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Politicians Are Going Wobbly On Shale Goldmining

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Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill

In a sign that British politicians in the leafy Weald are getting nervous about exploitation of the shale deposits under their constituencies, former planning minister Nick Herbert has spoken out about his concerns.

“People don’t know – people are worried about the implications and they don’t have enough information to judge how damaging it will be.”

Mr Herbert said ministers had a duty to explain what the effects would be on local communities which are inadvertently sitting on large deposits of shale gas.

He added: “It is the fear of the unknown that is exacerbating local concerns. People understand the national arguments about the need for secure and cheap energy but they just don’t know how much this is going to damage the local environment.

The headline on the article says that Herbert describes fracking as the biggest threat to the countryside, although these words do not appear in the article itself. Most of his worries seem to be more about fear of the unknown than a settled perception of a threat. If he really said that fracking is the biggest threat facing the countryside then he is of course talking nonsense, given that there are several oil wells in the region already and that almost nobody is aware of them.

Local resident and Lloyds of London broker Peter Spencer makes his feelings known outside the gates of the Cuadrilla fracking drilling site

Local resident and Lloyds of London broker Peter Spencer makes his feelings known outside the gates of the Cuadrilla fracking drilling site near Balcombe, East Sussex

That said, while the media are hyping the impact of the small band of protestors at Balcombe, Herbert and his colleagues in the House of Commons will remain nervous and will feel duty bound to give voice to their constituents’ concerns. Perhaps somebody should send him Matt Ridley’s report on shale gas.

Bishop Hill, 5 August 2013