Friday, 29 March 2013

My visit to Glastonbury: Part II - The reaction

I discussed in my previous post my visit to the councillors of Glastonbury to talk to them about unconventional gas extraction, and the potential impact it could have on the area. In that post I gave a summary of what I said in my talk. In this post, I'd like to talk about the reaction.

It should be noted that I didn't go there with the intention of changing anyone's mind. Given that the council had already voted to ban fracking, I hardly thought a 45 minute presentation by a gravitas-lacking 29 year old (even if he does have a good number of letters after his name) would be enough to change their minds (I was more worried about getting out of there without being tarred-and-feathered to be honest).

However, the councilman who had asked me to come give the talk sent me a very kind email afterwards, saying he saw the evening as a total success, at that some members 'had come to confessions and said the presentation had changed their minds'. I wasn't aware that councillors had 'confessions', but I'm very glad that I appear to have had some small effect at least.

Furthermore, there was a reporter from the local paper in attendance, who placed a story on my talk in the Somerset Gazette, which has granted me my first experience of being completely misrepresented by the media (I guess we all get to experience this eventually.

It ran under the headline: 'Expert warns fracking leaks are the result of cutting corners'. Which is true. What is completely missing is the context - the fact that leaks from fracking are not inevitable side effects of the process, but that they can be prevented by a stronger regulatory regime. Also, missing is the context that the majority of companies are not cutting corners, which is why the percentage rate of leakage instances remains very very low.

In my view (perhaps unfairly, I'd love to hear your comments), you could be mistaken for thinking that I am opposed to fracking, based on that article. For instance, the line:
I am here to tell you how the process works and the effects that science has shown that it has on the people nearby and the surrounding areas,
placed without context, suggests that I am saying that science has shown lots of impacts. In fact, in my talk I went on to point out, for example with the Texas and Pennsylvania air quality surveys, that scientific evidence for negative impacts of fracking on water and/or air quality have been remarkably hard to come by, bar a small number of documented surface spill and well integrity cases.  

The final and most important item left out in the story is that I summarised my talk by stating that, while it is not my decision to take, I believe that unconventional gas extraction can be done safely in the South West, and that it will have a beneficial impact on the area. It would have been nice if that could have been reported as well.


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