Thinktank smashes the economic case for fracking in new report

Nathanael Williams

Report outlines economic pain that would occur if fracking went ahead in Scotland

FRACKING could cause long term damage to Scotland’s local economies according to the leftwing thinktank Common Weal which has recently released a report detailing the negative economic effect of fracking.

Common Weal has also submitted its research as a contribution to the Scottish Government’s consultation on fracking and unconventional gas extraction (UGE) which closed yesterday (Wednesday 31 May).

Opposition groups such as Frack Off and Friends of the Earth Scotland have long argued against the environmental damage fracking would cause but Common Weal’s report has focused on challenging the supposed economic benefits to Scotland.

The report called ‘The Economics of Shale gas extraction’ was submitted to the Scottish Government as a 40,000 strong campaign to ban fracking in Scotland demanded a full ban with protesters gathering in front of the Scottish Parliament.

The Republic of Ireland banned fracking yesterday in a move praised by campaigners and in contrast to the news that US President Donald Trump would pull out of the Paris Agreement, a vital international treaty on carbon emissions and clean energy.

Read more – 40,000-strong anti-fracking campaign hopes to win full ban for Scotland

Dr 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.”

The report’s main arguments point to the short-term economic impact of any fracking boom to Scotland’s towns and cities. It argues that fracking would leave Scotland’s local economies in an economically unsustainable and fragile position with areas drying up along with the well after gas extraction.

“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.” Dr Craig Dalzell

It cites the risks of a short-term boom with a long-term bust looking at outcomes in the US and beyond where towns have socially and economically collapsed following the industry moving on. Such a level of unsustainability would be similar to that seen in Scotland’s old coal mining towns during the 20th century. Dalzell pointed to the median time period it has taken for American fracking towns and their communities to recover afterwards, with the estimate as long as 20 years.

The case for jobs was criticised as unsustainable because they are “either remote to the area or are highly mobile”.

Instead, the report states that investment should be put into carbon neutral projects, such as biofuels, which could have a longer-term benefit Scotland’s manufacturing sector.

Penny Cole from the Broad Alliance of Communities against UOGE added: “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.”

CommonSpace recieves funding from the thinktank Common Weal but is not editorially connected

Picture courtesy of Simon Fraser University 

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