Baroness Lynne Featherstone writes…We must be an anti fracking party

This weekend we have an opportunity to change our position on fracking. I believe we should take it.Since becoming party spokesperson for energy and climate change, I have spent many hours listening to party activists, experts and public reaction. It is clear to me that it is time for change.

We need energy security. We need sustainable energy. We need to meet our legally binding targets. Fracking will not deliver any of these. But it will deliver greenhouse gases.

It is not logical or sensible to develop fracking at the very moment we have signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change, and announced the end of coal. By the time fracking becomes a significant force – 2030 – Britain must already be very low-carbon.

Last time we voted on this in 2013 we gave conditional approval to fracking. But these conditions have been broken. We were promised that our national areas of exceptional beauty would be protected. We were promised local people would hold sway. We were promised Carbon Capture and Storage to lessen the effects. These conditions have gone. All gone.

We could trust Ed Davey with responsible, regulated fracking. But we cannot trust the Tories. They have shown on every front that environment protection is extremely low priority. They are destroying our renewable industries and being reckless with our economic future.

We need clear green water from the other parties – a clarion message on climate change. Not a fudge and an excuse for big business and Tory friends.

I ask you to join me in standing up for what we signed up to in Paris and vote for change. The opportunity is here to send a clear message and we must take it.

* Lynne Featherstone was the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green from 2005 to 2015, and served as a minister in both the Home Office and Department for International Development. She is now a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and blogs at

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  • simon mcgrath 11th Mar '16 - 4:42pm

    Can you explain how we can replace the 18m gas boilers via renewable energy in the near future. Given that we can’t we will still be importing gas – why not use our own which can according to expert opinion from the Royal Society be extracted safely ]. Then we will have the benefits of taxes on the fracked gas and the jobs that will be created.

  • We must be ” an anti fracking party “, but might it seems be okay with a Lib Dem like “Ed Davey regulating it”. What sort of thinking is this? Voters would look askance and the media would pull us to pieces. Let us stop trying to make up policy on the hoof.

  • David Allen 11th Mar '16 - 5:52pm

    All our gas boilers will have had to be replaced due to old age before fracking in the UK can conceivably make a significant contribution. An option for that would be electrically powered heat pumps which are highly efficient and can be powered by renewables.

    Fracking in the UK isn’t real, anyway. Sure, it works in the US, but the conditions in the UK are totally different. It’s like Cameron’s bombing of Syria – it’s just a political stance, a way for gung-ho Tories to show who’s boss. We’re not doing any real bombing, and we won’t do any real fracking.

  • Peter Watson 11th Mar '16 - 6:16pm

    I recently discovered the “TheyWorkForYou” website.

    How Baroness Featherstone voted on Environmental Issues:
    Voted a mixture of for and against measures to prevent climate change
    Voted a mixture of for and against lower taxes on fuel for motor vehicles
    Generally voted against financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods
    Generally voted against greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas

    But, after 5 years in government, now is the time to change.
    “We need clear green water from the other parties”. Ahh, I see. Let’s try to avoid 5th place behind the Greens.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Mar '16 - 8:33pm

    If people want Ed Davey back as energy minister then they need a credible plan for this. I don’t see one.

    I think I’m a liberal, but this place recently seems to be putting the foot to the floor on the way to electoral failure. I morally disagree with some of the policies too.

    After 5,000 years of quite brutal recorded human history people seem to think we are going to change because some critical newspaper articles have been written. I’m putting my bets in the camp that we aren’t going to change much and I’m confident in this especially when I see many articles on the left written on the basis of myths or selective facts.

  • Where have you been these last years, Peter Watson??

  • Importing gas from Qatar & Russia is prioritized over our own energy security,new technology & jobs.

    Who will be brave enough to try and explain that to the electorate

  • Peter, I’ve not looked into Lynne’s voting figures, but I’ve found the voting records on TheyWorkForYou to be misleading as they sometimes include opposition day motions and the like with no hope of success and/or serious drafting flaws which result in unworkable bills. As a result of lumping everything together it can sometimes throw the results – would be better to look for voting records on substantive bills, but I’m not sure if one can strip out the ODMs etc or would have to count manually.

    Just a word of caution.

  • Tsar Nicholas 12th Mar '16 - 6:26am

    Everyone seems so relaxed about the climate crisis. For a time earlier this month the global average temepraure increase above pre-industrial levels crossed the + 2 degrees centigrade mark. Readers will recall that the target for global warming was reduced at COP21 from 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees.

  • I think we must be an anti-pollution party as well as an anti fracking party. Air quality in London is really bad on some days and one only has to look at pictures of the smog in Beijing and Delhi to know we are burning too much fossil fuel of all kinds globally. The Lib Dems could really champion this. It’s a major health problem and it is the visible sign that we are starting to seriously contaminate the air we breathe in many parts of the world.

    Technology will probably be able to deliver clean energy on a much bigger scale one day, harnessing far more effectively solar, geothermal, wind, and tidal power in combination, but we need to hurry up and invest more in research, as we are now doing in some areas of medicine with good results. Our sense of urgency on this as Tsar Nicholas says, is not what it should be given the scale of the global warming problem.

  • We must trust our scientists (fracking does not have the dangers that many protesters believe it does) and follow our pledge to a green future (over-investment in fracking may lead to under-investment in future proof technologies) and accept a short-term gain while striving for a much greater focus on long-term solutions.

  • Simon and DJ: you suggest that we trust the “experts” and “scientists”, but these are the very same experts who were taken completely by surprise by the 2011 Blackpool earth tremors, which were of far greater magnitude than we were told to expect as a result of fracking. Besides, there are many other factors to consider beyond whether the experts reckon it’s safe.

  • Barry Snelson 12th Mar '16 - 4:36pm

    And when all this arcane debate is over the UK still consumes a couple of hundred million tonnes of oil equivalent. Guilty persons include the individual who wrote this article and all those who read it.
    The party should be a sensible voice on UK energy not a fashion follower.
    1) take control of energy production – privatisation has been an expensive disaster and our margins are ludicrously thin. Margaret Thatcher was wrong and Walter Marshall was right.
    2) look at fracking clinically, not emotionally. IF it can be shown to be safe it should be allowed in suitable areas. Why is gas from Qatar right and Surrey wrong?
    3) build a fleet of six or eight baseload nuclear, by competitive tender but fabricated at the nuclear submarine yard at Barrow (the technology of a pressure vessel and the heat exchangers is the same as a pressure hull) and Sheffield Forgemasters. If the unions are still a concern operate these stations as GOCOs rather than re-create the CEGB.
    4) expand renewable base (solar and wind) and complement with impounded water energy storage systems such as Bristol channel and the Mersey.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Mar '16 - 10:50am

    What is wrong with GB . We should not base our energy economy on fossil fuels. its the past not the future .We can still produce energy from renewables ,Why are we exporting waste to Sweden to burn in their efficient power stations and not using it ourselves. Why frack when we can produce gas by anaerobic digestion we can convert organic bio fuels and waste into gas to meet our energy needs and clean up our water courses and produce sustainable soil improvers . We have hardly begun to harness the tidal power around this island . Have you seen what is happening in the US and the environmental damage .Remember we are a small island with limited land space we can not afford to destroy our environment for the sake of a damaging technology which may not produce the bonanza that is hoped for by the extraction companies.

  • Why did the party elect someone to such a position when she clearly has no inkling about energy, costs or climate. The UK could go to 100% CO2 free if we ended all industry, returned to horses and carts and decided to just die early from cold, disease or hunger yet it would make zero difference to the climate. The only excuse for those ‘legal’ CO2 reductions was that we were supposed to be leading the world but nobody wants to follow us off this cliff of abject stupidity! And what happens if we miss these utterly unrealistic CO2 reduction targets that we can’t even afford – are we expected to fine ourselves with borrowed money or force the closure of all our electricity plants? So as a legal instrument it is farcical and this line of argument is merely used to shut down realistic debate about energy policy.

    Gas is required under every scenario (green or otherwise) whether we like it or not, especially if we reject coal and nuclear (or make them unviable by excessive regulations). That is the harsh inescapable reality of the numbers! The only question is where we get the gas. Sure fracking is not really required here because we can let others do it elsewhere and just buy the gas in. However we don’t then get any revenue and since there is little else likely to cause growth in the UK except more house price rises based on debt then that is a missed opportunity. And all for gesture politics!

    Neither is it strikingly imaginative to just copy the Green party. Green voters will vote for real greens instead while pragmatic voters must also avoid voting for a Liberal party that seems to have lost all its common sense. Being bold would be to actually bother to read all sides of the argument and come to the same conclusion as almost every academic, the royal society, the royal academy and even the more pragmatic greens; that Fracking is of net benefit for the environment, economy, health and even CO2 targets (viz the US experience). All the negative press is propaganda put out to build more useless windmills which merely transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.

    Or you can just continue to prove that you are unelectable and remain unelected.

  • @David Allen is spot on.
    Fracking is a non starter in UK at anything like current oil/gas price. Individual wells have relatively short productive life so you need to move a few miles up the road every couple of years. Works in South Dakota, but in uk ? So making a headline policy out of something that isn’t likely to happen sounds a bit like “me too” politics.
    Rather see our focus on promoting renewable industries, that’s the only thing that will make fossil fuels redundant in the long term. As things stand the world is going to need large quantities of gas/oil for 30-40 years at least. If we don’t exploit our oil/gas resources the market will just look elsewhere. Just how does that help global warming ?
    My fear is that this that we now have a policy that looks good, but doesn’t really stand much scrutiny.

  • Can someone now tell me what is Liberal energy policy since we now seem to oppose coal, oil, gas and nuclear? Are we supposed to reduce our energy usage to the 15% the wind might provide when it blows? Are we also planning to send our pensioners somewhere where they wont freeze to death under our energy policy (or lack of it) or just let them die off here?

    A lot of people need to grow up and deal with reality rather than just value-signaling.

  • Peter Watson 16th Mar '16 - 7:26am

    @JamesG “Can someone now tell me what is Liberal energy policy since we now seem to oppose coal, oil, gas and nuclear?”
    The policy appears to be “let’s not finish behind the Greens in elections”.
    Plan B appears to be “at least let’s not finish behind the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party”.

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