Fracking U-Turns: Why fracking doesn’t make sense anymore


In May last year I stood before a busy church hall in Lytham St Annes and stated my support for fracking. I was the Lib Dem candidate for Fylde, a constituency on the fracking front line. It was a lonely position to take, but I felt I’d struck the right balance between the need for secure domestic energy, and the need to protect the natural environment. Only the incumbent Tory MP agreed with me.

However, my support for fracking was conditional. On that day, I promised voters, that if elected, I would fight for regulation with real teeth, and work hard for a massive investment in renewables. I told voters that, If elected, and robust regulation is not forthcoming, I will not hesitate to vote in favour of ban”.

Predictably, I was not elected MP. However, at Spring Conference I aim to keep my promise. Faced with new evidence and circumstance, one is allowed (indeed should) re-evaluate.

Firstly, since their victory in May, the Conservatives have systematically gone about removing the ‘green crap’. More gas only makes sense if it used as ‘bridge’ to renewables. What’s clear now is that Conservative energy policy will mean that far from being a bridge, domestic shale gas will in fact lock us into burning fossil fuels.

Secondly, the government has refused to put in place appropriate environmental regulation, including an industry specific regulator. Instead they are bulldozing over local planning decisions, taking decisions affecting local people out of their own hands. When unread emails from 38 degrees stacked up in my inbox, I told voters I would fight for regulation. We cannot wait 5 years for the next election – it will be too late.

Thirdly, Cameron’s dash for gas comes at the very time the world emphatically signaled in Paris the end of the fossil fuel era. Britain’s fantastic renewables potential means we have the opportunity to not only lead this change, but gain economically. But if we invest in the wrong fuel, we will end up on the wrong side of history.


* Freddie van Mierlo is a Lib Dem member and was the Parliamentary candidate last year for the constituency of Fylde.

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  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Feb '16 - 9:47am

    Fracking has never made sense. We need to leave 80% of the fossil fuel we have already found in the ground to have any chance of holding global temperature rise below 2 deg., so there’s no point spending a lot of money to find more. Qatar has plenty of easy gas, if you want gas for gas fired power stations.
    Well I say it has never made sense. Not for humanity, it hasn’t, but for the fossil fuel companies, it probably did and does – especially with yummy government subsidy. “Thanks mates”

  • nigel hunter 22nd Feb '16 - 10:33am

    Fracking may make sense in the US but we are totally different ,smaller highly populated, less space, disasters of earth collapses are a possibility. The world does wish to turn away from fossil fuels this government is arrogant to ignore the world. Little England.They rule over the country for themselves and their vested interest friends ie Saudi Arabia and others, their share portfolios must be happy. Renewables should now be pushed in our campaign leaflets for the world and our children.

  • Very well said Freddie. Spot on

  • I think all of us can agree that we would like to see fossil fuels phased out as quickly as the development of renewables allows. However, we have to look at the global realities driving the demand for oil and gas.
    The economies of Asia and Africa will, hopefully, continue to expand over the next 20-30 years. That means more factories and more car drivers and while a hydrogen car may be feasible in London, Amsterdam or Berlin, the logistics of providing alternative fuels to (say) rural Africa are a little more challenging. Realistically, oil and gas will be a significant, though hopefully declining, part of our energy mix for many years to come.
    None of this will be affected by whether or not we allow fracking in the UK and I would argue that while making principled stands is all very noble, developing the natural assets we have (subject to rigorous environmental standards, as Freddie says) is in the broader national interest.
    While I share the enthusiasm for renewables, I do have a moral dilemma regarding the effect on developing nations of an oil and gas free world. Britain and the West built much of it’s industrial base and subsequent wealth on coal, oil and gas. Countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Mozambique will rely on the exploitation of their oil and gas reserves to improve the living standards of their people. To deny them that chance so that we can pursue our new found concern with environmental matters could be seen as an insidious form of imperialism. In short, I see this whole issue as something of a moral maze and the issues are nowhere near as clear cut as some anti fracking campaigners would have us believe.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '16 - 12:37pm

    Very good,Freddie, and where dos your interesting surname come from?

    With regard to the USA, there , voices are speaking out , warning in favour of caution and some , to stop the fracking.The not so well known, Liberal Party of New York, who do not put up candidates but endores liberal Democrats, independents or , when there are one or two , liberal republicans,they are very philosophically similar to our party,and not keen on fracking .

  • Freddie van Mierlo 22nd Feb '16 - 1:30pm

    @Lorenzo – Like a certain Mr Clegg, I’m half Dutch!

    @Chris Cory – My starting point is the same as yours – I take a ‘realist’ approach, that puts energy security and reliance high on the list of priorities. However the landscape has changed. 10 years ago your arguments about renewables would have been spot on. Today the exciting thing is that in both developed and developing economies, renewables are increasingly competitive at market rates. In India solar energy is comparable in cost to coal. What’s more, renewables are actually better suited to developing economies as they localise energy production and empower the poor.

  • Countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Mozambique will rely on the exploitation of their oil and gas reserves to improve the living standards of their people. To deny them that chance so that we can pursue our new found concern with environmental matters could be seen as an insidious form of imperialism. Chris Cory

    By reducing our emissions, we provide some slack to enable these countries to start developing, additionally, there is no reason to suppose why these countries couldn’t benefit from the fossil fuel replacement technologies we are developing and hence potentially leapfrog our societies.

    The issue with fracking in the UK, is that the known reserves are so small in comparison to our current levels of consumption that they are irrelevant to any sensible discussion about energy self-sufficiency. However, from a government point of view, interested in maximising tax revenues, the tax revenues and economic activity created are significant.

  • Steven Bate 22nd Feb '16 - 4:37pm

    You made a serious mistake last year Fred. But well done in seeing the light now. Labour in Blackpool were also on the fence to some extent. Now Gordon Marsden has come out against fracking on the Fylde Coast.
    It was always a total distraction from what we should be doing. There are plans for three of four tidal energy barrages in Ribble, Wyre and Lune estuary areas.
    I allways liked Chris Davis,s suggestions for massive planting of willow for biomass energy.
    If the Liberal Democrats campaigned hard for solar panels on the roofs of all public buildings, and use of small scale waste to energy power scheems then I may be influnced to rejoin, but if not it is the Green Party for me.
    Former Councillor and Parliamentary candidate Blackpool North 2001and 2005

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