Stringer's argument is 'poorly researched, unscientific and out of touch

Published on Friday, 24 January 2014 15:44
Written by Simon Bradley

It's always heartening to see one of our elected representatives stand up for something they believe in. But when their pseudo-scientific arguments fail to grasp what matters to the electorate, it's difficult to take them seriously.

In his recent article for GovToday, Graham Stringer MP claims to have "easily shattered" the arguments used by opponents of fracking at Barton Moss, Salford. His assertions are not just poorly researched and unscientific: they demonstrate just how out of touch he is with the legitimate concerns of ordinary people. As a Salfordian myself, it's clear that Stringer's arguments will do nothing to allay the fears of concerned citizens.

In his piece, Stringer states that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, claiming that there is no evidence of this from fracking sites in the USA. This is simply not true. In 2012, the state of Pennsylvania alone received 499 complaints of well water contamination from oil or gas drilling, whilst studies at Duke University have linked tainted water supplies to fracking.

Stringer dismisses fears about the chemicals used by claiming that said chemicals are "found in most households". This dubious assertion, made without evidence, fails to understand that "household" doesn't mean "safe" - imagine the public outcry if huge amounts of bleach or anti-freeze contaminated the water supply. A study by the University of Missouri concluded that fracking chemicals that leaked into the groundwater supplies in the US heighten the risk of infertility, cancer and birth defects for local residents. No wonder the people of Salford are concerned.

His claims on climate change seem to fly in the face of all evidence. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the fracking process releases much more methane than previously thought, whilst the tendency for horizontal wells to leak further adds to the release of greenhouse gases. Stringer calls the notion that fossil fuels will one day run out an "illusion". This is a blatantly ludicrous claim. The truth is that fracking will lock the UK in to a future of high greenhouse emissions at a time when we should be investing in renewables.

Finally, Stringer suggests that fracking will bring energy prices down. This is nonsense. Even the most cursory Google search would show Stringer that the fracking lobby have long since abandoned this claim. Even Cuadrilla chairman Lord Browne and Energy Secretary Ed Davey have admitted that this is not true. Lord Stern described the claim that fracking would reduce energy bills as "baseless economics".

The anti-fracking campaign in Salford enjoys the support of locals like myself, who are concerned about the effects of fracking. We are worried about groundwater pollution, earthquakes, increased traffic and lowering house prices. We ordinary people are against fracking because we're frightened about how it will affect us, yet Stringer speaks of his "contempt" for the objections we raise. It's as if he feels that the role of those in power is to berate and chastise, rather than represent, the electorate.

It is interesting to note that Barbara Keeley MP, whose constituency covers Barton Moss, opposes the drilling. Keeley has to answer to constituents who are facing the reality of fracking. If fracking ever becomes a reality in Stringer's constituency, I wonder if he will display such "contempt" when his voters raise these same concerns.

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