How to shoot yourself in the foot with figures

One of the hot topics at the moment is the extent of support or opposition to shale gas development. It seems fairly inarguable that the trend exposed by the successive waves of research by DECC has shown a shift in public attitudes, with those opposed to fracking becoming much more numerous and those supporting it increasingly thin on the ground.

DECC’s Wave 15 showed us this trend:

Decc Wave 15 graph

Now if you are somebody who makes a living out of trying to pump shale gas as a viable option this must be a tad frustrating!

However, if this is you then can we suggest that you don’t try to emulate the antics of  sweary-mouthed self-styled  “shale gas expert” Nick Grealy .

He seems to have decided to try to demonstrate that opposition to shale gas is really not significant and has penned a very lengthy article on his amusing web site in which he does his best to demonstrate this.  He calls it The great myth of UK opposition to shale.

He starts with some cod-psychology (believe me Nick is no Oliver Sachs), rambling between accusing opponents of shale of having Napoleon complexes (something I suspect he may know something about) and being victims of Stockholm Syndrome.

After a little rant about social media fracktivists (LOL we are anti-fracktivists – Nick Grealy is a fracktivist) he moans “To those who live in one particular echo chamber, their self-importance,  or not, tends to be biased.” which we of course agree with 100% as regards his own peculiar little shale gas bubble.

Next he indulges in his favourite lazy trope – apparently, he claims,  all of the anti-fracking Facebook pages have been set up by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (You know he really, greally hates them!)

We think he has perhaps received a bit of a drubbing from the press recently as there now follows a rant about local journalists who want to work in PR. He of course can’t help himself returning to this anti NGO theme saying ” local men or women who invariably are members of the tiny local Green Party or Friends of the Earth, or both, were quoted at length by local papers“. For the avoidance of doubt I belong to neither of these groups, although that may change as I learn more and more about what is happening, courtesy of researching this industry. We’re sure he knows this statement isn’t actually true, but then the Grealy “No Hot Air” brand isn’t really about facts as such it seems.

Next he quotes from some unreferenced study which he claims shows that there are only 2,000 opponents to shale operating on Twitter and Facebook. This quite a bizarre claim, but even if it were true we’d still outnumber Nick and his barmy army quite considerably.

He notes that social media allows you to share to amplify your voice, saying this without any apparent awareness that the tactic is used extensively by the people on his side of the fence.

He then has a veiled jab at his pals at Backing Fracking saying “I know there are several readers who should also perhaps get a life and stop exaggerating the influence of shale opponents. In that regard, much of the industry makes the same error of magnifying the influence of a minority.” We hope Ken, Michael, Rob, Ellie and their friends haven’t noticed as they do do such a great job for us!

After a harrumph about the Upton protesters’ camp Mr G moves on to more scientific matters.

He has noticed that there are two petitions on the Government site:

Local Councils to have final say on Fracking within their constituency

Scrap Fracking UK Wide & Invest in Green Energy

The first of these has 4,700 signatures and the second 47,922. The second one has been running for a year and closed on 22nd January

Always craving a laugh, even when it’s at his own expense, Nick now goes on to list a number of other petitions which have exercised the great British Public, presumably with the intention of placing a context around what he seems to perceive as a laughable lack of opposition to shale gas.

He milks the joke with a bit more cod-psychology before getting tremendously exciting about the mapping tool which breaks down the signatures by constituency. And how he laughs at the pathetic numbers. Only 315 in Fylde he chortles.

He witters on a bit more about  things he has read about on  Wikipedia like Traumatic Bonding before concluding

Luckily, most of us know that there is nothing to fear except fear itself. After all, most of us can count.

Sadly for him though, we can. And we also do research outside of looking up Freud on the web.

You see Nick there was another poll running concurrently with the  Scrap Fracking UK Wide & Invest in Green Energy one.

It asks people to support Shale Gas – To facilitate and accelerate the onshore fracking for shale gas

It has a grand total of 872 signatures compared to the one opposing shale gas that has 47,922

It actually has 5 days left to run so maybe Nick and his PR pals can get the number up over 1,000 if they try really hard?

So, you see Nick, you may fool the gullible and impressionable,  who appear to hang uncritically on your every word


[of course, perhaps Ken is suffering from Betrayal Bonding after your swipe at him earlier in the article?]

but, after all, most of us can count and we can also do subtraction

The pro-fracking  petition has just 5 signatures from the Fylde – just 310 less than the other one 🙂

It would seem that if you are going to start using petition numbers to draw inferences about support or opposition, then the antis are about 55 times more numerous generally in the UK than Nick and his supporter friends, and over 60 times more numerous in the Fylde.






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