The precautionary principle is one which I have often found to be a useful reference point in my life. It is one we all use from time to time. When the debate about ‘global warming’ became the topic of much media interest some years ago, now I note usually referred to as ‘climate change’, I looked at the evidence as was available and frankly, was unable to form a clear judgement one way or the other. It was to that very precautionary principle that I then turned. I therefor decided I should act.
I installed solar photovoltaic panels and a solar thermal system to my property. I added high levels of insulation, water recycling and a range of other physical measures in addition to many lifestyle changes. The result is that I now have turned a 1930s house into, according to my recent Green Deal report, a carbon neutral house. I have reduced my energy and water consumption from grid sources by over 80%. I suggest to you the Government should be doing much more to support people to also use less energy, rather than trying to generate more energy, which is becoming ever harder and more costly to obtain, in a world of finite resources. It is the right thing to do, given none of us know how much human activity is contributing to climate change. It is the precautionary principle.
I now seek to apply that same principle to a new issue, that of fracking.
Once again there are powerful forces at play, large multi national businesses and vested interests with good PR, and even better lawyers to back them up. The area where I live has now been licensed to Cuadrilla for fossil fuel exploitation.
No doubt we will be promised the highest levels of safety standards, the impact on the environment will be kept to a minimum and of the economic benefits, including jobs, as a result.
There are some things, however, that we already know about this fossil fuel industry which give us all reasons to be concerned. If we accept that burning fossil fuels adds to climate change, which this Conservative Government appear to do, then surely we should be employing that very precautionary principle, as I have, to further reducing our use of these fuels. Opening up a new fossil fuel industry doesn’t sit well with this idea. I read with interest that the Government commissioned a report on the likely impacts of fracking in this country. Clearly it didn’t like the conclusions, so it tried to censor it. After a successful legal challenge we now know it stated: “Shale gas development may transform a previously pristine and quiet natural region, bringing increased industrialisation. As a result rural community businesses that rely on clean air, land water an/or a tranquil environment may suffer losses from this change such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.’’
Many of the businesses and sources of employment in this area are therefor at risk.
For fracking to take place, we know it will be necessary for a significant increase in HGV movements on our often narrow country roads, there will be a real risk of increased levels of air pollution near the many sites. Noise and the need to dispose of significant quantities of radioactive waste water will have to be addressed.
There is one concern I would like to focus on, and that is our water supply. The water for the residents of Market Weighton, as with most of the East Riding, is from aquifers. Any pollutants getting into these aquifers could lead to a denial of our water supply. Fracking will require drilling through these aquifers, they will need to be 100 per cent safe, 100 per cent of the time, but we know there are hundreds of cases of people having their private drinking water contaminated by the fracking industry, particularly those that have their own bore holes. This can be caused by leaking wells, chemical spills, blowouts, flood damage, waste water disposal as well as underground migration of methane and other toxic chemicals necessary for the use in, or generated as a consequence of, fracking.
With a fracking well near my house, which way do you think the value of my house and that of my neighbours will go, Mr Knight ? Do you really believe fracking will even lower energy prices here? David Kennedy, head of the Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s official advisor said: ‘“Fundamental economics showed bills were unlikely to fall, it is highly unlikely to happen here. There isn’t enough shale gas in the UK and in Europe to change the European market price.” Fracking will not even add to our country’s energy security, because all gas produced in the UK is traded on the European market as you know. The UK currently exports nearly 30%of the gas it produces.
It is frankly wrong to suggest we rely on Russia for our gas supply. Look at the new gas field off the Scottish coast, enough to supply the whole of Scotland.
So, no added energy security for our country, no reduction in energy bills, no 100 per cent certainty of protection of our water supply, a potential loss of value to our properties, more added risk to global climate change, inevitable damage to our natural environment, even our highly protected natural areas are not safe.
Seems to me, Mr Knight, that the precautionary principle must be employed.No fracking here in the East Riding of Yorkshire or indeed anywhere else.