Fracking Consultation: Common Weal submission

Ben Wray

Think-tank warns that fracking could cause long-term harm to Scotland’s local economies

THE Common Weal has submitted its contribution to the Scottish Government’s consultation on fracking and unconventional gas extraction (UGE), which draws to a close today.

While the focus of opposition to fracking has centred on its potentially damaging environmental impact, the think-tank challenges the assumption that it will bring economic benefits to Scotland’s communities.

The submission draws on a previous report by Common Weal head of research Dr Craig Dalzell looking at the economics of fracking. 

Key points:

– Short-term boom with a long-term bust: Evidence from America and elsewhere shows that this industry tends towards a short term “boom” of economic activity followed by a long term “bust” once the wells run dry and the industry moves on. 

– Community activity funded by the UGE cannot be sustained after it leaves and the community inevitably collapses in a manner similar to that seen in Scotland’s old coal mining towns.

– Claims of “jobs created and sustained” by the industry must be viewed with scrutiny and transparency as often these jobs are either remote to the area (e.g. office staff, marketing bodies) or are highly mobile (field geologists are based in the area only prior to drilling and drilling staff move on once the well is dry, typically within 5 years).

– Danger that Community benefit schemes would be short lived and unsustainable as benefits could dry up alongside the wells.

– Carbon neutral investments (such as bio fuels) which could have a longer-term benefit Scotland’s manufacturing sector could be put at risk by companies investing in fracking who hold a shorter-term outlook

– The median time period for an American community to recover after a period of UGE has ended is estimated to be around 20 years.

Craig Dalzell, head of research for Common Weal, said:

“The environmental and economic case against unconventional gas extraction is at least as strong as the case against underground coal gasification which the Scottish Government has accepted leading to the latter’s ban. With news breaking that Ireland has also accepted this case and has banned UGE it is clearly the time for Scotland to step up to its obligations under the Paris Accord and to lead the way into a world of developing a sustainable and environmentally benign economy. A second dash for gas will only distract the country from its stated decarbonisation targets and may lead to significant long term harm to communities when the wells inevitably run dry and move on.”

Penny Cole from the Broad Alliance of Communities against UOGE said:

“The Broad Alliance recognises the work that Common Weal has done in showing there is no economic case for fracking in Scotland and that fracking has been economically disastrous for communities in Australia and the USA.”