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Cracking Up: UK Greens Fracture Over Fracking

The Times & BBC News

Greens’ first MSP backs fracking ‘if it proves safe’

Robin Harper

The Times, 10 September 2015

Hamish Macdonell

A high-profile Scottish environmental campaigner has given his backing to fracking as long as safeguards are in place and key conditions are met.

In a significant intervention that will help to undermine opposition to the energy source, Robin Harper, the first Green MSP and now the chairman of a major environmental trust, said that he would be prepared to give his cautious backing if it could be proved that it was an improvement on the burning of coal and oil.

Mr Harper said that he was speaking in his role as chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, but he made it clear that he supported its position.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Harper said: “If it’s safe and if it doesn’t damage the environment, if it’s an improvement on burning coal or oil, then, yes, there would be cautious backing for it.”

His comments will be a major setback for anti-fracking campaigners, who have argued that anything other than a complete ban would damage the environment. Mr Harper’s powerful green credentials mean that they will not be able to dismiss his views easily.

Mr Harper’s decision not to support a complete ban will also give a much needed fillip to pro-fracking groups, who have argued that the process is safe and could provide Scotland with huge amounts of cheap energy. […]

Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP and the convener of Holyrood’s energy committee, said: “Robin Harper is a well respected figure in Green politics. His cautious welcome for fracking in Scotland represents a significant intervention. It is very encouraging to see such a credible voice backing this analysis. I hope that the Scottish government will pay heed and allow properly controlled fracking to proceed.”

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Fracking: Think again, campaigner urges environmentalists

BBC News, 10 September 2015

Roger Harrabin

Environmentalists should keep cool heads over fracking, says Friends of the Earth’s former climate campaigner.

Baroness Worthington says shale gas should only be developed if its emissions are captured and stored

Bryony Worthington – now Labour shadow energy minister – says fracking will create less CO2 than compressing gas in Qatar and shipping it to Britain.

But she insists shale gas should only be developed if its emissions are captured and stored underground.

The current FoE position is that more fossil fuel exploitation will further destabilise the climate.

Nonetheless, Baroness Worthington’s intervention may prove significant. She is a professional climate and energy analyst, and one of the architects of the UK’s radical Climate Change Act.

“We have to be realistic,” she told BBC News. “We are going to be using gas for a long time because of the huge role it plays for heating homes and for industry.

“The important thing is to minimize the carbon emissions from gas. That means if we can get our own fracked gas, it’s better to use that than importing gas that’s been compressed at great energy cost somewhere else.”

Assigning responsibility

She believes NGOs (green groups) have been opportunistic in gathering support for green causes by taking an absolute position on shale gas.

“We have the mother of all challenges getting emissions of greenhouse gases out of our energy system – environmentalists should not be adopting a priori objections to technologies but appraising them with a cool head,” she argued.

Her former colleague, Friends of the Earth’s director Craig Bennett, replied: “Fracking won’t help us tackle climate change. Even people in the industry agree that shale gas wouldn’t make any big difference to our energy sector until the mid-to-late 2020s, which is exactly when the UK needs to start getting out of gas, wherever it comes from.

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