Constance Watson

Fracking debate: ‘Let’s peek into this pandora’s box’

At last night’s Spectator debate, the audience voted dramatically in favour of the motion Let’s Get Fracking! Despite impassioned speeches from Green party leader Natalie Bennett, Greenpeace’s Joss Garman, and Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth, the crowd sided with Conservative MPs Peter Lilley and John Redwood and the energy consultant Nick Grealy, who said that it’s time for Britain to ‘peek into this Pandora’s box’ and at least explore the possibilities of shale gas.

Peter Lilley opened the debate with a joke at Chris Huhne’s expense: ‘in my view he should have been jailed not for driving too fast but for driving the development of shale gas too slowly’. He went on to assure the audience that fracking-related fears are ‘concocted’, and provided some entertaining examples. The force of an earthquake caused by fracking was, he said, ‘about the sort of shock you get when a lorry passes your house’. This analogy was sorely received by some environmental protestors in the audience.

Joss Garman countered Lilley by pointing towards the environmental and financial damages that shale gas exploration has caused. He said it was futile to use the North American example to illustrate the advantages of fracking, because of Britain’s geology and geography. Garman then proved himself to be a man of the people, declaring the issue to be ‘about local consent’. The activists in the front rows cheered.

The green glee was short-lived, however, as John Redwood soon wrested the debate back in favour of the motion. Like Lilley, he argued that job creation, increased tax revenue, lower energy prices are the main arguments in favour of fracking. He also said that he too was greatly concerned about damaging the British countryside but that strict planning regulation and modern technology can ensure that gas and oil drilling is done relatively discreetly.

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