Reader’s letters - Thursday January 22, 2015

Shale gas being extracted in Lancashire, see letter
Shale gas being extracted in Lancashire, see letter
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Perspectives on shale gas

I wanted to offer some personal perspectives on Lancashire shale gas for people to consider, based on three different roles I occupy in the debate.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that in an ideal world, one powered entirely by renewables, it would not be necessary to extract the gas that has lain trapped in the shale rock below Lancashire for millions of years. But we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in this one.

Firstly the environmental expert’s view:

I am in no doubt shale gas can be extracted in a manner which protects the local environment, based on nearly 20 years’ experience of managing environmental risks, and navigating my way around the UK’s environmental laws.

Shale gas exploration isn’t risk-free, but, from what I’ve seen, all the right controls appear to be in place to minimise those risks.

And I believe it is adequately regulated too: the mere fact that Cuadrilla needs so many permits is testament to that fact, although I think much more could be done to explain how the various regulations work, what duties they impose, and how they are enforced - in a way that the public can better understand and have confidence in.

Secondly, the trade body’s view:

Regardless of whether you’re for shale gas, against or agnostic, one thing’s for certain: if it does go ahead, it’s going to be better all round if the supply chain which supports it can come to be dominated by smaller companies, with a particular focus on businesses that are situated in the areas where it takes place.

That’s the view of the Onshore Energy Services Group I head up, which is campaigning for British SMEs to get a fair share of the supply chain work on offer because we believe smaller companies are much more likely to recruit and create new jobs for local people.

Finally, the Lancashire resident’s view:

I live in Lancashire with my family. We breathe the same air, and drink the same water as everyone else. So when opponents of shale gas extraction accuse me of being in this for the money, they overlook the fact that I’d have to live with the consequences too - and no amount of money would persuade me to knowingly put my family in harm’s way.

They’re wrong in any case: while my company was originally going to be looking after the wastewater generated in hydraulic fracturing after identifying a safe and reliable method of treating it, Cuadrilla has since decided to take control of this instead, and so it’s no longer something my company and I will benefit from - but I still support the principle of shale gas exploration, provided it’s done right.

If you’re against shale gas and other forms of energy extraction because you just don’t like the idea of it where you live, or because of climate fears, that’s fine. But please don’t base your opposition on false claims about local impacts spread by politically motivated groups and individuals who lack true subject matter knowledge.

There’s a real opportunity for our region to benefit from this industry, creating jobs as it produces much-needed gas to heat our homes and businesses whilst renewable electricity lights them. If our communities decide to pass up on this opportunity, so be it. But let’s not squander the opportunity for the wrong reasons.

Lee Petts, managing director MCIWM

Searching for missing child

I am hoping readers may be able to help me, I lost contact with my daughter, Samantha Caroline Woodruff, several years ago. She was last known at an address – after she got married – in St Annes.

If anyone with any information could possibly contact me on 07927 941924 I would be very grateful.

Paul Hulme, Staffordshire

Economy must be balanced

Contrary to what the Conservative party’s public relations machine would have had us believe for the past four years, the UK economy between 1997 and 2010 under a Labour government was strong.

This was confirmed by the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance report of November 2011.

Earlier this month the highly respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation published new research showing that 8.1m people in Britain live below an income level regarded as the minimum required to participate in society.

This number has increased by one third since 2009. Mike Kelly, head of living wage with the international auditors KPMG, commented on the report: “ too many families still struggle to afford the basics”.

I wonder how many of these families live in South Ribble.

The Conservative party makes much with their claim that we are in a period of economic growth, however this does not appear to be resulting in better living standards for most families.

Indeed, the think-tank , Centre for Cities, in their annual report 2015 identifies a growing North –South divide resulting in a two tier economy.

A strong economy is needed, however, it must be a balanced economy; one that benefits both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in our society.

I fear this will not be the case if David Cameron and George Osborne are allowed another five years in government.

Theresa R Yates, via e-mail

Free bus travel should be axed

I understand the cuts in budgets and the need to have a bus service; but one thing I would suggest is why not charge all those who have free passes a flat rate? This would help lessen the blow although those who want as much as they can for free won’t be happy. If they want to use buses they should be prepared to pay something, not moan at not getting it when they don’t pay anything.

Years ago I was disabled and had to pay 20p or 30p per journey or half fare in other areas. In 1996 I had an operation and so don’t need a pass now. Therefore I never had a “free” pass and was always happy to pay towards my journeys. The more I travelled the more I paid.

John R Jones, Warton