Constituency Correspondence:

To a voter in Wales concerned about shale gas

A shale gas well-head – no bigger than a garden shed

A shale gas well-head – no bigger than a garden shed


Dear Constituent,

Thank you for writing to UKIP with your concerns about shale gas.  I quite understand your position, which is shared by many others who have been alarmed by the black propaganda around the issue.

But the fact is that that in politics, as Tony Blair said, we face hard choices.  Everyone wants their rubbish collected weekly, but no one wants to live next to a landfill site or an incinerator.  Everyone wants to travel quickly and comfortably by train: no one wants HS2 in their back garden.  Everyone wants to fly to Majorca for their holiday, but no one wants a new airport.  Everyone wants better mobile phone coverage: no one wants an ærial mast next door.

When it comes to energy, the problems seem to multiply.  Everyone wants the lights to come on – indeed they simply take electricity for granted.  Everyone wants their businesses to operate regularly (have we forgotten the three-day week?), with light and heat and air-conditioning and machines turning.  Yet it seems people don’t want coal-fired or gas-fired or nuclear power stations anywhere near them.  They don’t want coal mines, and slag heaps, and coke lorries on the roads.  Residents of Welsh valleys quite reasonably don’t want their villages flooded by hydro-power dams, and many people don’t want to see the Severn Estuary altered out of recognition, and unique wetlands despoiled, by the proposed Barrage.

When it comes to renewables like wind and solar, UKIP is opposed to them, both for their local visual and environmental impact, and for the futility and economic damage of intermittent renewables – but as with other generating technologies, there is always strong local opposition.

As a political party, UKIP has to take a responsible position.  We cannot jump onto every populist band-wagon and oppose every unpopular development.  We have to look at the overall energy needs of the British economy and British families, and ask how those energy needs can be met.  How can we keep the economy going?  How can we ensure affordable energy prices for businesses and households?  Can we do this in a way that benefits the British economy, increases energy security, reduces dependence on imports, and helps our balance of payments?

If we simply say NO to every form of energy, we condemn our country to power cuts and economic disaster.

So we have indeed taken a broad view of our energy needs.  We have ruled out wind and solar (at least on current technologies) for reasons I have set out at length elsewhere.  We believe that the future must depend primarily on coal, gas and nuclear.  But gas is the most immediate and urgent priority.  It is the only way to keep the lights on.  Neither new coal nor new nuclear power plants can be ready in time.

So are we to be largely or wholly dependent on Gazprom and other overseas suppliers, with all the problems for prices, and price stability, and energy security, and balance of payments?  Or are we to use this amazing windfall of indigenous gas?  We have seen its transformative effect on the American economy.  Should the British people be denied similar benefits?

You paint an alarmist picture of the downsides of fracking, but I have to tell you that most of the black propaganda is just plain wrong.  There has never been any proven case of groundwater contamination, despite 10,000+ wells drilled and over two million fracking operations.  The very slight seismic effects of fracking are smaller than those associated with coal-mining, yet we don’t see the same hysterical opposition to coal mines.  I would urge you to read the excellent article on fracking by Matt Ridley.

You mention impact on house prices, but you don’t mention the thousands of jobs created, the run-down cities transformed and regenerated, the production that was off-shored in the nineties and is now coming back to the USA.  We want to see similar jobs and industrial regeneration in the UK, and especially in former mining areas.  As it happens, I will be going to the USA later this month to study the impact of the shale gas revolution, and I shall no doubt have more to say about it afterwards.

Shale gas is arguably safer, for local people and for workers in the industry, than most other forms of resource extraction, and is less visually intrusive.  I have four large wind turbines within a mile of my home.  I’d much rather have a shale gas well-head (see picture above).

I appreciate your letter and I understand your concerns.  But if we are going to turn our backs on the greatest economic/industrial opportunity of our generation, we have to be prepared to say what we would do instead.  Our job as a Party is to explain, to reassure, and to demonstrate the huge benefits which shale gas can offer.  These include jobs and prosperity for our children and grandchildren.  They will not forgive us if we leave them in the dark.

Yours Roger Helmer MEP

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11 Responses to Constituency Correspondence:

  1. The solution to concerns about effects on peoples property values is to guarantee to the nation that it will not under UKIP government. I can see no reason why some people should gain wealth at other peoples misfortune. If that ever proves to be the case.

  2. Reblogged this on Paul J Chapman and commented:
    For those concerned about fracking, here is the UKIP position explained far better than I ever could –

  3. Almost all alternative forms of energy we are `forced` to use ( or are not `green` enough ), fill the pockets of investors and boost the economy of the countries manufacturing them, Germany, China, Japan etc. I would like to know what the UK makes. If we built them then sold to the rest of the world that would help our economy instead of theirs. Also I would like to see a comparison of wind farms around the earth alongside maps of the areas which are suffering from severe flooding, could it be turbulence from the wind farms disrupting the normal weather patterns? I believe China and India are two of the leading users. Any suggestions along these line are poo poo`d.
    The appearance of a fracking site I would think cannot look as bad as a windfarm or massive solar panel site. If it prevents us importing gas and oil which leaves us at the mercy of our suppliers, then they can put one in my garden!

  4. Richard111 says:

    Well said, Roger. Sadly there seems to be quite a number of people gaining wealth on other peoples misfortunes.

    • Chris says:

      Samantha Cameron’s father earns £365,000 a year from wind turbines on his land.
      Nick Clegg’s wife has secured a lucrative job on the board of directors of a … adviser to Acciona, the world’s largest provider of wind farms.

      No conflict of interest.

  5. Mike Stallard says:

    “Our job as a Party is to explain, to reassure, and to demonstrate the huge benefits which shale gas can offer.”

    Roger, the job of UKIP is to get our country out of Europe, isn’t it?

    I understand that with Mr Cameron’s brand of Libdem Conservatism in power at the moment, there is a need for some common sense around, but please never forget what your party stands for. UKIP is particularly important at the moment with Mr Barroso’s views of “more Europe” being put, as we speak, into law.

    Of course, the EU has absolutely nothing to do with “renewables,” has it.

    • Sometimes I think we can’t win: if we focus entirely on Europe, we’re a one-trick pony. If we dare to mention other issues, we’re taken to task for not focusing on Europe. So let’s be clear: if we want to be a serious party, we have to have a full policy programme. But getting out of the EU remains our primary purpose, and indeed many of our other policies cannot be delivered until we do get out of the EU.

  6. I would not so much say against wind and solar as “against giving solar and windmills permanent subsidy of their running costs”. That even allows an X-prize for development of more efficient solar power (or in theory efficient windmills if that were possible). That would be difficult to argue against.

    • I suspect that in ten or fifteen years we may well have viable solar, and viable electricity storage. So let’s not spend billions on technologies that will very soon be out-of-date. Spend a modest sum on research, not hundreds of billions on wind-mills.

  7. Russellw says:

    Let’s not forget research into fusion

  8. can be achieved right in your very own home, without the help of a professional.

    If you also install solar panels, you could have the best economic option right after the initial cost for
    the set-up. If you could light up your potting shed
    or the kids’ play house without paying to have it wired.

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