I find it extremely difficult to reconcile your newspaper’s stance on climate change with your support for fracking. (Editorial, “Fracking is right and necessary. So publish more evidence”, 21 March.)
The only environmental advantage offered by fracking is that burning gas emits considerably less CO2 per unit of energy than coal, but this only benefits climate change if fugitive emissions of methane released by fracking are kept below 2 per cent. In the US there has been no proper monitoring but releases as high as 9 per cent have been recorded. Furthermore there is no evidence that shale gas will replace coal. Instead the US is exporting cheap coal and power stations elsewhere in the world are now converting back from natural gas to coal with disastrous consequences for climate change.
Finally the Chancellor’s policy is to support shale gas at the expense of renewables which explains why UK investment in green technologies has halved over the past three years.
Opposition to fracking is therefore rational and scientifically based. It does The Independent no credit to pretend otherwise.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
I was very disappointed by your editorial of 21 March. You acknowledge the kind of concerns raised by protesters, but imply that they are misinformed and that there is abundant evidence that fracking is “safe and clean”, and that this will see off the “increasingly politicised” anti-fracking movement.
But on the contrary, experience from the US and elsewhere, backed by European Commission and American independent research, has identified significant pollution risks and actual damage from leaking wells, including permanent contamination of aquifers and drinking water by methane, heavy metals, radioactive elements and carcinogenic chemicals.
Local communities also suffer greatly from air pollution, noise from drilling and heavy truck movements, and water shortages. And significant release of methane from underground further accelerates climate change.
No doubt the corporate interests that stand to benefit financially (backed by a compliant government) can mount an impressive PR exercise aimed at getting public opinion on-side, but only by skewing the truth.
You claim that fracking will reduce energy prices and increase security of supply. But energy prices are set in an international market, so any gas extracted by UK fracking is unlikely to have much effect on our bills.
And rather than subsidising oil and gas giants trying to squeeze out the last drop of fossil fuels with what is a highly invasive and resource-intensive process, a better way to strengthen energy security is increased research and investment in a range of genuinely clean, renewable technologies, coupled with improved insulation and more efficient heating systems.
Dr Christine Marsh, Dawlish, Devon
The fracking lobby is wrong to suggest that public opinion remains “the last piece of the puzzle” (“Lobbying drive for fracking launched”, 20 March). There are other gaping holes in the industry’s game-plan too.
Experts have warned that shale gas won’t cut UK fuel bills, and the industry has completely failed to show how a shale-gas boom is compatible with tackling climate change.
On top of this there remains real concern about the damaging impact of fracking on local communities and their environment, particularly given recent cuts to the main regulator, the Environment Agency.
The real solution to our energy challenges are energy efficiency and developing the UK’s substantial renewable potential. This will not only be good for our environment – it will boost our long-term economic prospects too.
Tony Bosworth, Energy Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, London SW6
Only force will stop Putin
Your correspondent Nick Megoran (20 March), a lecturer in political geography, wants to see Nato wound up in the interests of preserving good relations with an expansionist Russia.
This sort of reductionist claptrap has no credibility. If Mr Megoran consulted the freedom-loving peoples of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as other countries which have borders with Russia, he would find massive support for their continuing membership of Nato.
Why? They know that as long as they remain members any attempt by Putin to invade them would, in terms of mutual treaty obligations, require Nato to intervene militarily. Secondly, its membership of Nato gives the US massive traction, and moral collateral.
Force and the threat of force spearheaded by Nato are the only factors likely to impact on Putin’s thinking and restrain him from further adventurism.
Michael Batchelor, Swansea
It is really exasperating to see our government pressing the EU to “punish” Russia with economic sanctions. There can only be three consequences: (i) everyone, on both sides, is worse off; (ii) nothing will change as regards Crimea; (iii) in a couple of years, we will all move on and the sanctions will be lifted. An exercise which, if it has any purpose at all, is to make the political leaders feel less impotent than they actually are.
And anyway: why is it legitimate for the Falklanders to vote to be part of Britain rather than Argentina, the Gibraltarians to vote to be part of Britain rather than Spain, and the Northern Irish to vote to be part of Britain rather than Ireland, but not for the people of Crimea to vote to be part of Russia and rather than Ukraine?
Malachy Cornwell-Kelly, Sevenoaks, Kent
Your correspondents who adhere to the notion that “free elections” took place in Crimea should read Anne Applebaum’s book Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe to understand Russian-style elections. Where were (or are) the opposition parties in the Putin/Medvedev elections and reign? And, for all this talk about Crimea being so Russian, it was Catherine the Great who expanded Imperial Russia’s influence and seized Crimea.
Also, if the ethnicity of the people determines the fate of part of a country maybe the people of Bradford would like to vote to become part of Pakistan?
Zofia Pacula, Windsor
The ‘studentification’ of the city of Durham
As a resident of the City of Durham from 1984 to 2000, I am not surprised that there are protests about the loss of local housing to student accommodation (“Gown town: Durham locals fear losing their city to ‘studentification’ ” 17 March).
I lived in a two-bed terrace house in one of the streets near the viaduct and got used to the “thundering trains of the east-coast main line”, and enjoyed living there. I walked to my teaching job in the city, as did my daughter to her school, and I did most of my shopping in the city; there was a good selection of quality shops then.
The street’s inhabitants were a mixed bunch – professional people, retired, young singles and couples, and long-term residents. The street got a “City in Bloom” award for its tubs and hanging baskets.
Then developers bought up some of the houses, and one next to mine was turned into a four-bed student house. Gradually the area changed its character and was no longer desirable for couples or families. I represented our street on a local Police-University-Residents’ Liaison Committee to look at problems related to students living in the community, but the university was, to my mind, arrogant, and dismissive of residents’ complaints.
However, the university doesn’t need to fear disruption to residents from the latest development of student accommodation on the former county hospital site (a stone’s throw from the viaduct and Crossgate areas) – there will only be a handful left and they won’t matter.
Janet Slootweg, Crook, Co Durham
Resistance movement at the checkout
Congratulations to Brendan Sharp on winning the Wyn Harness prize for young journalists (“Self serving”, 18 March). He makes many valid points about how the self-service tills in supermarkets can alienate customers.
However, I challenge his description of “old age pensioners” and what he assumes to be “their stark sense of inferiority” in relation to technology. Many of us have used computers for years and quite a few of us actually have smart phones.
Far from avoiding such tills because of being “subtly humiliated” some of us are engaged in active resistance. Our answer to the hard-pressed assistants who implore us to use the self-service machines is “No thanks. I don’t want to work for Tesco” or whoever. Another effective response is “No thank you – I’m trying to save your job!”
So again, well done Brendan but please give older people a break and don’t make assumptions about an entire generation.
Barbara Sheppard, Cambridge