Inducements and Bemusements
So yesterday the National Press all reported on a new consultation on fracking, launched personally, it would appear, by Theresa May. Except we haven’t yet (at the time of writing) been allowed to see its contents.
Nevertheless the papers were hyperventilating about the news that individuals rather than councils would now receive payouts from the fracking wealth fund promised by the previous Chancellor.
Inflation was rife with the Mail on Sunday claiming that the bribes could be “as high as £13,000″ but by Monday sister paper the Daily Mail was hysterically reporting “plans to “hand cash payments of up to £20,000 to families in areas affected by fracking“.
Lorraine Allanson from Yorkshire dutifully did her stuff on the BBC on Sunday, saying how clever this new idea was as it would avoid the squabbling about how to divide the cash at a council level. Presumably she imagines that whatever arbitrary lines are drawn about who gets the cash will be meekly accepted by those just on the wrong side of the line? It must be nice in her world.The BBC had a panel that repeatedly showed that we have 1300 TCF of gas in the UK without explaining that only a fraction might be recoverable. The Daily Mail had an infographic explaining how the flowback will be stored in open pits pending processing. If an anti-fracking paper had made that schoolboy error there would have been no end to the outcry, but the Mail Online is clearly better at analysing celebrity cleavages than facts. It wasn’t a very good day for the truth really
Mike Hill gave a very good response on the BBC’s 11 am bulletin, and was followed up by the NGOs having their twopence worth, but all in all it seemed that the media were positively orgasmic about the prospect of a few quid being lobbed at individuals so any inconvenient facts hardly got a look in
The fact that any payouts would come from taxation that would only be available if the industry were able to make a profit, which seems a little unlikely!
Peter Atherton, head of equity research for utilities at investment firm Liberium Capital made this very clear to the the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee:
“It is very very simple the shale gas Industry in the UK. If we can bring this stuff to market for about $8 a MMBTU it is a very commercially viable Industry. If it is going to take $15 to bring to market it is not viable”
So if the cheapest they could bring it in is $8 per MMBTU( 61.2p per therm) (a figure which is in line with other forecasts), with recent wholesale price between 30 and 40p per therm, that wealth fund isn’t going to have any money in it to distribute any time soon.
The fact that Mrs May is claiming to represent individuals against big corporations whilst seemingly doing everything she could to further the interests of Cuadrilla, Ineos and the rest hardly got a mention.
The fact that if the famously redacted Rural Impacts report is correct that 7% could be knocked of the value of local housing stock was ignored. Average sale prices for Lancashire as whole in the last year were just over £150,000 – 7% of that would eat up the widely reported 10k a household give away.
Of course, this isn’t about giving away actual money to actual people – it is a stratagem designed to split opinions and to make those opposing fracking appear to be acting against the interests of local people. We don’t think that the local population is that stupid, and the story of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of potage comes to mind. We only get one chance to preserve what we have been given custody of. When it’s gone it’s gone, so be careful what you wish for out there.