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Monday 9 May 2011

Onward With The Shale Shill

Following last week’s report [.pdf] from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), another Astroturf lobby group that is unwilling to identify its donors, the shill for shale gas has shifted up a gear over the weekend, with more uncritical promotion pieces masquerading as news and informed comment being published.

The GWPF has reproduced an article from yesterday’s Scotland On Sunday by Bill Jamieson, which is in reality a puff piece for the shale gas industry. It in turn quotes from the GWPF report, uncritically painting a rosy picture of a future where this allegedly clean and cheap fuel will bring energy independence and low prices.

Moreover, it would marginalise renewables, and mean those pesky decisions on nuclear power could be avoided. But Jamieson does not consider the downsides of shale gas extraction, as he is merely re-hashing the GWPF’s material. Those downsides, as I discussed recently, are significant.

Meanwhile, at the Maily Telegraph, more uncritical copy on shale gas has come, not surprisingly, from Christopher Booker, who believes that asbestos is no more harmful than talcum powder. Booker also quotes at length from the GWPF report, while asserting that “environmentalists” dislike shale gas because “it offers the prospect of cheap and abundant fossil-fuel” and that “its CO2 emissions are much less than ... coal and oil”.

Booker manages not to mention the uncontrolled release of methane from shale gas production, and thus his sleight of hand. But he does manage to assert that any failure to instantly adopt shale gas will be the fault of the EU, and anyone else “under the sway of such dogmas”.

The uncritical copy, though, is just one part of the propaganda war being waged by a very determined industry. Following the recent release of the Josh Fox film Gasland – which, to no surprise, has been routinely rubbished by those shilling for shale gas – the American Petroleum Institute has been funding an Astroturf lobby group (yes, another of those) called Energy-In-Depth, which has devoted much of its own energy to joining that rubbishing. Fox has countered much of this.

Because what we have here is an attempt by the energy lobby to roll over potential opposition to their making serious money. Those who see the shale gas argument only as a way of putting one over on the environmentalists seem not to have realised that they are being taken for useful idiots by that lobby.

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