LET’S HEAR BOTH SIDES IN FRACKING DEBATE
Later this month Lancashire County Council will finally decide whether exploration for onshore gas can go ahead at two sites in the county.
We know what a group of protesters feel about the idea. They have attracted widespread media coverage for their opposition activities in Lancashire and Salford. But do they speak for the majority of people in the county and beyond?
Centrica Energy is bringing together a panel of guests next Wednesday to take part in a live debate on the role of gas in the region. The panel members are all in favour of the go ahead but I will be the independent chair and all views are welcome. The phone in will take place on Wed June 10th at 5pm and anyone wanting to take part or find out more should register at www.nwenergychat.com
There are believed to be trillions of cubic feet of shale gas under Lancashire. To get it energy firms would need to use a process called fracking. Water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract the gas.
Centrica holds a 25% stake in energy company Cuadrilla’s Bowland exploration licence which will soon be determined by Lancashire councillors. They have a difficult decision because opponents have dominated the debate spurred on by the so called Blackpool earthquake in 2011, TV pictures from America showing tap water being set on fire and a belief that we should be cutting our dependence on carbon based fuel due to global warming.
Councillors also will have in mind that their planning officers initially recommended that the drilling applications be refused. Crucially however their objections related to surface noise and traffic movements. They gave the green light to the drilling operation. Cuadrilla hope they have addressed those issues now.
There is the positive case for fracking in a county that has been meeting the nation’s energy needs since the days of the Lancashire coalfield. Heysham provided one of the first nuclear power stations and for thirty years offshore gas has been extracted from Morecambe Bay.
The UK is facing a potential energy crisis due to the closure of old nuclear plant, environmental limits on burning coal and a growing reluctance to rely on Russia for gas supplies. Our margins are slim and could be severely tested during a hard winter.
There is also the potential for extra jobs at companies like Centrica who already employ 5,000 people in the North West supporting 10,000 people in the supply chain.
I look forward to hearing your views next Wednesday at 5pm.
I reported on the former Lib Dem leader in his good times and his bad. His opposition to the Iraq War seems more justified every day that ISIS advances across Syria and Iraq.
He was the only Lib Dem MP to vote against his party going into coalition with the Tories in 2010. As they sit in parliament with their eight members now, perhaps he was right about that too.
My last interview with him at a Southport conference in 2005 was not a happy experience. He was clearly struggling with his alcohol problems and I prefer to remember his sunny smile and firm convictions.
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