right to be concerned about polygamy. It is implicitly accepted in Leviticus: chapter 18, verse 7 tells us we are not to uncover the nakedness of our mother and verse 8 tells us we are not to uncover the nakedness of our father's wife. Two different women, if I'm not mistaken.

Hugo Horsfield

Marnhull, Dorset

In your editorial today (12 December) you describe the Church of England as "Britain's established Church". It is not; it is England's established church. There are no established churches in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, where The Independent may possibly have some readers.

Colin Duncan

Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Grannies’ views on wind farms

I disagree with Sarah Lawson (letters, 12 December) when she says that being a granny is not relevant to the story about a woman taking a case about wind farms to the UN.

Presumably if she is a granny she has grandchildren and is concerned about their future, to which climate change is a huge threat. She may not like wind farms but they are a way of producing clean energy which is available to us now. If we are to avoid the enormous problems and threats which climate change will bring (in fact is already bringing) we should be welcoming wind turbines.

Rowena Quantrill

Bradford on Avon

These ‘unionists’ are xenophobic

Do we really want these violent Northern Irish “unionist” fanatics to be part of our United Kingdom?

These people claim to be insisting on retaining their “British” identity. The British identity is one that is based upon an historic mixture of races and religions – this very mixture helps to prevent xenophobia within our ever-changing society. Incongruously, these fanatics are making this demand at the very moment when their genetic kith and kin in Scotland are seeking separation from the union.

Martin Deighton

Woodbridge, Suffolk

Save the date

Some readers may feel disappointed at having missed the chance to marry or give birth on 12.12.12, but cheer up! The equally auspicious date of 20.12.2012 will be along shortly.

John Riseley

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

First female MP

In his critique of Adrian Fort’s book Nancy, your reviewer Edward Pearce describes her as “the first woman elected to Parliament”. Absolutely not; that was Countess Constance Markiewicz, who won her seat for Sinn Fein in December 1918, but declined to sit in the House of Commons.

PJ Hill


Cave canem

With reference to the use of “bone fide” (letters, 14 December), perhaps the writer meant “bona fido”, which, as everyone knows, is Latin for “good dog”.

Roger Slater

Malvern Wells, Worcestershire