This weeks publication of the British Health Charity Medact’s report on the health risks of fracking could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered UK shale industry, already facing the uncertainty of a new and far less accommodating Government in May as well as significant local county council resistance to its fracking plans for Lancashire.
In a letter published in the British Medical Journal last Monday Medact called for an immediate ban on fracking due to its potential impacts on public health:
the arguments against fracking on public health and environmental grounds are completely overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking
With signatories including the former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, shale industry lobbyists and social media managers could hardly resort to their usual portrayal of anti fracking activists as misguided lefties, unwashed loons and luddites.
Instead, they sensibly focused on the sources of data and funding behind the British health charity report. A little digging and it was found that Medact had in turn based some of its findings on the work of Greenpeace and other campaigners pushing for stronger regulation of onshore unconventional oil and gas.
The usual industry social media shills and right wing press were quick to point out the links and condemn the report and charity as little more than a front for the anti fracking brigade.
Unfortunately, with the proliferation of pro-fracking studies funded by the oil and gas industry it also opened up such commentators to the accusation of hypocrisy, themselves having disseminated reams of industry funded material.
It also once again raises the question of how much data is truly independent, something of interest to Protected Area Watch. So why not ask some of the experts critical of Medact’s links to campaigners?
The professional though anonymous industry commentator @Aunty_Fracker – who can boast a couple of UK MPs among her first twitter followers (how many of us can claim that?) cited the Times, whose article on the story incredibly made it past its own paywall. Unfortunately, however, @Autnty_Fracker obviously had a busy day shilling and failed to respond.
Time to find other pro fracking commentators laying into the impartiality of Medacs report.
The right wing blog Guido Fawkes, currently the darling of Conservative intellectualism (sic) published this hatchet job on the Medac Report so they were next in line:
Once again the cold shoulder, unusual for the mouthy Guido but reminding us of Gandhi’s call to activism: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Fortunately, the self proclaimed @ShaleGasExpert, who was also being rather unkind about our esteemed doctors, was at least kind enough to reply on Guido’s behalf:
The link directs us to the bibliography on his website of over one hundred pro and anti fracking reports available to download. Limited in time and resources further clarification was requested:
This response is surprising, not for the name calling which is typical of petroleum industry responses, but because both nations mentioned, France and Holland, have implemented fracking bans based on the data they have received!
It had only taken all day but finally we had an acceptable answer: here are two fracking reports that are independent – and didn’t lead to a Government ban on fracking.
However, a cursory dig into the funding behind MIT’s fracking report soon showed plenty of sponsorship from Big Oil, amongst the sponsors the American Foundation For Clean Skies, whoose name should set alarm bells ringing for any researcher of the fossil fuel industry.
Equally alarmingly, the other independent study cited by @ShaleGasExpert, the EPA study into fracking and water security, has not even been fully released – suffering long delays principally due to concerns over the veracity of data supplied exclusively by the industry itself.
As such the final results of the EPA study have yet been ascertained but regardless of its final conclusions questions must be asked when government research into public health is dependant on the good faith of data supplied exclusively by an industry the regulators are trying to regulate.
The question remains, is there truly independent research available on this highly controversial practice? Our motley crew of professional pro-frackers will be invited to provide some further evidence in the comments section below so watch this space, though following Gandhi’s maxim they will more likely ignore or ridicule.
Regardless, health professionals have far less direct pecuniary interests in the outcome of fracking plans than oil and gas professions, so until more credible research is provided, Medac’s report into the serious health risks of fracking is one of the more impartial studies available.