UK

Newspaper review: Mixed views on fracking

  • 19 August 2013
  • From the section UK
Papers

The Times is scathing about the anti-fracking protests in West Sussex, arguing that the demonstrators are "wilfully blind" to the arguments in favour of the procedure.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing - a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock - has not caused a single, serious shift in the earth either here or in the US, the paper insists.

The paper bemoans what it sees as Britain's need for a sensible energy policy being pitted against a chorus of "angry nonsense" that "gives environmentalism a bad name".

It argues that, apart from economic benefits, fracking would lessen our dependence on piped gas from Russia and liquefied gas from the Middle East, concluding that we need more not less.

But the Guardian blames ministers for mishandling the issue, describing it as a classic case of "how not to win an argument".

It says the UK government appeared to rush to judgement in favour of fracking and lost any power of persuasion it might have had in the more measured debate that now appears unlikely.

The problem has been compounded by a lack of trust, it believes, after the coalition initially described itself as the "greenest government ever" but then went on to water down its commitment to renewable energy.

The paper notes that, as the Treasury is offering tax incentives to the shale gas industry - and inducements to local councils to grant planning permission for drilling - it is always going to struggle to sound open-minded on the issue.

'Fantasy-driven idea'

Another example of undue haste in decision-making, according to the Independent, is the proposed reform of lobbying.

It has interviewed the head of the Commons committee that will be scrutinising the legislation.

Labour's Graham Allen tells the paper the measures are both "rushed and ridiculous" and amount to a "useless dog's breakfast".

They will make little or no difference to how lobbyists operate, the paper fears, because the real players in the industry are excused from the definition of who the register should include.

There is a warning that ministers will target a "fantasy-driven idea of lobbying", rather than the real thing, and end up having to come back with something far more draconian when a new scandal erupts.

'Justified suspicion'

The next general election may be almost two years away but the Daily Telegraph says Prime Minister David Cameron is already making plans for another coalition with the Lib Dems.

The paper suggests that, having presented the last agreement as a fait accompli, backbenchers will be consulted - and allowed to vote on - any future deals.

The party's high command is determined to ensure that everyone "dips their hands in the blood", it thinks, to quell future rebellions.

To go back to their constituencies and prepare for coalition is perhaps the most realistic message the prime minister can give his troops - and may be what he would secretly prefer anyway, according to the Telegraph.

There is a "justified suspicion" within his party, it says, that Mr Cameron would rather have a few men in yellow around his cabinet table come 2015 than govern with a slim majority that would render him hostage to the hostility - and idiosyncrasies - of some of his backbenchers.

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