Coal not fracking is the answer

John Mann
John Mann

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has cut taxes on fracking profits to 30 percent, which is less than half the amount paid by conventional oil and gas companies.

This will quickly incentivise companies to start fracking, and Bassetlaw – with its large reserves of shale gas – will be near the top of the list to be carved up.

George Osborne’s father-in-law, the Conservative Peer Lord Howell, commented last week that fracking should be focused in the ‘desolate’ North East.

Lord Howell has also clearly never ventured far from Westminster – otherwise he’d know how much we have to be proud of in Bassetlaw, and that many of the most stunning landscapes are to be found north of London.

Fracking is highly controversial, and untested extraction could be dangerous for Bassetlaw. The process works by blasting a mixture of chemicals, water and sand into rock far below the surface, which releases the gas contained in the rock.

Fracking has been linked to earthquakes and water pollution. Last year a company began drilling near Blackpool in the first fracking experiments in the UK. The drilling was suspended as a result of two earthquakes which may have been linked to the fracking process. We certainly don’t want earthquakes damaging and even knocking down houses in Bassetlaw just so that some of the big energy companies can make huge profits and pay little in tax.

The potential effects on our water supply are also worrying. Fracking has only really been tried out in the US, where the fluids used in the process are not regulated.

A study from the University of Manchester has shown that the fracturing process in the US contains a number of hazardous substances, with radioactive material being released from the rock.

Search for fracking water and fire on YouTube and you will see people being able to light the water coming from their taps with a match.

The documentary ‘Gasland’ showed gas coming up from underground fractures and causing explosions in people’s cellars. We are talking about serious risks to our drinking water supply, as well as a danger to local wetland habitats.

I will campaign to stop any fracking in Bassetlaw until we have clear knowledge of the dangers and guarantees about its safety and compensation for all damage caused to property. My experience of large construction projects is that damage to property is very hard to get put right by the developer and these projects dwindle into insignificance compared to potential land movements caused by fracking. It’s no co-incidence that in America they frack in empty deserts.

There is however another natural resource that we have in Bassetlaw which we could make better use of, and create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.

Coal made up one-third of UK energy generation last year, and we should be part of that.

Producing coal locally also reduces dependency on overseas supplies of energy – when things get unpredictable abroad, we need to have a secure source of energy.

Clean coal technology is going to become yet another Chinese economic miracle, leaving us buying their coal. However, in Bassetlaw there are still millions of tonnes of coal to be mined, and we have a proud local mining tradition - perhaps we should start by reopening the colliery at Harworth. Clean coal is part of England’s future, and I want it to be part of Bassetlaw’s future as well as its past.