Recently we had an e-mail from a party member expressing doubts on shale gas, and suggesting that young people were especially opposed to the technology. Of course we are very aware of concerns expressed by some people. There has been a huge amount of negative propaganda on fracking, much of it mischievous. I have written before about the diverse interests opposing fracking, including such strange bedfellows as Gazprom and Greenpeace. But shale potentially offers lower energy prices, increased energy security, and reduced dependence on imported gas, with a consequent saving on our balance of payments. It offers jobs, economic development, prosperity. And against this, the minor risks associated with the technology are comparable to those associated with other mainstream technologies like coal. It would be downright irresponsible to ignore the shale opportunity on the basis of biased and negative scare stories.
My Constituency Manager Paul Oakden was so struck be the e-mail we received that he was moved to reply, and I thought his reply was worth sharing with you:
I still (optimistically?) refer to myself as a youngish voter. At 32, I may not be of student age but I do think that mine is the younger generation that we should really be targeting. Let me tell you why.
My generation is the one that’s trying desperately, and often without success, to buy their first home. My generation is the one that’s trying to secure a solid career and along with it a secure future for the young families we either have, or are planning to have. My generation is the one raised on the idea that our forefathers have caused global warming (although we’re not the generation who all necessarily believe it!) Your student most likely doesn’t have to concern himself with the cost of energy bills.
The reason I don’t agree that younger people will oppose UKIP en mass because of fracking, is quite simple. My priorities are based on the harsh realities facing people of my generation today. Do we care about our environment? Yes of course. Do we want to do unnecessary damage to our planet? No! Do either of those things keep me or my peers awake at night? Absolutely not!
What concerns us is how we pay the unmanageable costs for the energy we have today. Whether our elderly relatives have enough money saved, to keep themselves warm through nights like tonight (temperature currently -4). Whether in 2030, our ability to turn our lights on will be determined by how well our relationship with Russia is going, and whether our children will be raised in a Britain which has the ability to sustain itself without the risk of being held to ransom by foreign powers.
Although I wasn’t born early enough to remember the tragedies which came as a consequence of Coal Mining, I know that numerous accidents/fatalities occurred, too many! As horrific as all those events might have been, and whilst taking them into consideration, would we as a country have looked back on the last 100 years and decided we’d have been better off without coal? As with all things, fracking will I’m sure carry an element of risk. We rely on the people we elect (including Roger,) to ensure that they’re as informed as they can be on those risks before making policies and decisions. Whilst I don’t agree with Tim Yeo on much, in his interview on Sky News earlier this week, when he was advocating (finally) the benefits of Fracking, he said “we have 2nd player advantage on this due to America being so far ahead of us.” This surely has to be the case? We get the benefit of learning from their mistakes whilst ensuring that the necessary safeguards are put into place to give as much protection from the process as can be given. The Government now seems committed to doing just that and why? Because it knows that 50% savings on household energy bills is a vote winner!
Ultimately, although the thought of Shale Gas Extraction might not be the most palatable to some people; the thought of what future could potentially lie before us without it, is a damn sight worse.