“Frackademics” – Letter to members of the Environmental Audit Committee

“Frackademics” – Letter to members of the Environmental Audit Committee

To: Joan Walley MP, Matthew Offord MP, Mrs Caroline Spelman MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Simon Wright MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Mark Lazarowicz MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Martin Caton MP, Neil Carmichael MP

We are writing to you because you were a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, responsible for reporting on the impact that ‘fracking’ will have on the UK’s environment. It seems the conclusions reached were sensible, however, unfortunately they did not receive the level of support they should have in the House of Commons.  Please refer to our latest report that looks clearly at the relationships between scientists, academics, policy makers and the industry.

Our report undermines the foundations of the four pillars (reports) that the Government and industry have relied upon to support their case for exploiting shale gas in the UK.The four scientific reviews commissioned by Government agencies are as follows:

• The Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering review of shale gas (2012);

• The Mackay-Stone review of the climate impacts of shale gas (2013);

• The Public Health England (PHE) review of the health impacts of shale gas (2014);

• The Scottish Government commissioned its own expert study on unconventional.

We would like to draw your attention to two issues in particular.  Your report relies on the findings of the Mackay-Stone study, however this study uses input data that is incorrect and deceitful.  Your committee rightly focused on the probability of the UK breaching its carbon reduction targets with the advent of shale gas production in comparison to coal. In section two of your report “Implications for our climate change obligations”, your report reads:

17. A DECC commissioned report by Prof David MacKay (former DECC chief scientific adviser) and Dr Timothy Stone in 2013 found that the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction and use was comparable to that from gas extracted from conventional sources, but lower than the carbon footprint of coal. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said at the time that:

UK shale gas can be developed sensibly and safely, protecting the local environment, with the right regulation. And we can meet our wider climate change targets at the same time, with the right policies in place. Gas, as the cleanest fossil fuel, is part of the answer to climate change, as a bridge in our transition to a green future, especially in our move away from coal. Gas will buy us the time we need over the coming decades to get enough low carbon technology up and running so we can power the country and keep cutting emissions.

However, our report shows that the true figure with regard to emissions should be four times higher than is stated making these findings vastly underestimated.   This is just one example of the industry and policy makers’ strategy to use ‘scientists’ to front the national policy for unconventional gas and oil.

Secondly, you have recommended that the Government wait on the findings of the Task Force on Shale Gas and you have attached significant weight to their authority.  However, our report clearly shows that the Task Force is in all probability an industry-funded ‘astroturf’ PR exercise, despite Chris Smith’s public denial.  After reading through our report, serious questions should be asked about the involvement of any PR company in setting up the Task Force and the appointment of Chris Smith as its head.  Why are Edelman acting as the Task Force’s secretariat and is it mere coincidence that they were previously undertaking this role for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil?

Edelman’s clients have until very recently included the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s primary lobbying group, on a public issues campaign aimed at convincing Americans that the industry is facing severe challenges, even as its members pull in record quarterly profits.  In 2005, Edelman mounted an aggressive campaign against Robert Greenwald’s new documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price”, emailing reporters press kits containing a point-by-point rebuttal of the film’s trailer, which Wal-Mart fought to have altered or removed from the walmartmovie.com website.

Leaked documents obtained by Greenpeace (http://www.prwatch.org/news/2014/11/12676/edelman-transcanada-leak-american-style-pr-plan-prepped-keystone-xl-pipeline) expose a plan by Edelman for TransCanada to launch an aggressive PR campaign to persuade Canadians to support a Canada-based alternative to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to get controversial tar sands oil to refineries in eastern Canada for export.  But, according to the documents, this Canada-centric campaign would actually be run out of an office in Washington, DC. A right-wing American political operative employed by the world’s largest public relations firm is leading the digital campaign. One of the identified tactics, pioneered by corrupt US tobacco companies, was Edelman’s recommendation that professors be identified and used as trusted speakers to advance the corporation’s point of view (while not disclosing that the academics had been recruited to do so or “armed” with corporate talking points).

Considering the background of Edelman’s work, and after reading this report, perhaps you can comment on whether you still think the public should accept the work of the Task Force on Shale Gas as a trusted, independent and impartial platform?

In light of the findings in our report, failure to take action to address these issues will result in the serious undermining of the public’s confidence and trust in scientific reports used to underpin government policy.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.


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