James Wilsdon points us to a fascinating paper published by some of his colleagues at SPRU. Laurence Williams et al have conducted a series of focus groups with members of the public in Lancashire to see what they make of fracking. The views exhibited are something to behold.
Participants came from one of a restricted number of groups:
- allotment holders
- wildlife trust employees
- mothers of young children
- industrial history society members
- parents of university students
We start with a discussion of the technique of fracking, with one participant, apparently representative of many, saying:
The impression is that there hasn’t been enough research done into this. Which makes you wonder just how dangerous it’s going to be?
It is a tribute to the work of the greens that the public could believe such a thing about a technique that has been used for over 50 years. I was similarly bemused the member of the mothers group who wondered why nobody had been told that an unconventional oil and gas industry might be about to take off in the UK.
Remarkably, almost nobody seems to have thought that a new industry in their area would bring any benefits at all. Indeed many saw reference to benefits as an attempt to "sell them something". The view among many participants seems to have been that the gas would mean higher profits for energy companies and nothing else. No doubt they would feel more comfortable with loss-making employers operating in their neighbourhoods, or better still a desert.
There's much more in this vein - discussion of the risks and so on - and it makes for interesting, if rather depressing, reading.